What Does it Mean to be Customer-centric?
To have the customer’s best interests as the focus of your attention — not to be pre-occupied in your own interests at the customer’s expense.
To do this, you need to:
(1) Really know the customer in order to anticipate their best interests.
(2) Differentiate between primary and secondary motives.
Customer-Centric Primary Motives:
Making it easier and nicer for the customer to get and use solutions.
Self-Centric Secondary Motives:
Building revenue and profit through new product development, word-of-mouth, etc.
There’s a myth that talking often to your customers (sales, service, surveys, etc.) means you’re customer-focused. However, customer-focus goes beyond lip-service to the primary motives that drive your behaviors.
Gap in Desired Versus Actual Customer-Centricity
Half of companies say they’re extremely customer-centric, but when customers of those companies were asked, only a tenth of them said those companies were extremely customer-centric.1 Why is there such a huge gap? When you think about who makes business processes and policies within a company, it’s usually the workforce that doesn’t interact directly with customers. Three-fourths of companies say that customer experience is not well defined and communicated within their company.2 Half of companies say they have fair or little knowledge of customer demographics, behaviors, psychographics, and transactional histories. Less than a tenth of companies say they have excellent knowledge of customers.2 Three-fourths of companies say their employees aren’t well versed in how to delight customers.2
Ways to Really Know the Customer
This represents an opportunity for those who work directly with customers to share valuable stories and facts with the rest of the company, to help the entire workforce live up to their brand promises. We usually think of marketing, sales, and customer service as outward-facing, with only outbound deliverables.
Yet, if a company is customer-centric, then concentric circles around the customer mean that marketing, service and sales are the natural conduit for helping the rest of the company — engineering, finance, human resources, production, operations, technology, safety, accounting, etc. — understand their impact on customer experience and customer profitability. Three-fourths of marketing groups say they don’t influence the customer service function5 … so you can imagine how much influence marketing has on the rest of the company!
Customer-facing professionals can sensitize the whole company toward the customer’s plight and priorities:
(1) Make sure customer stories reflect the customer experience spectrum.
(2) Use creative ways to share customer stories:
- Internal newsletters
- Bulletin boards & posters
- Lobbies, break rooms, war rooms, conference rooms, cafeteria
- Staff meetings.
(3) Involve organization in learning and adapting their mindsets — this is the organization-wide journey guiding everyone on managing their personal impact on customer experience, called internal branding.
Applied Materials, a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer, experienced great strides in customer-focus in every department across the company by following the steps outlined above. During the early 1990s customers complained about arrogance and lack of alignment with their priorities. Every business unit, field office, and support function engaged in ongoing customer listening, improvement action planning, and progress reporting. Expansive internal branding kept customer-focus fresh on the minds of employees company-wide for improved customer experience and business results.
Return on Investment
Your company makes huge efforts and investments in communicating your value proposition, which is the brand promise that shapes customer expectations. Customer satisfaction occurs when the customer’s experience meets or exceeds their expectations. Trust — being true to the brand promise — is biggest the biggest factor in building a customer-centric culture that maximizes customer profitability.
1CMO Council: Customer Affinity study.
2Peppers & Rogers: Customer Retention presentation.
Find out how to customize these tips to your situation; contact the author [email protected].
About Lynn Hunsaker
Lynn Hunsaker, Customer Experience Transformation Strategist, is head of ClearAction, Marketing Operations Partners, and the Marketing Future Forum. She has developed and led customer experience transformation for more than half of her career, as Voice of the Customer Manager, Strategic Information Manager, and Market Research Consultant, and in executive roles such as Head of Corporate Quality and Director of Marketing & Business Development at Fortune 250 companies.
Clients include Accountants Inc, Adecco, Adobe, Allegion, Anritsu, Applied Materials, Bankers Fidelity, Cadence, Cementos Progreso, Cementos Progreso, Cisco, Critical Software, Deltek, Direct General Insurance, FormFactor, Hootsuite, Hospira, Ingersoll Rand, Kaiser Permanente, LexisNexis, Merck, MicroWarehouse, Moo, SHRM, SunPower, Thomson Reuters, Valin, Whataburger, and others.
Lynn is past president of Silicon Valley American Marketing Association and she has taught marketing, advertising and business courses for 5 years at UC Berkeley Extension, Mission College and San Jose State University. Lynn earned psychology and marketing degrees at BYU and an MBA at Vanderbilt University. She is a Certified Marketing Manager, Certified Quality Manager, Certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Practitioner, and Certified Customer Experience Professional.
She is a top-10 CustomerThink author and she has written three handbooks: Metrics You Can Manage For Success, Customer Experience Improvement Momentum, and Innovating Superior Customer Experience. She designed and conducted the world's first global B2B customer experience management practices study for 5 years, and she led the world's first marketing operations practices study.
Lynn's Customer Experience Excellence course was the first to be recognized by CXPA as an Authorized Resource & Training provider for its Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) exam. She has served as a CXPA CX Expert panelist and as a co-chair of numerous CXPA committees.