This informative guide has everything you need to know about customer centricity and how it can be used to improve the customer experience at your organization. Keep scrolling to read more or fill out the form to access a PDF version today.
Chapters cover topics such as:
What is customer centricity?
How is customer centricity different from customer service?
Who is responsible for becoming customer centric?
Beginning your own customer experience initiative
In today’s business world, there is an increasing focus on a positive and increasingly personalized customer experience. Irrespective of the industry, organizations are rapidly trying to improve the experiences their customers have with their company in order to drive business, differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and inspire brand loyalty. The reason for this trend may have something to do with the $98 billion that is left on the table every year by companies who fail to provide simple experiences for their customers.
In order to achieve a truly personalized and world-class customer experience, your organization will need to adopt a customer-centric culture. In an organization that is customer centric, every employee is focused on improving the customer experience as a means of building loyalty and repeat business. While it’s common for people to think about customer experience solely within the context of customer service, sales, and marketing, true customer centricity occurs when every employee within the organization, including those not in roles with direct customer contact, acts and behaves in the best interest of the customer. The importance of customer centricity is not to be underestimated, and for good reason. In a recent study, it was found that a moderate increase in the customer experience generated an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues.
Phil Geldart, CEO of Eagle's Flight and Author of Customer Centricity: A Present and Future Priority
Customer centricity is an organizational mindset that places customers, rather than product or sales, at the center of the business. When an organization has a customer-centric culture, the customer experience isn’t an afterthought or an accidental result of the customer service they receive. The entire customer experience is intentionally and strategically designed to be the differentiator. A customer-centric organization includes every person and process within the entire organization – whether or not they are customer-facing – in designing and implementing the customer experience.That is, the organizational norms prioritize the customer, so that every person asks how each decision, process, and strategy will affect the customer experience.
Customer service is an interaction at the front line between someone receiving a product or service, and the business that is providing it. In B2C organizations, this includes the interactions between paying customers and the business. In B2B companies, customer service most often happens between the end users at the organization making the purchase (individuals and departments), and the provider of the product or service (most often the sales and customer-service departments). Though customer experience in B2B is challenging existing practices.
So, what is customer centricity then? It is a value that informs the behavior of everyone in the organization. A customer-centric organization considers the entire customer journey, and anticipates customer needs beyond any one transaction. Every individual in every role operates under the assumption that they have the potential to impact the overall experience of the customer with each decision that they make. It definitely includes customer service, but it doesn’t begin or end with frontline staff.
Customer Centricity Is...
Customer Service Is...
For most businesses, success depends on sales, whether they are made to other businesses or to individual customers. This is one reason why creating a positive customer experience from beginning to end is so important. To do this effectively, you need every individual in your organization on board, even if they don’t interact directly with customers. Every employee must know that no matter what their role is within the company, each person affects the customer experience. In other words, you must create a customer-centric culture. Other benefits of customer centricity include:
Employees at 93% of customer-centric companies say they are happy to work there, compared to only 20% who say the same at companies that are less focused on the customer experience. - Mark Lives
Building a customer-centric organization cannot happen in a silo. It’s an organization-wide strategy that requires the support and engagement of every employee and must be modeled by leaders across the entire organization. This is because customer centricity is not synonymous with customer service. It is when every employee knows that they can positively influence the customer experience—and that they must. Therefore, it’s not just customer-facing roles that need to become customer centric; it is every single person in all departments. Here are the roles your employees and leaders must take in order to become customer centric:
It is the responsibility of an organization’s top leaders to define and get aligned on a clear mission, vision, and values that support the creation of a customer-centric culture. By doing so, they create a shared foundation that all employees can refer to when making decisions. Executive leaders must also distribute this message loud and clear throughout the organization via all-company meetings, team meetings, everyday conversations, town halls, emails, and company message boards over an extended period of time. Actively keeping the message top of mind for leaders and employees, and living it out daily themselves, goes a long way to creating a customer-centric organization.
Customer centricity will not take root if the organization does not have the support of frontline leaders, managers, and supervisors who work with employees face-to-face every day. They need to champion it, lead by example, and support employees in the moment in making customer-centric decisions. In fact, by providing proactive mentoring and coaching for their employees, managers and supervisors can make a huge difference in whether the customer-centricity initiative takes root within the workforce or not.
Human resources is responsible for ensuring that the people practices in an organization align with the vision of customer centricity that leadership has outlined, and are positively contributing to the customer experience. People practices include hiring best practices, onboarding processes, performance management, and training and development opportunities.
Those in marketing are best equipped to understand your customer and should be the ones who integrate all the data coming into your organization about the customer, through surveys, complaints, trend data, KPIs, NPS, and so on. Since marketers are the ones who have a finger on the pulse of the customer and their experience with your organization, they should be the ones to come forward to indicate a problem or champion a new initiative that would improve the customer experience.
Sales has changed drastically in the last century. What were once effective methods of selling are now obsolete and ineffective in the face of changing customer expectations. In order to provide a superior customer experience, it is imperative to have a customer-centric sales team. This will require training and development to build a sales team that sells solutions, listens to the customer’s expressed and unexpressed needs, and steps into the role of expert on the product or service.
Once a sale is made, many organizations turn to their customer service or customer success team to ensure the customer experience goes as planned and positive customer relationships are made. In a customer-centric culture, these teams do not just ensure customers get the status-quo but actively anticipate their needs and challenges, and work to alleviate them. Getting teams to think this way may require training that goes beyond customer service training to alter their mindset on what is their responsibility when it comes to the success of current and future customers.
Employees in the IT department of an organization are uniquely poised to influence the customer experience. Between creating customer-facing systems/interfaces, adapting internal systems, and taking charge of data collection and security, they can have a significant impact on the customer experience and must be trained to recognize the important role they have in doing so.
