How to build a customer-first strategy and embed it in your cultureby
How do you create a robust customer-first strategy - and how do you promote it within your company to ensure it becomes ingrained in the organisation's cultural DNA?
Today, consumers express their beliefs with their wallets and align their personal values with their purchase decisions. They’re looking for brands or companies they can trust, that listen to them and put them first.
A customer-first approach focuses on the customer’s success and experience with your product or service. And a correctly-implemented customer-first strategy can skyrocket your customer satisfaction rates by up to 20%.
So what should you focus on to create an excellent customer-first strategy, and how do you promote it within your company? Read on to find out.
The must-haves of a customer-first strategy
Keep in mind that these are not the only steps to building a successful customer-first strategy; however, they’re good starting points from which you can build.
1. Understand your customer’s needs and wants
To offer better experiences and get your customers to stay, you must first be able to understand your customer’s needs, preferences, expectations, and demands.
There are several ways you can do this, and they include:
Conduct local market research to get valuable insights about your target audience. You may also collect feedback from current customers to shape current and newer experiences.
Build buyer personas to help you shape communication strategies throughout the customer journey. When your marketing team develops buyer personas, ensure that a CSM is involved. Include things like demographics, job position, career, personal interests, values and objectives, and anything else you find relevant.
Study customer behaviour to build multichannel support, understand where and when they interact with your brand or product, and optimise marketing efforts.
2. Act on all your clients’ ever-changing needs
It’s much easier to put the customer first when you know what they want and need and you act on it. Most customers want speed (efficiency), friendly service, knowledgeable help, and convenience.
However, a customer’s wants and needs change with time and can differ from business to business, so the best way to find out is to ask through various communication tools or methods, i.e. live chats, emails, helpdesk, knowledge base, etc.
Collect opinions and reviews through:
- Voice of Customer Surveys (VoC) - these surveys help you collect valuable data from emails and pop-ups. Ask open- and closed-ended questions for better insights.
- Social networks/channels - use your most-used channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, review networks, etc.) and collate feedback and requests from these pages to drive your next steps and decisions.
- Hosting an event - meetings, webinars, demos, and workshops are excellent options to engage with customers in real-time to let them ask questions or offer suggestions about your solutions.
3. Monitor churn and customer metrics at the microlevel
If you’re changing your strategy or creating one from scratch, pay attention to the following key metrics to measure your success and ensure you’re taking the correct approach:
- Churn - if you pay close attention to your churn rate to understand loyalty and why your customers are leaving, you could see where you need to add more value to customers’ experiences. In turn, you could increase your chances of retention.
- Interact with customers, analyse behavioural data, and conduct surveys to tap into customer sentiments and see where they are with your brand. With Custify’s Ultimate Churn Guide, you’ll understand the different types of churn you can expect during your business’ lifecycle and how to address each type to better manage it and increase customer loyalty.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) - an NPS survey, where you ask customers a question like “how likely are you to recommend *your company* to a friend or colleague?” is one of the most effective (and easiest) ways to measure customer satisfaction.
- Hotjar and AskNicely are great places to start creating your surveys.
A world-class CRM tool or other relationship management tools can be a big help in gathering key metrics.
How to promote a customer-first strategy within your company
1. Align departments and invest in training programmes
A customer-first approach must translate into business planning, executive conversations, shareholder meetings, and pipeline reviews. That means that you must align your marketing, success, product, sales, and service departments to a customer-centric mindset (and how that looks for your company).
To develop a strong, collective customer-centric mindset, implement employee training programmes to help them perform to the best of their abilities and satisfy customer needs.
Training can take the following forms:
- Give employees access to an updated knowledge base to keep up with relevant and current advice and assistance.
- Teach them how to use systems and programs to quickly retrieve information.
- Invest in behavioural development and use real-life scenarios during training so employees can learn how to tailor their approach for each customer.
2. Prioritise transparency
When you adopt a customer-first approach, you must have an answer for when things go wrong - you must be transparent. Let customers know when you’re getting to their request or when you hit “bumps” in the road.
