Our CEO & Founder Luigi Matrone explains why organisations risk failing in the new world if they don’t put the customer at the heart of everything they do.
With all the talk of customer-centricity, what does it actually mean, and why is it so important?
A customer-centric business puts the customer at the heart of absolutely everything they do, whether that be internal values, product development, operations, innovations or, of course, service.
The customer-centric organisation’s aim is not merely to satisfy customers at all times, but to continually delight and surprise them. A happy customer is, after all, more likely to be a loyal customer.
Being customer-centric is not a new concept.
But I’m convinced that it is now more critically important to success than ever in what is an increasingly connected new world – heavily disrupted by COVID-19 and the spike in the popularity of eCommerce – where customer expectations (CX) are growing and competition is intensifying.
What does it mean to be customer-centric?
The likes of Amazon, IKEA and Zappos are often cited as being among the most customer-centric retail companies in the world, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos crediting his company’s ‘obsessive-compulsive focus’ on customers as the key to its success.
IKEA has perhaps had a less straightforward journey to true customer-centricity than Amazon.
After the 2009/10 global economic downturn, results from surveys IKEA conducted suggested that the brand didn’t mean much to consumers beyond price, durability and storage. And that needed to change.
IKEA’s ‘Wonderful Everyday’ campaign, for example, aimed to connect with customers on an emotional level, showing how important a role IKEA products play in ordinary people’s lives and homes.
This campaign symbolised a very visible change in direction for IKEA and gave it a new and enduring brand purpose – to improve their customers’ everyday lives.
With this in mind, IKEA actually makes regular visits to thousands of homes to continually assess how they can make customer lives easier and more comfortable. IKEA constantly evaluates its approaches, tracks customer behaviours and learns from them to help maintain its status as one of the world’s most customer-centric companies.
What are the barriers to becoming a truly customer-centric organisation?
The most obvious sign that your organisation isn’t customer-centric enough is if it doesn’t put the customer first at all times.
For instance, if you develop products or services based on what you think customers need and not on what they actually need.
But you can’t just become a customer-centric organisation at the click of your fingers.
You may have decided that your company must become truly customer-centric and put the customer at the centre of everything, but what next? Which obstacles are you likely to have to overcome?
Below is a list of some of the most common barriers to customer-centricity:
- Organisational silos – Are your departments talking to one another and sharing data in order to create a common understanding of your customers and how they behave?If not, you might not be getting a full picture of your customers and their journeys. And, by not understanding them, you run the risk of losing customers with increasingly high expectations.
- People and internal culture – Are the people within your organisation as passionate about your customers as you’d like them to be? Is your internal culture entirely focused on the customer and their needs?
- Lack of capabilities – It might be that your teams don’t have the capabilities required to truly understand data about your customers’ behaviours, or know how to put those rich insights to the best use. What can you, as a business leader or key decision maker within your organisation, do to help build internal capabilities that will result in a better understanding of your customers’ needs and how to meet or exceed them?
- Technology – Although people, and not technology, should be at the heart of any customer-centric culture, are your teams equipped with the tools they need to engage with customers in the right ways at pivotal points in their journeys?
And are those customer journeys mapped out? It’s critical that they are.
As a CEO or business leader, you need to address and fix all of these issues before you can even think about becoming a truly customer-centric organisation.
Make it about them – and not your product
How about, rather than focusing your content on how brilliant you think your product and its features are, you instead highlight how it benefits your customer and improves their lives in some way?
It’s always a bit of a ‘facepalm’ moment when I see retailers and brands still getting this wrong at a time when it’s never been more important to really get to know your audiences and their journeys.
My team and I like to use what we call ‘The people-centric revolution framework’, which allows us to plan out our approach and the tools or capabilities required to reach our goals when helping clients achieve theirs.
For instance, under the ‘Who’ area of this framework, we will define target audiences and what we need to do to map out their journeys.
Under ‘What’, we will be thinking about the brand story or channel selection and processes.
Under ‘How’, we will consider how to orchestrate communications through channels and evaluate how successful delivery has been, so that we can learn lessons for the future and constantly improve.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you make use of the amazing range of customer data now available to you. Build out personas that give you a picture of who your customers are (for example, their age, location, interests, disposable income, the marketing channels they’re likely to engage with) and how they behave.
Champion personalisation to help you build relationships with your customers and provide that human touch. And, vitally, map out customer journeys based on these rich insights.
Develop a first-class customer-centric content strategy
The more you understand the kind of content your customer likes and is most likely to engage with, the more chance you have to optimise your content and make it unique.
You can gain more understanding about your customer’s preferred content through the use of a competitor or content Gap Analysis or the use of Big Data & Analytics, for example.
Plus, the better your analysis of your customers and their journeys, the better you will understand the kind of channels they engage with – thereby helping you to plan out the distribution of your content more effectively.
And remember to constantly measure and optimise content. Use data on how your customers interacted with one round of content to improve those engagements next time.
Another important factor to bear in mind is that your organisation must consistently deliver high-quality content assets across a number of different markets and geographies if it’s to convert would-be buyers into active, loyal customers. You can read more about what it takes to do that in our article ‘Does your organisation have an end-to-end content strategy?’.
A final point on your all-important content strategy: don’t just think ‘digital’; think ‘Omnichannel’.
Physical shopping is still hugely popular, so make sure that you use digital and mobile content or activations to continually enhance those physical shopping experiences.
In conclusion – make it personal
It’s easy to talk about being a customer-centric brand – it’s much harder to actually be one.
As I’ve highlighted, being customer-centric is not a new concept. But the expectations among consumers in this new world for personalised experiences and positive engagements with brands are so high that not delivering them is tantamount to self-sabotage.
And remember: it’s far more cost-effective to continually delight loyal customers than it is to attract new ones. Indeed, new research shows that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than to retain one.
The eBusiness Institute team and I have extensive experience of working with and helping develop truly customer-centric brands.
This puts us in the perfect position to be able to help organisations become customer-centric through our: consulting services; content strategy expertise and execution solutions; and H.O.W Capability Building program, which equips teams with the skills they need to become more customer-focused.
This article was created and written by Luigi Matrone, CEO & Founder of eBusiness Institute.
We can help you become truly customer-centric
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