“Putting the customer first” sounds like a selfless, lofty goal for businesses. But organizations wouldn’t be so focused on providing top-notch customer service if it didn’t make sound business sense. In fact, Deloitte and Touche reports that customer centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than companies not focused on the customer. But let’s back up for a moment—what is the art of customer centricity, and how exactly does it lead to business growth and success?
Why Customer Centricity Is an Art (Not a Science)
The shape that customer centricity takes in your organization depends on whom you serve—there’s no one-size-fits-all customer centric formula you can simply plug yourself into. In fact, that’s the opposite of customer centricity! This is much more than a “customer first” motto. Customer centricity is an organizing principle, with the customer at the center.
Think of customer centricity as a painting. You paint the customer into the foreground, and everything else in the painting exists to keep the focus on the customer. Taken individually, the elements of the painting that enhance the customer—all of those background techniques—don’t seem to make much of a difference. But if you take them all away, your painting becomes dull and lifeless—the color seems to drain out of your painting’s central figure (the customer). For example, designing an office that feels inviting to your customer (think comfy chairs, a coffee station, and offices full of natural light) may seem superfluous, but it can have an outsized impact on the customer’s first impressions of your organization. Furthermore, the elements that don’t serve to enhance the customer can be reworked, painted over, and redesigned. Customer centricity, like painting, is a process that takes time, trial and error, and practice to perfect!
A company that truly embraces customer centricity organizes the corporate culture around its customers and ensures that departments don’t operate in silos when it comes to interpreting customer data and the customer experience. In fact, “customer service” isn’t limited to just one department—every individual at the company becomes a customer centric artist, striving to see things from the customer’s perspective, taking ownership of the ways that his or her work can directly or indirectly impact customers, and pulling out his or her paintbrush to take action to improve the customer experience.
Discover Potential Areas for Growth
Creating a customer centric culture isn’t easy, as the description above entails. So, why do companies do it? What’s in it for them?
Customer centricity can be a major boon for business, in part because it allows companies to discover and identify potential areas for growth, where new products or services can be created to meet customer needs. When you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you can more easily see what may be lacking for them—and that spells business opportunity. Relatedly, customer centricity also helps companies develop the right products and services, the kind that are actually going to be used. When you truly understand your customers’ needs, you won’t waste time developing and marketing services that aren’t going to help them.
Create Long-Term Partnerships with Customers
Customers are going to be appreciative of the care that customer centric companies put forth in meeting their needs. When you consistently deliver solutions that are customized to the customer, that gives them an incentive to work with you further. That’s good news for your business's bottom line, because the statistics show that it’s far more cost-effective to retain current customers than acquire new ones.
However, the reality is that customers aren’t going to stick with you if you ever stray from the customer centric model. Customer loyalty is eroding; today’s customers aren’t afraid to switch companies at the drop of a hat, and they certainly don’t feel beholden to a company due to past good service. What matters is how you treat customers now. A customer centric organization approaches customer retention as a way to create long-term partnerships with customers. Partnerships that will be mutually beneficial and rewarding to both customer and company for years to come.
Sell More with a Customer Centric Approach
Customer centricity can even inspire business growth by reviving a company’s lackluster sales results. Putting the potential customer at the center of the sales process—by researching the customer’s current reality and the climate of the customer’s industry and by identifying the customer’s real and perceived needs—can lead to more (and bigger) sales. Today’s customers want complex, custom-fit solutions, which companies can only sell to a customer when they put themselves in the customer’s shoes. That’s how a salesperson can determine what solution would truly fit best.
Does your organization possess a customer centric culture? If so, how has that contributed—directly or indirectly—to your organization’s growth?