Being a customer-centric organization is something of a trend lately, but it takes more than a few staff meetings or customer surveys to truly become one. Some of the world’s most popular companies have been working on their customer centricity strategy for decades—and they have the results to show for it.
This introductory guide will cover customer centricity and why it’s necessary for any business. We’ll also cover some different customer-centric brands and their unique approaches to serving customers.
Finally, there are several strategies and tools available to help your organization start delivering unparalleled service to the people who matter most. We’ll cover some of the best options available.
- What is a Customer-Centric Organization?
- Why is Being Customer-Centric Important?
- Examples of Customer-Centric Brands
- Tips for Becoming a Customer-Centric Organization
What is a Customer-Centric Organization?
Simply put, a customer-centric organization places a premium on the customer and their experience with the product, service, or brand. Well-known companies like Amazon, Zappos, and Slack all include customer centricity as a central part of their brand and mission.
These sorts of organizations don’t just toss customer centricity around like a buzzword, they really believe it, with employees going above and beyond to make sure that the customer is always satisfied.
The customer’s satisfaction is so important to these organizations, that in some ways, they place a higher importance satisfaction than profits alone.
Why is Being Customer-Centric Important?
How could anything be more important than profits? Profits and growth are what keep businesses sustainable. Without them, a business is bound to fail.
At first, the idea that something could be more important than profits seems counter-intuitive. However, it’s important to remember what drives profits. Namely, happy customers.
Customers who find that a product perfectly meets their needs and comes with excellent support are more likely to remain loyal buyers and respond favorably to upselling. For example, research conducted by Bain & Company claims that increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
In addition, upselling to existing customers can have a huge impact on a company’s overall profits. B2B companies, for instance, statistically receive 90% of customer revenue following the initial sale.
This also helps increase ROI. According to a 2015 survey by Pacific Crest Securities, SaaS companies can expect to spend $0.28 to earn another dollar of revenue from an existing customer. Meanwhile, it costs $1.18 to earn another dollar from a new customer.
Finally, satisfied customers will be more likely to recommend the brand to their network, helping companies grow via word-of-mouth. If you don’t believe word-of-mouth is important, consider this: a Nielson report claims that 92% of consumers are more likely to believe their friends and family before actual advertising.
Not only that, but powerhouse companies like Trello and Evernote used word-of-mouth as their primary marketing strategy when they were just starting out.
5 Examples of Customer-Centric Brands
These brands have risen to the top of the pack thanks to their love for the customer. Each excels in a slightly different way, whether it’s by making communication incredibly easy, prioritizing customer feedback, or even valuing their employees more than anyone else.
Slack, the wildly popular team collaboration tool, didn’t become a $7.1 billion business by accident. Their obsession with customers is the key to their success.
Slack is customer-centric in a number of ways, most notably that they’ve been listening to customer feedback from the beginning, in order to develop the most useful product possible. Slack also focuses on analytics such as daily active users instead of financial insights like leads and pipeline opportunities.
Then there’s the Customer Success Manager position, whose first responsibility is to “empathize with every aspect of the customer experience, putting customers’ needs first.” They also travel and meet with customers onsite to make sure they receive all the help they need in order to use Slack successfully.
Rackspace is a cloud computing company that describes itself as having “fanatical” customer support. With their phone number and email clearly visible on the menu bar and across the website, it’s clear that they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.
One anecdote from HelpScout backs the claim up, too. While on the phone during a particularly long troubleshooting session, one Rackspace employee heard the customer tell someone else in the room that they were getting hungry. The employee put the customer on hold, then ordered them a pizza. The pizza arrived a few minutes later, much to the customer’s surprise and delight.
What customer wouldn’t be excited to tell their friends about the support agent who thought to order them food? For the cost of a pizza, Rackspace undoubtedly received some word-of-mouth marketing and increased the lifetime value of that customer.
Dollar Shave Club
In 2016, Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion, even though the startup had cornered less than 1% of the razor market and was considered low-profit. What made it worth $1 billion, it turns out, is the attention it pays to customers and potential customers.
Dollar Shave Club had collected data on 100 million potential customers in order to become laser-focused on marketing to key demographics. The results speak for themselves; chances are you’ve seen a Dollar Shave Club ad or two, as they can’t help but go viral.
It’s not just customer-centric marketing that makes the company stand out. According to Forbes, the company’s motto that all employees follow is “We don’t respond to situations; we respond to people,” making top-tier customer service one of their core values.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), Lexus scored 84.6 in 2018, landing it at number five out of ten in the top companies for customer satisfaction. The J.D. Power 2017 Customer Service Index Study also found that Lexus ranks highest among luxury vehicles in customer satisfaction.
