Arielle is hiring a consultant for her business. She looks into a few different options, skims some reviews, and even calls a few references. One of the options stands out from the others, though. Arielle feels that it is focused on meeting her needs, and seeing the situation from her perspective, to an extent unmatched by the rest. She goes with the one that makes her feel that she will continue to be treated as the central concern.
How can you get the business of a customer like Arielle?
Naturally, you want a powerful vision and a strong company culture for your company so that you retain employees and your team is coordinated toward common goals. However, Arielle’s scenario is a reminder that these objectives are not always directly focused on the people who are truly your VIPs, whose satisfaction will determine your success and growth: your customers.
Just think about it from your own perspective: probably you have found yourself at certain points making purchases for which the deciding factor was customer experience. To look from the opposite side, probably many of the times that you decide not to buy from a business are because you don’t feel that you are valued and are perhaps being treated as a number.
Are you indifferent toward your customers? Shockingly, research shows that 68% of customers leave a certain provider because they thought the company was indifferent to their needs.
One company that has used the notion of prioritizing the customer for its branding is Salesforce – which offers the following five reasons for customer-centrism:
Do you want to be memorable, to stand out and come across as the most impressive? A landmark Gartner report from 2014 found that customer experience is now the #1 thing that sets one brand apart from another, more critical than both product and price.
When online users set out to find a service to meet an immediate need, they want to be able to find a solution very quickly, as soon as they reasonably can. However, they also want to feel a sense of confidence and trust in the brand before they proceed. Answer customer questions right away on your site. Why? Because even back in 2010, nearly three-quarters of US Internet-connected consumers, 72%, said that they preferred getting answers themselves to contacting a company via email or phone.
Prices going up
If you feel that you are in the discount barn of your industry, consider that the majority of people will pay more if they perceive that a company has strong corporate citizenship. According to a Nielsen survey, 55% of respondents said that they would pay more for services or products from companies that invest in sustainability or social causes.
Make it as simple as possible, and people will return. You probably have websites that you visit to purchase certain household items, office supplies, or whatever else – returning to them because you find their purchase process seamless and straightforward.
Indeed, keeping it simple is not just a sales ultimatum but at the core of customer satisfaction. CEB determined that almost all customers, 94%, would return to a vendor if getting service required a minimal amount of effort on their part.
Responding to customers promptly will get their attention, and serving your customers means delivering a strong customer experience through each of your channels. After all, Bain & Company found that the amount a firm will make from a customer, on average, goes up 20-40% when the brand answers their questions on social media.
How can you become more customer-centric?
Here are ways you can take actions to achieve that customer-centered business that can yield the above results:
Encapsulate your customer-centered mission.
You want to express your commitment to customers, a theme that you want to permeate your business, briefly but also meaningfully. Micah Solomon of consultancy Four Aces gives the example of Ritz-Carlton, which has the internal central philosophy, “We Are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
Expand on your core operating principle by brainstorming core values.
Broaden the sense of customer-centric purpose within your office’s culture by also defining a set of values that guide the way that your company sets about achieving its mission. Values should include the expectations for relationships with customers, employees, affiliates, and suppliers.
Keep preaching these values.
When you are building a certain culture and want your employees to understand it and take it seriously, reinforcement is powerful. You can go over one value each morning or at least once per week so that this foundation of your company is not neglected.
Now, you aren’t just “preaching” your case (#3), but making a case for it with objective evidence. If you want to motivate your team to care about the customer on a moment-to-moment basis, show them how impactful extraordinary customer service can be.
Study your numbers, and however you can, form a connection between a favorable customer experience and metrics such as retention, revenue, and social sharing.
Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout stresses that you want any examples and data to come directly from your own customers – so that it’s immediate relevant and clear how your organization has specifically succeeded when you’ve put customers first.
Gear your team toward active listening.
You always want to perform some creative ideation through your own team, but it’s also crucial to make use of the perspectives of your customers. Their feedback shows you how to create more business.
That feedback is a key piece of a customer-centric approach. Peppers & Rogers Group co-founder Don Peppers said that being centered on the customer is essentially about knowing the viewpoint of the customer and looking out for their best interests.
In order to be able to do that, and to successfully problem-solve on their behalf, you need to apply the same basic rule you would to understanding any other relationship: Listen. How?
- Train in active listening
- Implement a robust feedback system
- Poll your customers with meaningful questions
- Speak with customers regularly.
Visualize better customer focus.
Creating great visuals can drive home your primary concern with the customer and other ideals that underpin your culture. Solomon again uses the example of Ritz-Carlton related to this tactic. Employees are all expected to carry around the company’s “credo cards” (accordion-fold, laminated cards) throughout the work day.
Visuals are often text, as also seen with the highlighted Zappos core value that appears on each box. However, this conversion of values to imagery can also be the in-person colors used by the brand. FedEx uses orange shoulder belts in its delivery vans – cuing anyone who looks through the window that the driver is embodying the value of safety.
Invest in a customer-centric company culture.
A well-run company will invest in recruitment and training, but many don’t actually put money or time toward conscientiously building their company culture.
HubSpot is so dedicated to the idea that customer-focused culture is valuable, it makes its Culture Code manual and manifesto publicly available.
Buffer is another company that places its customers at the center of its strategy, acknowledging strong customer service and using it as a source of motivation.
Do you want to better place the customer at the center of your business? At KnownHost, we have seen our company flourish through a customer-centric culture and brand. Here is one of our customers, Jim Satterfield, President & CEO of Firestorm.com: “If Knownhost’s main goal is to provide customers, small and large, with the highest level of service and support, they have succeeded.” See our customer reviews.