Customer centricity has been talked to death in recent years, but despite their best efforts, many companies are still not getting the results they need, either for themselves or for their customers.
Unfortunately, many of those companies are going about it in a way that can’t really get them to where they want to be.
All too often, when a company wants to improve their customer experience, they rely on the same tried and true approach that works so well for everything else, from supply chains to Human Resources. They study the problem, define its component parts, and assign responsibilities to relevant departments complete with ambitious yet manageable goals.
It’s a highly efficient approach that’s doomed to fail.
If customers experienced each part in isolation, the old approach would work beautifully. But, of course, each customer has just one continuous experience that moves through and between departments and goes wherever the customer feels like going. And when their path feels fragmented and disjointed, attempts at customer-centricity feel like just another variation of:
“Our customers are our highest priority… thank you for your patience…”
To create real customer-centricity, the kind that actually works, you have to get back to your customer-centric roots.
All successful companies were, at some point, intensely focused on understanding their customers and adapting to their needs. It’s what gave them a foothold in the market and enabled them to rise above their competitors. Over time though, that obsessiveness tends to fade as the focus shifts to building the organization itself.
To get back to those customer centric roots, you have to take your organizational structure out of the equation (for a moment) and take a fresh look at your customers and define what kind of experiences they’d love. Then, with that in mind, define exactly what changes need to happen in order to deliver those experiences.
It may sound like a daunting task, but you don’t need to overhaul your organization to start making improvements. In fact, you can make improvements at any time with the resources you have on hand.
Looking at indicators such as churn, support requests, social media comments, product reviews, or in-house research, pick one aspect of the experience you’d like to target. Chances are, somebody is already working on improving that particular stage, which is great, but many customer experience problems can’t be solved at the point where the customer actually experiences the problem.
In many cases, customer experience problems are rooted in events that happened much earlier in their journey, and those root causes are often masked by positive experiences that hit every KPI.
For example, who hasn’t been inspired by an exciting sales pitch only to find the product doesn’t live up to the promises?
That’s a pretty stark example but the same kind of dynamic can happen in countless subtle ways throughout the customer experience.
One that I see fairly often is when customers are surprised by contract terms when they hit the renewal stage. It’s a problem that’s created in the sales and onboarding stages, but it doesn’t become apparent until much later in the relationship.
For the area you’d like to improve, your goal is to make it as customer centric as it can be. And to do this, you’ll need to bring together team leaders from all relevant points in the customer journey and, armed with insights and data, brainstorm ways to fix the issue and improve the overall experience and to establish the processes that will actually make it happen.
It doesn’t stop there though. That’s just a meeting to talk about a problem, which is nothing new.
The important part is what happens next. It doesn’t even matter if you solve the problem on the first attempt. What matters is the lines of customer-centric communication and collaboration you just set up. As you strengthen these connections by working on this and other problems, your company will become more and more genuinely customer centric.
When it comes to customer experience, there is no end point. There is no moment where you can say “problem solved.” Customer experience is an ongoing and evolutionary process. Your company embraced this in the early stages to drive acquisition and growth. And, with the right practices in place, you can bring the focus back to the customer and drive the next stage of growth.