“The customer is always right”, goes the old business adage. But customer experience really is one of the leading marketing trends of 2020.
When we are all living in a pretty anxiety-inducing environment already, paired with millions of companies vying for our attention online, we both crave and deserve an amazing experience. And as businesses, it just makes financial sense to be customer-centric. Client-centric companies are 60% more profitable, and their customers are spending 140% more than those who had a bad experience. And it is a lot cheaper to keep your existing customers than to attract new ones!
What is customer-centricity?
The term is really self-explanatory. Your business is customer-centric if it truly places the customer/client in the focus of all activities and strategies. You would think this is a no-brainer: everyone knows customers are the most important source of revenue and success, right? Not so. According to a CMO survey, only 14% of marketers considered their organization customer-centric.
The evolution of customer-centricity
In the olden days, when manufacturing was mostly manual, there was a lot of personal contact involved between buyer and seller. This established a relationship where it was natural to care about the customer, and all concerns were addressed immediately and directly.
When industrial production started, this ended: the makers no longer had the opportunity to interact directly with consumers. However, there was very little competition on any given market, and customers in general were less informed and less connected. Product life cycles were also longer. This means companies did not have to try hard, compared to today.
Recently, with the advent of the internet, the distance between buyer and seller disappeared again, but now the competition is much more fierce than it used to be. Not only did the range of available products explode, it also became much easier to get informed before a purchase. 93% of people seek out tests or reviews before buying a product. And reviewers will give feedback on the full experience, not only the product itself. If communication was lacking, shipping was delayed, or complaints went unanswered, it will tank your online rating.
How to do customer-centricity right
By now you are convinced that you want to turn your business into a more customer-centric one. You may wonder how you can best do that. Here are 6 tips you can start implementing with very little financial investment.
Adopt the philosophy
At the core, customer-centricity is more of a philosophy than a tactic. You need employees who genuinely believe that your product/service solves a real problem for customers, and who care about those customers. This will show in a million little ways: going the extra mile to comply with a special request, handling difficult clients with a smile, and selling them the products they need, not what they are asking for. A great way to recognize who might become employees is the urge to simplify the process for the customer, and a constant search for improvement.
Get the basics right
Get crystal clear about your processes, and write the workflow down, together with your team. This is vital if you want everyone to interact with customers according to the same playbook. It also shortens response time, because your team will know exactly what to do, without having to wait for your input. But if you hired superstars, let them shine a little. Give them some leeway in what extras they offer, or what compensation they give when there is an issue. This will put that sought-after personal twist into your customer service.
Invest in CRM
Customer experience, especially online, is almost inseparable from CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This is simply a tool that incorporates customer data, analytics, messaging etc. It is a huge timesaver, and it can provide valuable insight about your existing customers. And contrary to what you might think, they are not necessarily an overkill for a small business! Here is a list of the best affordable solutions for SMBs.
Listen more than you talk
We tend to think that marketing is mostly about pouring information out into the world, hoping some of it will stick and bring us revenues. On the other hand, listening is at least as important. Think of this as free customer research.
Track your mentions on the internet with reputation management tools, and always be aware of the most important questions and complaints customers reach out to you with. If something is a recurring problem, you should probably do something about it.
Tailor the experience to fit your brand
You know the cookie-cutter consumer journey, right? Neutral language, black text on white background, strictly formal messages about practicalities. Does this fulfill its function? Yes. Does it provide a memorable experience? Probably not. So how can you do better?
Think of your brand persona as a human. How would this human talk to customers in their “successful purchase” message? Would they say “Howdy! Welcome to our family!”, or maybe “You have unlocked the first mission. Your instructions will arrive shortly”? Be bold and dare to be different than everybody else. Continue this exercise throughout the entire process and add your unique flavor to each message the customer sees.
Go the extra mile
This is probably the most important of all. What makes your company outstanding? What can you provide that others don’t? Free shipping, hassle-free returns and a customer support chat are expected by customers today. How about a personalized note from the founder in each and every package, free alterations, or your name on a wall of fame? These are just little things you and your team can ideate on and do. They make the biggest difference, and they encourage people to write about your company.
Your business's success lives or dies with your customers. This should be enough reason to put their interest and wellbeing at the forefront of your operations. But don’t be intimidated: perfection is not what they expect. Human connection is.