The Secrets of Customer Centricity – Part 1: Building the Foundation
By Kara Trivunovic, GVP Strategic Solutions. Profitable customers are at the heart of what makes companies tick. Whether you’re serving B2B, B2C, B2B2C, NFP (choose your acronym), everyone has a customer. But typically, your marketing focuses on you as a brand. What you want to sell, what you want to offer, what you want to say—all on your own timeline, in the channels you prefer to use. The customer experience and the customer lifecycle have too frequently gone by the wayside.
Today’s customers are wiser and have higher expectations for the brands they do business with; many feel the need to identify with the core values of an organization. That said, creating an empathetic, impactful customer experience is much more difficult than it was in the past. As the toolsets to deliver excellent experiences get more and more complex, the gap between adoption and expectation continues to widen.
The Three Major Realities That Brands Face Today
Channel proliferation makes it difficult for brands to see the customer experience holistically. Consumers engage with brands across a multitude of channels, including voice calls, mobile text, app engagement, direct mail, email, social media, website, chat bots and display media—to name a few. It’s difficult for brands to bring all those experiences together, in near-real time, to understand, support, and respond to the customer experience.
Customers expect immediacy and convenience when interacting with brands. Not only do you need to respond to what a customer is asking for, but you also need to anticipate what they’re going to need or ask for next. Demonstrating a fundamental understanding of brand loyalty drivers requires you to have a unified view of your customers, wrapped in some data that allows you to garner meaningful and actionable insights on their behavior.
Instant, Public Feedback
The social media megaphone is at the ready on consumers’ lips. If someone is unhappy with their experience, it is not uncommon for brands to be lambasted online – but they seldom receive praise when they meet expectations. Can we confidently say that any publicity is good publicity?
Start With Putting Your Customer at the Center
Addressing these challenges may seem overwhelming as it’s not always possible for an organization to devote all of their resources to the customer. Running a successful business also requires producing, marketing, and selling your products or services on time, while staying profitable. No pressure.
There’s no “silver-bullet” for addressing customer centricity. It isn’t one isolated event; it’s a combination of technology, people, time, and focus that will make it happen. You need to be realistic about where you stand in meeting customer expectations and be prepared to make strategic decisions that drive growth. If you’re aiming for improvement, sticking to what’s comfortable and “normal” won’t cut it.
The Customer Centricity Journey
Over the next few months, we’ll be exploring what it takes to truly put your customer at the center, including:
- The importance of knowing the customer
- The value of cross-channel alignment
- The unique roles the channels play in the customer experience
- The benefits of organizational alignment
- The role that AI should play
But before we jump in, there are a few things to address (and if you already have, then you’re ahead of the curve – congratulations)!
Define Your Voice
Take a hard look at how you communicate with your customers today and determine how your voice resonates with the market. Is it trustworthy, dynamic, and reliable, or does it come across as peddling? Is there value in what you are saying besides dollars, cents, and discounts? Are you listening to your customers’ responses, or are you sticking to your own narrative in spite of their feedback?
Understand Your Customer
Frequently, brands have a disillusioned view of their customer. Do you truly know who your customer is, or do you just think you do? Have you taken into consideration the different needs and motivations of online buyers versus brick-and-mortar buyers, or where an individual sits in the customer lifecycle? These are all important factors and drivers of behavior and engagement.
Analyze Your Channel Mix
Organizationally you may be on different teams, with different budgets, goals and KPIs, but the reality is that your customer sees you as one organization and one voice. Make sure that your voice is complimentary, accurate, and relevant across all channels where you have a presence. Start by creating a repository of your channel mix and document frequency of communication, tone, and message for each. If you’ve already taken that inventory, start looking for alignment (or lack thereof) and begin to define the potential opportunities to coordinate your internal and customer-facing communication.
Charting Your Path
This kind of work can keep you busy for months, but the goal is to get a surface-level understanding of the perception of your brand in the marketplace. Separate yourself from why and how you got to where you are, and genuinely try to understand where you are starting (the customers’ perception) and how you are collaborating across the organization to determine where you want to be (the organizational goal). Then and only then can you plot your journey to customer centricity.
Next up we will explore the importance of truly knowing the customer.
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