As mentioned, becoming customer centric and improving the customer experience is an organization-wide initiative and will require those in all remaining departments to be on board. This group of employees may find it most difficult to become customer centric because their roles have traditionally not had to consider the customer to the extent that customer centricity demands they do. This shift in mindset will require these employees to make decisions and take actions differently than ever before as they consider how everything could positively (or negatively) impact the customer’s experience. To support these employees, provide ongoing training and development and ensure that their leaders have the necessary skills to support them on the job.
Phil Geldart, CEO of Eagle's Flight and Author of Customer Centricity: A Present and Future Priority
The ultimate goal for any organization striving to create a culture of customer centricity is to create a constant awareness within every employee that they are always acting in a way that upholds the culture, whether someone is watching or not. In order to make this a reality, it will be imperative to take the following six steps:
If individuals, teams, and departments only think about the customer, they will not get very far – they must also think about the rest of the people inside the organization and how those people also impact the customer experience, and then how they can help with that priority for them. Ultimately, creating a customer-centric culture is a team effort. To succeed, every department and function must work collaboratively with others to achieve the common goal they are tasked with by company leaders. Interactions take place in the fulfillment of a shared goal: an exceptional customer experience.
Thoughts are as valuable as actions. Everyone involved in a specific process or system has an idea of how they might be able to enhance the customer’s experience. As individuals, we have individual perspectives; everyone’s perspective must be respected, even though it may be different from another’s. Not to mention, you may have the potential to acquire input from hundreds, even thousands, of people, both internally and externally. By seeking out and encouraging input from employees, leaders, customers, and stakeholders, you are taking a valuable step to understanding the reality of your customer and creating a better customer experience for them.
The desire to build a customer-centric culture must be translated into specific actions. There will be actions and activities that people will need to keep doing, activities you want them to stop doing, and activities they need to start doing. It is critical that you align everyone on precisely what to do and how to do it so they know exactly what is expected of them.
When it comes to customer centricity, you cannot focus solely on goals. Goals are clearly an essential part of the process and they do help to get the tasks done – but they are not usually inspiring. An initiative of this manner requires the inspiration behind the goal. From the start of your customer-centricity initiative, and regularly and consistently going forward, you must continually demonstrate and share the vision. Without the vision top of mind, it is easy to forget the goals vital to its achievement. The vision you choose to communicate acts as the driving force behind feeling and doing what is necessary in order to create a great customer experience.
Employees may need help understanding their role in the customer experience and taking a customer-centric approach on the job. While some may need more help than others, it is important that they know they are supported throughout the journey and that everyone is learning how to become customer centric together. Instead of criticizing, offer opportunities for further learning or on-the-job coaching. Make a point of focusing on positivity, not negativity, in order to build employees’ confidence and keep them committed to becoming customer centric.
Becoming truly customer centric hinges on your ability to coordinate all the talents within the organization in such a way that they collectively deliver the experience that your customer will claim is spectacular. Customer-centricity training is the ideal way to provide employees with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors they need to become active members of a customer-centric culture. It’s not realistic to expect them to already know what behaviors are customer service versus customer centric; this must be taught and supported. Through experiential learning, which allows employees to practice customer-centric behaviors in a hands-on way, and a strong reinforcement and retention strategy, it is possible to unleash the potential of your workforce and build the customer-centric culture you desire.
Building a customer-centric culture is a long journey, but once the goals are achieved, your organization must take action to sustain those results. As new corporate initiatives come to be, and priorities shift within teams and departments, the customer-centric culture could diminish, which is not something you want to happen after the investment you made. Therefore, you will want to consider the following to sustain customer centricity at your organization so you provide a superior customer experience long term.
Establish key performance indicators to link customer centricity to the bottom line, and build a culture of shared accountability. Setting customer-experience benchmarks that everybody can work toward helps manage performance and reinforces that customer centricity is a top priority. Some metrics to consider include your net promoter score, the number of returns and complaints, positive and negative reviews, and repeat business.
Create systems that allow you to easily and efficiently measure your key performance indicators so you can continually track progress. Celebrate successes when you have them and take the time to evaluate why targets are not met. Monitoring this type of data will allow you to identify which parts of the customer experience need improvement and what changes are working well.
When you think about the customer experience, you must consider the degree to which you will empower your organization to initiate continuous process improvement. It is continuous because you want people to act whenever they see a problem in the process of which they are a part of. The end result is individuals and teams working together throughout the organization to take action that will positively influence the customer experience. Customer centricity and empowerment are key to process improvement, though it may require training so that everyone has the skills to effectively take action.
Assuming that the people in your organization are fairly and competitively compensated, recognition can be a powerful motivator. Recognition is a public affirmation of performance consistent with corporate values. Therefore, recognizing people who provided an enviable customer experience reinforces the commitment to customer centricity.
For employees to truly adopt a customer-centric approach, your initiative will need to provide ongoing reinforcement, and training for those who join the organization after the initiative kicks off. This is because reinforcement helps individuals retain what they’ve learned and use it in their everyday lives on the job. Examples of reinforcement tools and activities can include:
The foundation of a strong, customer-centric culture is a commitment to putting the customer at the core of what the company does, how it does it, and, ultimately, why it does it. The hallmark of success is when every decision that every employee makes is considered through the lens of the customer experience.
When the customer is at the heart of every decision, and individuals within the organization have the necessary skills to support a customer-centric culture, the result will be a proactive approach to creating an excellent customer experience at every level of the organization. It only takes one conversation to get started on creating a customer-centric culture at your organization. Schedule a preliminary conversation with one of our experts to take the first—and perhaps most important—step.
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