How a customer-centric strategy is now essential
Marion Debruyne, author of Customer Innovation: Customer-Centric Strategy for Enduring Growth, suggests that if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that we’re living in the ‘Age of the Customer’.
In any customer service vertical, we understand that for a business to survive it needs to be customer focused.
We understand that customer experience is at the top of the priority list for any leading organisation.
Why then, do many businesses that do focus on customers, still fail?
Debruyne suggests that the problem is not that businesses are failing to pay heed to that advice.
It is their perspective when following it.
First of all, the build it and they will come philosophy may not be the best advice anymore.
Because customers have an ever-increasing number of products and services from which to choose, it’s imperative for companies to understand their market before they establish their business, not the other way around.
To find their niche, businesses must do a better job of using the customer data they have and they also have to do a better job of leveraging that data to retain existing customers and get new ones.
The general perspective on customer experience is that organisations need to be ‘customer-focused’.
Debruyne suggests that this perspective requires a shift, to ‘customer-centric’.
The change from customer-focused to customer-centric represents a deeper philosophical change. For a company to be customer-centric, a customer-based philosophy needs to be integrated throughout the entire business, not just the front-line employees.
The three levels of a customer-centric philosophy
Specifically, the customer-centric philosophy discussed by Debruyne has three levels:
1. Continuous feedback with current customers
This involves creating a channel of two-way communication between customers and the business, and to create marketing strategies and innovations based on the data collected.
2. Viewing the customer journey as a whole
Organisations need to capture what customers actually do, not what business owners think they do.
\By understanding how customers actually react, business owners can make more appropriate and well-timed interventions to improve the customers journey.
3. Predicting the future
Business owners can learn and even capitalise on the future if they pay heed to the first two levels, continuous feedback and more accurate view of customers, both existing and new.
Why the need for a customer-centric model?
Quite simply, the old way is no longer working.
Financial fears currently tend to lead to management cutting back investment on vital innovation and growth in response to falling revenue instead of looking for ways to respond to changing customer trends.
In addition to this, the very definition of ‘feature-creep’ is when businesses try to boost sales of a new product or service by adding features customers dont really care about.
Finally, when a company has only a short-term marketing strategy, as so many do, by focusing only on making short term gains in the business, they sacrifice innovation that will lead to greater growth.
These are all current trends that demonstrate the need for a new model.
In many cases, companies who do try to implement new innovations fall short because they overshoot on pricing, add too many features to their products that the user won’t benefit from, or create products and services from the business owners personal reality rather than from the reality of the customers.
Debruyne asks owners to challenge traditional thinking about marketing and to go deeper when evaluating the needs, desires and realities of their customers.
Business owners should learn how customers use a product or service in their day to day lives.
They can learn this by listening to social media feedback or asking customers directly through questionnaires or by chatting with them.
They can also look for ways to observe how customers are using products on a daily basis.
Regardless of the size of your company, or your resources to be able to implement Debruyne’s strategy, the philosophy remains the same;
By implementing a customer-centric mindset in your company you’ll gain a greater understanding of your customer.
And working step-by-step to improve on that understanding will certainly improve any business, even if it’s only one customer at a time.