Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Leona Henryson, Commercial Director at Essay Supply.
Recently, T-Mobile launched a fresh new initiative to improve their customer service. But no, they aren’t bringing in artificial intelligence, augmented reality or new ways to contact them. The irony of T-Mobile’s “new” way of doing customer service is that they are returning to the good old days of human connection – removing complicated phone trees and bots and putting humans front and center in their customer communications. It’s a growing trend, all in the pursuit of customer-centricity: putting the customer first, even perhaps ahead of efficiency and cost-cutting measures, in order to create trust and loyalty amongst customers.
What is Customer Centricity?
Customer centricity is a new term for a very common sense business strategy. At its root, it means keeping the customer as the focus of every decision, rather than shareholders or profits. It prioritizes long-term customer relationships over short-term profit gains that might negatively affect the customer.
Customer-centricity is also becoming more popular because it has a positive impact on the business. In fact, Booz and Company, a management consultancy firm, found that “thanks to their development of a more customer-centric business, a fashion retailer shortened its product lifecycle from the six-month industry average to just 15 days; a telecom operator increased its profitability by 22 percent; and a major European department store increased its profits by 7 percent per year.” Keeping the customer front and center pays off in your bank account.
Becoming customer-centric requires more process than philosophy. Instead of just thinking you’re customer centric, it’s important to put into place processes that promote the right type of behavior. I your business wants to become more customer-centric, here are four key trends to consider embracing.
Align your team around the customer
Putting the customer at the center of your decision-making process requires having all stakeholders from across the company on board. Every department needs to rally around the customer so that making customer-centric decisions becomes second nature.
There are a few strategies that help teams organize around the customer. First, we’ve seen an upward trend in the number of companies that have appointed a Chief Customer Officer (CCO). A CCO is an executive responsible for coordinating the entire relationship between the company and the customer. Support and Success teams will often report to them, but their job is truly cross-functional. In fact, 10% of Fortune 500 companies have appointed a CCO, and this number is only increasing.
The second strategy to align the business around the customer is to ensure that everyone is measuring their success and being rewarded based on customer success. If every department uses customer-centric metrics (like NPS or churn) as their guiding light, their behavior will fall in line.
Be where your customers are
One of the biggest changes in a customer-centric world is the need for companies to move towards their customers. Being where your customers are is about being available in the online spaces they frequent. This might involve participating in a community forum, responding on Twitter, activating Facebook Messenger, offering in-app chat or even being quick at email replies. Providing multilingual support is another way of being available for your customers in different regions.
The biggest challenge with opening up more contact channels is keeping everything straight and not making customers bounce from team to team to get an answer. This is where a multi-channel helpdesk that organizes customer conversations can help. Traditional help desks used to assign a number to every separate contact from a customer. This helped companies deal with incoming questions efficiently, but it made it difficult for customers to follow the full conversation. Omnichannel support will allow your team to combine all customer contacts into one conversation, regardless of where the customer is contacting you from.
Being proactive means moving beyond reacting to incoming customer contacts and getting in front of an issue so that customers don’t have to contact you at all. This strategy is an emerging trend because technology can now provide insights into the customer journey that make it easy for companies to see where customers need more help. AI and machine learning tools have opened the door to true proactive customer service.
Proactivity is a winning strategy for two reasons. First of all, customers love it when companies take the time to be proactive. 87% of consumers want to be contacted proactively if it means it will save them from having to use support in the future. For example, if a delivery is delayed, send customers a notification letting them know their new expected delivery time. The customer is kept in the loop and doesn’t need to contact support to ask where their order is. Secondly, being proactive saves your business money. It’s much cheaper to solve a customer’s problem early rather than waiting for them to write in.
Listen to your customers
Making decisions based on what your customer wants requires actually listening to your customers when they tell you what they want. A study by MIT found that 3M saw eight times the profits from implementing customer suggested innovations compared to ideas generated internally by their team. This earned them $146 million in additional revenue over 5 years.
Gathering customer feedback is often as simple as asking them for it. If you’re using a customer feedback survey, keep it short and respect your customers’ time. Whether you use an in-app feedback widget or send surveys by email or SMS, customers will love to tell you what you can do to make their lives better.
Listening to your customers can help you create great website content that helps attract prospective customers too! Knowing what questions your customers have about your product or services will guide your marketing team to speak directly to them.
Moving to a customer-centric model
Creating a more customer-centric business culture isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time and process to shift the company’s previous habits. But by embracing the five trends below, it’s possible to initiate a company-wide transformation.
- Align around the customer – develop metrics and processes that ensure everyone in the company is rowing the boat in the same direction.
- Be where your customers are – embrace omnichannel customer experiences to bring the customer closer to your company. .
- Be proactive – don’t wait for your customers to tell you there’s a problem. Anticipate their needs and focus on eliminating barriers.
- Listen to your customer – actively solicit feedback from your customers and then use that data to improve your company. It pays off!
These trends might require cutting-edge technology to implement well, but they are not just about the technology itself. Implementing trendy new tools and chasing shiny technology might be tempting, but it’s the wrong way to think about innovation. Instead, look and listen to what your customers want first – then decide what tools can help you get there.
In the experience era, customer-centric companies will continue to beat out competitors that are focused solely on increasing revenue at any cost.
Leona Henryson is a freelance writer and UX designer at Essay Supply. Also, she is a contributing writer for various blogs. When she is not writing or designing, she is swimming, hiking, and, weather permitting, snowboarding.