In the last three weeks we reviewed what customer relationship management (CRM) means, challenges of CRM implementation, why CRM is necessary and what is meant by customer life cycle. Today we will discuss about how to create a customer-centric culture in a company. Generally, doing things correctly for the customer doesn’t cost much. It is often just doing the right things at the right time, which you should be doing in any event. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening most of the time. No business executive is so callous as not to care for the customer in his heart. He simply does not know all that he could and must do to make his company ‘customer-centric’.
What does it mean to be customer-centric?
Customer centricity is not just about offering great customer service; it means offering a great experience from the awareness stage, through the purchasing process and finally through the postpurchase process. It’s a strategy that’s based on putting your customer first and at the core of your business. When you put your customer at the core of your business, you collect a wealth of data within your CRM software, giving you a full 3600 view of the customer, which you can then use to enhance the customer experience.
For example, you can use customer data to understand buying behaviour, interests and engagement. Or, you can identify opportunities to create products and services for your best customers. Not only does focusing on the customer make sound business sense but research has also found that customer-centric companies were 60 percent more profitable compared to the companies that were not focused on the customer.
The power shift between the brand and customer happened during the past two decades. Customers became more selective in which brand they chose to spend their money with. The winning brands were the ones who treated their customers with respect, with great service and built a long relationship with them. And during the same time, social media exploded onto the scene and the mobile became a major part of the customer journey. Customers can now compare products and services in real time and across multiple devices, which has presented a huge challenge for many brands. Even today, there are companies that are struggling with this change and are unable to become customer-centric companies – with the biggest challenge not being able to share customer information across departments. Most companies do not have all of the components in place to claim they are customer-centric. Here’s how you can build a customercentric culture in your company and reap its benefits.
Make customer satisfaction your company’s core value
Even before you start practicing it, customer centricity should be part of your company’s philosophy. It has a deep impact on your company’s business strategy, its attitude towards customer issues and how your employees perceive customer satisfaction. This is the ground work required to lay the foundations of a strong customer-centric culture in your company. Articulate your central philosophy in just a few meaningful words. That’s right: your company’s culture can begin with these words but those words need to represent a decision- something you actually stand for. Your core values should cover how customers, employees and vendors should be treated at all times. Reinforce your commitment to these values continually. You may want to go as far as to devote five minutes to stress an aspect of one selected value at your weekly departmental meeting. But don’t save it for the annual company picnic.
Create awareness in your company
Customer centricity is not just a buzzword but an attitude towards doing business that can bring long-term monetary gains and increase brand value. To create a customercentric culture in your company, you need to create awareness about it. You cannot achieve customer centricity unless the majority of your company truly believes in its impact and benefits. Aggressively market the impact of customer satisfaction on company performance and make sure that your employees and anyone connected with your company knows that customer satisfaction is at the core of your business values. Broadcast your core customer-centric values throughout the company using posters, pictures, banners and other signs. In short, make it obvious to anyone who enters your company that customer satisfaction is on top of your priority list.
Put customer satisfaction ahead of everything else
When you put your customers ahead of everything else, you’re actually opting for the most important stakeholder in your business. It means cancelling important meetings, revising schedules, sacrificing holidays and occasionally giving up profits. Every person in your company should understand the importance of your customers and should be confident that he will be appreciated for sacrificing other tasks for ensuring customer satisfaction.
Reward employees for customer satisfaction
To become a customer-centric company, every aspect of your company should be aligned with the sole purpose of creating an optimal customer experience. For this to materialize, you need to have a motivated team that sees personal gains in customer satisfaction. Smart companies achieve this by linking employee growth and incentives with customer satisfaction. They reward employees who go the extra mile in resolving customer issues or create something that makes the lives of the endusers easier. Although customer satisfaction is hard to measure in clear terms, it can still be made part of your employee performance management process. When employees have personal stakes in customer satisfaction, their thought process completely changes. It creates a company culture where everyone is striving to please the customer and where top performers are not determined only on the basis of sales numbers.
Get everyone involved with the customers
When you want to create a customercentric culture in your company, everyone needs to get involved and understand what the customers actually want. This includes your product development team, your sales and services departments and your company’s key decision-makers. There are innovative companies that regularly ask their product development teams to spend a few hours doing customer support or getting direct customer feedback. Some of them identify dissatisfied customers and get them on a conference call with all the key decision-makers of the company.
Recruit, create and acquire for the customers
The process of creating a customercentric culture in your company starts with recruiting the right employees and creating the right expectations. Any professional joining your company should understand the value you place in customer satisfaction. They need to be ready to go the extra mile for your customers and understand that every employee in your company has a stake in it. You’re much better off without individuals who do not believe in your core values. And the effects of customer centricity don’t end just there. It should reflect in the products you create and the solutions you offer. The third party services you hire or any smaller companies that you acquire, should be in line with your values.
Celebrate customer success
The relationship of customer-centric companies with their clients does not end with service/product delivery. They are equally concerned about the actual value they deliver to the customers. They celebrate when their customers find success and lend a helping hand when the client’s find it difficult to get full service value. If a customer finds extra value from your services, use it as a success story to motivate your employees. Make it an event, reward the people involved in delivering value to that customer and appreciate them for their hard work.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at email@example.com)