For example, customers won’t appreciate downtime or service interruptions without an explanation or warning, just as they won’t appreciate unexpected updates, UI changes, feature removals, or anything that can affect their daily workflows. Proper communications must be sent out prior, allowing them to ask questions or offer feedback.
You can further boost transparency by holding company-wide meetings where customer success and support teams can bounce ideas off of each other and relay feedback. In this way, reporting back to other departments will be a breeze, and all employees will feel more engaged.
3. Be driven by customer feedback
Using a proper customer success strategy helps you put your collected customer insights in one place. Focus your customer success strategy on points you need to hit depending on your challenges, whether that’s in:
- Onboarding optimisation
- Data hygiene
- Lifecycle tracking
- User adoption
- Churn/retention rates
Then, based on your results, you can use in-app data and customer satisfaction surveys to further tap into customer sentiments, improve product/offerings/business weaknesses, or use positive feedback to build customer success stories for a stronger brand image.
4. Learn, teach and promote the “5 Whys Technique”
The 5 Whys Technique, originally used within the Toyota Motor Corporation, asks the question “why?” five times to find the root cause of a problem within your organisation so you can ultimately correct it. This process may initially uncover unpleasant facts about your strategy or approach, and you may need to invest time or money in new products or features.
You can use this method in your day-to-day business life, to optimise processes, or when problems involve a human touch or interaction. However, don’t try to solve all your problems with one 5 whys session; instead, start small and specific to avoid overwhelming team members.
5. Promote innovation and autonomy within teams
Innovation is a big driver of an excellent customer-first strategy. It shows customers that you’re willing to always search for fresh ideas and ways to cater to them by improving your processes, offerings, or their experiences. On this note, you must realise that every team member in each department can play their part in your strategy by pitching new ideas and seeing what works.
You can implement changes through out-of-the-box tools such as virtual reality chatbots or artificial intelligence or through simple gestures such as creating small customisations in your communications to make customers feel noticed. For example, CSMs (and anyone on the team) can offer a more personalised experience by incorporating a video to welcome new customers and educate them or provide additional assistance to new and existing ones.
6. Allow customer data to travel across departments
You’ve been collecting customer data and feedback through various methods and based on your needs up until this point. Now, you must develop a process for categorising the data you receive to determine the correct course of action and make sense of customer suggestions. What better way to do that than to share this data across all departments?
Your marketing, UX, customer success, and product teams all take care of customers in different ways. If all these departments have access to the same customer feedback and data, they can make better-informed decisions for customer experiences. A CRM tool will be useful in this case.
7. Adopt a growth mindset
Let’s face it, we’re not perfect, and things happen. You can take customer satisfaction one step further by assuming responsibility and apologising for any mistakes you may have made along the customer journey. Direct communication, taking responsibility, and offering a solution (or even a form of compensation for their trouble) will go a long way in keeping your customers loyal for longer.
Additionally, don’t forget to celebrate successes with your entire team to keep employees motivated and excited about new things. A united, transparent team with access to customer data that understands what customers need is a game-changer.
Got any questions?
You don’t have many chances to get it right; first impressions matter! When eight out of ten people will switch to a competitor after bad customer service, are you willing to take those chances?
Your customers generate income, and promoting a customer-first approach and having a strategy are linked to your business’s success and can impact all stakeholders. So let’s summarise the key takeaways:
- Align departments and invest in training.
- Prioritise transparency.
- Be driven by customer feedback.
- Learn, teach, and promote The “5 Whys Technique”.
- Promote innovation and autonomy within teams.
- Let customer data travel across departments.
- Adopt a growth mindset.
Which step is the most valuable one for your business? Which step(s) have you tried? Were you successful, and why?
Leave a comment and let me know!
Philipp Wolf is the CEO of Custify, a customer success software platform for SaaS businesses. During high school, Philipp started working at Avira where he successfully built and led various teams with his hands-on approach. After seeing how companies spend big money getting...