Successfully running your business in a competitive industry is no easy task. Particularly in the service sector, where customer is king, and more so in the modern age, where information spreads like wildfire and any inconsistencies in service trend on the Internet at the speed of light.
Given that, it appears that customer-centricity of businesses in the service sector is no longer an ambition – it is a need. It is not something that great companies can thrive on – it is something that all companies will need to practice to survive in the game.
We already discussed how customer experience may well be the cornerstone of the Blue-Ocean strategy in the customer-service industry. What remains to be discussed, however, is how your business can go on to become customer-centric. Here are six things you need to watch out for once you decide to adopt a customer centric approach for your business, if not already done so:
Clearly establish and commit to your brand value
The very first thing you need to focus on is the promise that your brand makes, and set up procedures to consistently deliver it. This is crucial, because brands are essentially promises. And a company that consistently delivers on this promise will by default, gain strong brand recall among its customers.
For example, a budget restaurant associates its brand with economic pricing, attracting customers by the promise of “low prices”. Over time, sensing shifts in the industry, it may desire to improve its service offering, but if it dilutes its original promise of “economic meal”, it will witness a steady decline in its customer base.
Integrate all your business units
The first step in making your business customer-centric is probably to integrate all of your (seemingly) disjoint business units into one cohesive army dedicated to providing the best customer service.
The company’s goal of customer-centricity must be clearly communicated throughout all business units, particularly the front-line staff, which actually interact with the customers and act as representatives of the company.
The same message must be communicated to the hiring team, to ensure that only the most customer-oriented candidates join the organization. An on-board training program upon recruitment will strengthen this philosophy. In short, customer-centricity is a paradigm shift that will require all hands on deck.
The senior management must be sensitized about the importance of investment in systems and procedures to enhance customer experience and proper feedback management.
In short, it is imperative to have all hands on deck to achieve thorough customer-centricity.
The devil is in the details
Putting your customers in the centre of everything you do would require paying acute attention to the minutest of details that other businesses wouldn’t. This will create an indelible impression on your customers about their experience, effectively insulating them from an aggressive competitor snatching them away with lucrative campaigns.
As an example, a hotel looking to make itself more customer-centric would go an extra step in hospitality by perhaps placing a set of fresh flowers in its appointed rooms to welcome its guests.
This point overlaps to some extent with the concept of “customer delight” discussed earlier, but differs slightly in the sense that it can be achieved at a fraction of the cost involved in delighting a customer.
Embrace technology to incorporate customer feedback into the business model
The customer-centric culture thus developed will produce the best results when supplemented with customer feedback. Well, by default, a customer-centric organization must obviously incorporate customer feedback to know how well it is satisfying its customer’s requests.
But our problem is a little bit more complicated than that. If you are to truly rise above the competition in terms of customer service, you need reliable systems that can not just collect customer feedback, but quickly slice and dice the collected data to quickly know which areas you are clearly lacking in, which areas you are really doing well in, and how the various units fit in providing the customer the best of experience when dealing with your company. This information gathered via incisive customer feedback management processes can help you refine your customer service strategy accordingly. Key metrics such as the NPS © may be employed to measure the success of your approach.
A robust customer feedback collecting and reporting mechanism with these features is a vital component to enable customer-centricity in any business.
Develop the culture
Ultimately, it is the people that run and affect the organization. All technologies, procedures and brands amount to nothing if not accompanied with and attitude of “putting the customer above all”. A systematic culture of treating the customer like royalty is crucial to any business wishing to go customer-centric.
A very crude example of this culture would be the staff members of the Taj hotel, who selflessly came in the way of flying bullets to save their guests of a few hours. Was their ultimate sacrifice due to the expectation of a very generous tip, or the threat of some punishment from their management? No – their sacrifice was the epitome of hospitality that has become a part of the legendary history of Taj hotels worldwide.
No customer gets left behind
Here are some statistics about the need for customer retention and the potential magnitude of negative customer experiences:
- A 10% increase in customer retention rate translates to a 30% increase in the value of a company
- It is 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than to retain an old customer
- It takes 12 positive customer reviews to make up for one negative experience
Word of mouth travels geometrically – even exponentially in the digital age. As such, any business having an ambition to become customer-centric would be wise to implement system wherein any customer’s grievances are resolved instantly, while they are still in the process of transacting with the business.
The importance of becoming customer-centric cannot be stressed enough in today’s competitive scenario. But managers are often at sea when it comes to implementing it is practice. They key lies in identifying technologies that are available to help them address this gap – and absorbing them into their business model, along with steady development of a culture and attitude of always placing customer before self.