Let’s start by defining the term. Briefly, customer-centricity is a way of conducting business that promotes positive customer experiences at all stages of the customer journey – from when the customer researches and shops for products or services, to following up after the sale and delivery. When making decisions, customer-centric businesses consider the impact on the overall customer experience.
Create a customer-centric culture
This can be the most challenging step in creating a customer-centric company as a culture is something that develops over time and solidifies. This is why some large companies bring in change specialists when there’s a need to transform the culture. SMEs have more flexibility in shaping and changing their cultures. This can begin with the hiring process, with a focus on getting the right people on board, especially in customer-facing roles. Job advertisements and descriptions should be clear that you’re looking for someone who will put the customer first. During interviews, ask questions that will reveal how customer-focused the candidate is. In addition, ask about this when contacting references.
Another way to increase customer focus is to clearly state this as part of your company’s mission in a clear and direct statement. This should go beyond including it in a mission statement that’s tucked away in a binder somewhere. Post your customer-centric values where staff can see them and your website, and make it part of meetings and office conversations so that these are always top of mind.
Implement customer-focused marketing and sales
Having the customer in mind starts while they are still prospects. So marketing should be more than sharing the benefits of your product or service. It should also include educating and informing people with relevant content that highlights your expertise and boosts your credibility without selling your product or service. For example, helpful content from a car insurance company includes articles on the different kinds of excess, what to do if you have a car accident, how to choose the right insurance for your needs, and how to prevent your car from being stolen.
The sales process is another important point to apply a customer-centric strategy. This starts with asking questions to determine the customer’s needs and then matching these to the right product or service. When a salesperson is truly customer-centric, they will be upfront with the customer when what they offer does not meet the customer’s needs. With this approach, the customer is more likely to come back in the future when the business might be able to help them.
Be easy to reach
The true sign of a customer-centric business is being easy to reach. Have you noticed how some large businesses with substantial market power are not easy to get in touch with? These businesses don’t have a phone number on their website to contact them. This includes major telecoms that are notorious for keeping people on hold when they are seeking assistance. If you’ve had such an experience, you know what it feels like to deal with a business that’s not customer centric.
A customer-centric company will make it easy for customers to get in touch. If it sells products or services that might require urgent attention outside of normal business hours, they will accommodate this.
Listen to customers
A customer-centric brand monitors what its customers and potential customers are thinking and saying. Customer data can tell you much about how customers interact with and perceive your business. A customer relationship management system (CRM) is an essential tool for businesses that want to record and track the quality of customer experiences. Depending on the type of business, this can include information from phone calls, face-to-face conversations and emails from customers. Social media is another source you can use to gauge how customer-centric your business is and how it can be improved.
Market research will enable you to understand and anticipate the needs of your market, so you can create products and services that meet these needs. Two ways to learn more about your target market are surveys and focus groups. Surveys can be completed in-person, over the phone or by email. Focus groups are usually live events where you gather a small group of people (customers or people in your target market) to discuss their opinions.
User testing is another way to conduct market research to find out what people think about their experiences (such as using your website) and using your products. Helpful user testing tools include UserTesting and Hotjar.
One business that successfully conducted market research is Scratch, a producer and marketer of healthy and sustainable dog food. The owners of the business wanted to learn more about dog food buyers. One of their assumptions was that Millenials would spend more on dog food than older generations. However, they found that the age of dog owners isn’t a factor in how much is spent on dog food. Learn more in Scratch: A business for pup and planet.
For a more detailed look at market research, check out Market Research for Small Business.
Create a customer onboarding process
We often hear about new employee onboarding as a way to familiarise new staff with a company. In a similar way, customers can be onboarded to help them get the most from your products or services, and understand other ways you can help them. Make it easy for them to get ongoing support and answers to their questions about the product or service they have purchased. An effective onboarding process will boost customer loyalty and make them more likely to make additional purchases.
Reap the benefits of improved customer experience
Implementing a customer-centric approach will impact customer experience. But how do you measure the results of focusing on customers? Return on experience (ROX) is a way to connect customer experience with financial results. For example, how does improving the hotel check-in experience for business travellers impact future bookings with a hotel chain? See Why Return On Experience is the New ROI to learn more about this topic.
Funding your customer-centric business
While it can be the path to business growth, many SMEs find it challenging to finance initiatives to become a customer-centric business. Unsecured business loans are one way to fund your plans. Learn more about business loans from Moula and get an estimate of principal and interest repayments with our business loan calculator.