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Want to impress your customers? Try being customer-centric

Mikayla Chua
Mikayla Chua

October 4, 2022

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Without customers, your business will not flourish. It will not survive. 

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Their needs and wants impact every aspect of your business, from product development to content marketing to sales to customer service”

The thing is, most companies understand the critical role their customers play. But in practice, they often put their interests before their customers’, which leads to friction in customer relationships. 

The result: plenty of businesses boast they are customer-centric while customers beg to differ. This would be most evident in a survey conducted by Capgemini last 2017 which confirms the gaping difference in perceptions. Across industries, only Internet-based services seem to close in on the gap. But for other industries such as retail stores or B2B firms, the global discrepancy still stands at a whopping 45%. 

Consumer and company perception of customer centricity according to the industry by Capegemini

Meanwhile, from a geographical point of view, the results also don’t fare too well except for Asia-Pacific, the only region where customer perception of customer centricity surpasses that of the companies. However, overall, the global disparity still remains enormous. 

Consumer and company perception of customer centricity according to geography by Capegemini

Based on the results of the study, it can be inferred that most companies merely use being customer-centric as lip service to ride the trend wave and stay relevant but don’t take real action to follow suit, leaving their customers unsatisfied. 

Now, the question that might be hanging over your head is: “Why should companies be more customer-centric and how?”

Simple, because being customer-centric allows companies to create good experiences that make customers feel seen, heard, and appreciated, which translates to positive tangible and intangible impacts on the business.  In fact, according to a study conducted by PwC last 2017/18:

  • 73% of consumers take into consideration customer experience in their purchasing decisions 
  • 43% of consumers are willing to pay more for greater convenience
  • 42% are willing to pay more for friendly and welcoming experiences
  • 32% are likely to stop supporting a brand they love after one bad experience. 
Percentage of consumers who agree customer experience helps them decide between buying options

So what does it truly mean to be customer-centric? What might you do about it?

1. It’s not just for customer service to worry about

One of the common misconceptions is that being customer-centric equals delivering superior customer service. In reality, it encompasses far more than that. At its core, customer-centricity entails making the customers the focal point of the business. In application, this means that all departments with or without direct contact with the customers must think, decide, and operate with the customer in mind because in order to provide a seamless customer experience, one must place the customer’s perspective at the centre of the organisational structure.

2. Cross-departmental collaboration to enhance customer experience 

It’s critical to break free from the silo mentality. This is harmful not only to the business but also to customers. Genuine customer-centric companies encourage cross-departmental collaboration that grounds everyone on the common goal of creating a seamless customer experience to strengthen customer relationships. After all, once the front-stage channels, on-stage activities, and back-stage capabilities are aligned, friction is eliminated and a better customer experience is inevitable.

Photo by UX Indonesia from Unsplash

A perfect example of this would be how the marketing and supply chain departments make a dynamic duo to deliver a better customer experience. As we all know, same-day delivery is one of the biggest trends in online shopping. However, while acquiring customers through the promise of same-day delivery is the marketing department’s responsibility, the supply chain operators are the ones tasked to uphold the end of the bargain. Unfortunately, most retailers disregard the importance of cross-collaboration between these two departments and keep them siloed, resulting in a lack of communication that triggers unfavourable scenarios like being unable to fulfil the promise of getting the items to the customers on time due to a lack of equipment or manpower, which then leads to reduced customer satisfaction. This scenario could have been easily avoided had both departments provided each other with data and insights (about forecasted sales, availability of equipment & manpower, etc.) that would allow them to determine the feasibility of the marketing promotion’s promise. 

How can the company overcome this hurdle? 

Establish a communication channel that makes it easy for each department to support the other with data and actionable insights. For instance, the marketing department can share its data on emerging consumer preferences and industry trends with the supply chain operators to help them determine what changes must be done with logistics to accommodate the demands. On the other hand, the supply chain team can assist in the evaluation of the viability, feasibility, and profitability of the marketing strategy since they are more knowledgeable of the costs involved in deliveries. 

If you want to know another example of how companies mobilise themselves around their consumer, continue reading until you reach Amazon’s section below to learn about their empty chair strategy. 

3. Think like your customers and don’t think about them

The phrase “put yourself in the shoes of your customer” has probably been drilled into every salesperson’s head more times than they can count, but it’s high time that businesses heed this advice in all the work they do. The key to better serving customers is to understand them, and the best way to do so is to see what they see, think what they think, and feel what they feel. To do this, get out of the building, observe and  engage in meaningful conversations with your prospects and customers to be able to map out their journey accurately and list all the frustrations and delights they encounter in every step of the process. This way, you get to have a reference from which you can draw inspiration for innovations that are either aimed at minimising frustrations or amplifying moments of delight in your customer’s journey. Granted, you might not be able to address all, but you can potentially stand out from your competitors via this method.

Photo by Christina @ from Unsplash

Some companies might have not realised it yet, but the customer is in the driver’s seat now. We have entered an era where customers are informed and empowered thanks to social media. And a world where markets are becoming increasingly competitive due to fierce competition. Hence, the only way to secure your company’s survival and stay on top of your game is to be customer-centric. After all, company success is now hinged on customer success.

Example: Amazon

Photo by Christian Wiedigerl from Unsplash

Vision: “We seek to become Earth’s most customer-centric company”

Amazon may have started from humble beginnings operating as an online bookstore, but they leveraged the power of the internet and today operates a diverse range of businesses across different industries. Thus, this begs the question: as one of the largest companies in the world, how did they manage to consistently rank as the most customer-centric organisation? 

The answer is they incorporate customer-centricity in every company decision and activity. Here are some of the secrets to their success:

1) Have your ear on the ground.

Amazon goes to great lengths to listen to its customers. All managers and even Jeff Bezos himself would spend two days every two years under the customer service department to ensure that the leaders of Amazon are listening to the customers and their needs. This in turn has tremendously helped the organisation be successful in attaining its dream of becoming customer-centric. 

2) Have a customer-centric leader.

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known to be obsessed with his customers. He is famous for uttering the words, "Start with the customer and work backward," which has served the company well since its inception. At the end of the day, he believes that “obsessing over customer experience is the only long-term defensible competitive advantage.” 

Have you heard of the empty chair story? During Amazon’s earlier days, Bezos would always  leave an empty chair during meetings and would ask the executives to assume that it belonged to the most important stakeholder of the company, its customers, just to remind everyone to keep the customer in mind when making decisions. 

3) Innovate with the customer in mind.

Everything Amazon did from its products like Kindle to its services like Prime delivery exists to serve the customer and give them a better experience. Hence, do remember that innovation is only useful in so far as it solves your customers’ problems.  

Here are some more examples of Amazon’s customer-centric services:

  • Amazon Fresh— a grocery delivery service by Amazon to make grocery shopping hassle-free. 
  • Amazon Key– an in-home and in-car delivery service offered to Prime members to prevent package theft

It’s high time to adopt a customer-centric approach

As a business owner, it’s crucial to remember that your customers matter the most, especially with their increasing power, thanks to social media. These days, one post or review can either make or break your business. Thus, try your best to promote customer-centricity in all aspects and levels of your organisation, even if it may call for some drastic changes. After all, you can turn this into your key competitive advantage and receive a payoff in the form of loyal customers that will be beneficial for your business in the long run.

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