I've outlined 6 steps you can take to help your organisation become more customer-centric.
No business can survive long without exceeding its customers' expectations and most understand that. Yet only a few organisations dedicate the same amount of time and effort to customer centricity as they would to business processes such as the accounting process or legal policies.
Adapting to put the customer at the heart of the business requires a potentially enormous amount of change. Connecting traditionally siloed departments, systems and cultures to better serve customers is vital to the survival and value of a business.
The 6 steps to customer centricity.
Customer focused leadership
Becoming more customer-centric isn’t a project or a background initiative that a single team can take on. It’s a lengthy process that will require you to alter the culture of your business, but it is worth it, the results speak for themselves.
- Loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 7x as likely to try a new offering, and 4x as likely to refer.
- Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies that are not focused on the customer.
- Acquiring new customers can cost up to 5x more than keeping existing customers
- A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10%
No matter the size or influence of your team, you cannot alter the culture of a business without buy-in from senior leadership. It must be driven from the top.
Depending on their level of understanding, you may need to educate them on the commercial benefits of customer centricity, after all the leadership team are usually excited by hard facts and big numbers. There are plenty of blogs, books, reports, podcasts and videos full of impressive statistics to help you build your case.
Top level benefits of customer centricity to the value of a business:
- Increased customer loyalty
- Reduced customer churn (and reduce the importance of customer acquisition)
- Creates unique and positive experiences
- Identify new opportunities for growth
Understanding your customer
Typically, the marketing department is responsible for customer and market data. However, in most cases marketing will look at large segments to gain statistically significant truths. To really know your customers you have to think about the individual.
You’ll gain more actionable insights from a small group or an individual about their, sometimes illogical, behaviours, needs and motivations behind using your product or service.
You’ll need to set up one on one sessions and interact in person (or over video call). You can be fairly flexible in your approach, but you should aim to structure these sessions in one of two ways; personal experience mapping or observation.
Personal experience mapping: A mixture of guided experience mapping and storytelling through your service. This method will give you a deep understanding of additional context outside of your brand’s control, potentially uncovering common blind spots that you may miss when tracking customer the journey internally. It’s in these blind spots a brand can lose a customer.
Below is an example taken from a recent workshop where we mapped a customer journey through a recipe kit delivery service. The interactions in green are measurable by the brand and the items in red are blind spots.
Observation: Shadowing and watching how someone interacts with your brand will highlight potential frustrations and sticking points. For the best results, ask the customer to complete specific goals and observe how they attempt to achieve them. Try not to lead them, let them make mistakes and experience frustrations.
These smaller samples can be combined with your more typical customer data points, such as NPS, GA and survey responses, to form deeper, more appropriate personas.
Design and evaluate the experience
Over the last 5 years, we’ve noticed large organisations recruiting CX, Service Design and Innovations teams. They’re employed to help a business differentiate itself by creating positive experiences rooted in customer feedback. However, even these teams struggle to push their ideas through the business into the customer's hands. Often, the projects and ideas they come up with are so focused on the customer that the wider business fails to see the commercial value. Customer needs and business objectives shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
We were starting and stopping projects on an almost weekly basis. Only 15-20% of projects made the cut.
- National supermarket chain.
We believe this negativity is a result of the way in which businesses traditionally operate. Silo mentality is rife in large organisations and it’s a huge blocker to customer centricity. The Rawnet strategy team has developed an interactive workshop to help internal teams break down silos to enable a greater level of collaboration across the business.
In essence the workshop helps these teams to balance customer needs with business objectives, considering how your idea or solution will impact departmental KPIs and adjusting throughout the process.
Adapting to customer centricity by breaking down business silosFind out more about the workshop
We conducted the workshop at Service Design Days and at The Service Design Fringe Festival. If you missed them, you can download the workshop pack and presentation here.
Empower the frontline
At the beginning of the workshop mentioned above, we ask everyone to talk about an occasion when they’ve experienced a poor customer experience. Specifically when the product or service worked as intended. The most common reasons for poor experience are:
- An apparent lack of a customer-centric vision
- Rigid policies designed to protect the business (and it’s profits)
- Unique customer needs not being listened to
Here’s my example; I recently cancelled my Sky subscription. As part of the cancellation process, I was told I had to return their equipment (Sky Q and mini box). Sky very helpfully said they’d send me some packaging and postage labels so I could return them without hassle. All good so far. I explained to the member of staff that I knew the letterbox at my flat wouldn’t be big enough, so I asked if they could send the packaging to my work address. That way I’d receive it without any problem and I could quickly return their equipment. Win-win. They told me they HAD to send the boxes to the registered address… annoying. So, sure enough, Royal Mail attempted to deliver, the packaging wouldn’t fit and now I have to visit the depot to pick it up. Which has quickly made its way to the bottom of my priority list…
From Sky's perspective, their service worked as intended, but because of their rigid policies, I’m now left dissatisfied at the level Sky’s service and their willingness to listen to their customers.
If Sky had been customer-centric in their approach they should have listened to and empathised with my situation and painlessly been able to make my life easier AND they’d be getting their equipment back a LOT quicker… now though, I’m going to make them wait the full 90 days before I return. (Take that Murdoch).
A truly customer-centric organisation must give its employees a level of freedom to empathise and the control to be flexible in the service they're able to deliver.
If you’ve successfully completed step one (or even if you’re in the process) and you’ve fostered a customer-centric culture within your business, then you can trust your employees on the frontline to deliver on your vision and brand promises.
Don’t just measure, listen
Businesses of all sizes have more data than they know what to do with. Even an organisation with the most basic tracking capability is measuring everything, clicks, reads, downloads, pages viewed, time on site, the list goes on. But how are they using it? It may give some vague understanding of the overall satisfaction of online experience, but are they able to translate that into anything of real value? Numbers on a spreadsheet always lack context. Without a truly qualitative understanding, these numbers are pretty useless.
Even NPS results won’t give you a true reflection of how your customers feel. Just because I’m willing to recommend something doesn’t mean I’m loyal to it. I use Uber for convenience and I would recommend it, but if something better came along, I’m gone.
If you haven't done so already, design and implement a voice of the customer (VoC) strategy. Your VoC strategy should form part of a long-term strategy that it fits in with the defined wider company goals. It is important to define the key business issues that you want to address – increasing revenue, reducing cost of customer acquisition, driving culture change, so you can design a programme that will influence business and customer KPIs.
Collect and analyse feedback to drive continuous improvement to take action on all levels
Equally as important as collecting customer feedback is having a clear process to analyse the data to create actionable improvement.
Analysis of your data can help you identify your experience principles.
Experience principles should describe your values, and inform your business strategy or product/service decisions. Based on customer research, these principles should incorporate what you've learnt about customer needs and wants. They should also reflect business KPIs and your value proposition.
Aim to create a systematic process to allow you to uncover value from your feedback. As you identify actionable insights, create experience principles to help you build a roadmap of ideas, solutions and updates you want to make to your service.
- Group your customer feedback into 'themes' from your research to inform what you convert into principles
- Limit the number of principles you're focussing on to 3-5
- Keep your experience principles simple, don't over complicate the language
The importance of customer-centricity cannot be over-emphasised; it remains the key to any organisation that wishes to continue to remain in business and exceed their customer expectations.