Jeff Bracken, the Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager, spoke to their customer centricity, saying that, “At Lexus, we aim to create amazing experiences for our customers by anticipating their needs both at the time of purchase and years down the road. Customer service is at the heart of our brand, and we’re proud of the continuous efforts by our dealers to exceed our buyers’ expectations.”
The ASCI report noted that customers agree with Bracken’s claim, saying that a Lexus product, “makes me feel pampered because it’s so comfortable and well designed and I love driving it.”
Number six out of ten on the same ACSI list is Costco, coming in right behind Lexus with a score of 84.4. The report noted that customers loved the prices and the reliability of the brand.
Prices might not be the only thing making Costco customers happy, however. In 2017, Costco jumped ahead of Google to become the best large employer in America, due in large part to the company’s “connection culture” that aims to keep employees happy. They do this by communicating an inspiring vision to their employees, valuing them, and giving them a voice.
This in turns makes for happy customers. For one, employees who resonate with the value of “always do the right thing, even when it hurts” are likely provide better customer service than employees taught the value of “aim to triple our ROI.” In addition, employees who feel valued and heard by their employers will likely be in a better frame of mind to meet customers’ needs.
Tips for Becoming a Customer-Centric Organization
Ready to join the list of companies who live for customer centricity? The strategies and tools below will help take you there:
1. Build a Company Culture of Customer Centricity
Building a customer-centric company culture is not as simple as throwing a few motivational posters up around the office and calling the job done. It starts with an intentional strategy executed at multiple points of the employee experience.
The first step is the make customer-centricity a core value of the company (if not a part of the mission statement), then stick with it. When Amazon was starting out, they set forth with the mission to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” With an ASCI rating of 84.8, they’re doing a pretty good job at it.
Don’t expect to announce the core value in a company-wide memo and see a massive overnight change in how employees operate. Instead, hold an employee training or retreat that introduces the value and encourages employee buy-in.
Better yet, consider bringing employees into the initial conversation where new core values are being discussed and set. This can massively increase their sense of ownership over the value and make it easier to spread and adopt.
The next step would be to hire the right employees who will uphold that core value to the highest extent possible and be an asset to company culture. This might also mean having to let go of team members who have a hard time or refuse to get on board with the new direction.
It’s also important to get everyone involved in customer service. One of the most well-known examples of this is Groove’s CEO Alex Turnbull, who spends 20 hours a week giving customer support.
When speaking of the experience, Turnbull says, “An issue that might have otherwise been another task on the stack became a burning pain that was hurting a customer I was interacting with directly. Things I had only been reading about in bug reports came alive and began to frustrate me.”
As CEO, Turnbull had the decision-making power to turn individual customers’ problems into high-priority tasks.
“Bug fixes weren’t just a thing we blocked off scheduled developer time for; they were high-priority development issues that came before new features,” he says.
Another benefit of getting everyone involved is that it sets an example for other employees. When they see upper-level management getting down in the trenches to deliver excellent customer service, they’ll feel more compelled to do the same.
From time to time it may be necessary to deliver reminders to employees about the importance of customer centricity. These might come in the form of refresher training, emails sharing internal customer-centric success stories, or partnering up employees on assignments who can learn from one another.
Finally, reward employees who have a unique customer-centric success story or a track record of giving great customer service. Monetary or material prizes work great, but depending on the employee some verbal recognition works just as well. In any case, it pays to let employees know that they’re appreciated when they value the customer.
2. Give Customers Multiple Ways to Get in Touch
With a team of customer-centric employees at hand, it’s time to facilitate communication with customers. Although it might go without saying, a good rule of thumb is that the easier it is for customers to get in touch, the better.
Rackspace, with their “fanatical” customer service, puts their contact options front and center:
Their call, chat, and email channels are displayed even more prominently than the menu bar exploring their product and features. They know that if they can get a potential buyer or customer into a conversation, they can deliver better support than product information pages or knowledge base articles ever could.
Salesforce also makes it extremely easy for customers to get in touch:
Their phone number is clearly visible, as are additional contact options. Plus, there’s a floating chat box in the bottom right corner for visitors who might have just a few simple questions.
Zendesk, on the other hand, isn’t as straightforward:
Their first contact option (the “Contact Us” link) is minuscule and shoved in the top right corner. It adds an extra step for customers or potential buyers.
There’s a floating button in the bottom right corner of the page that gives visitors the option to contact sales, but some people might be turned off. Maybe they just have a few questions but aren’t ready to be pitched to yet, or maybe they’re already a customer and have no need to talk to sales. In any case, these contact options don’t necessarily make customers’ lives any easier.
Another way to facilitate customer relationships is by hosting in-person events and networking opportunities.
SoFi, a personal finance company, hosts “member experiences” around the country that allow customers to receive live financial advice, go to workshops, and expand their network:
Plus, SoFi promises that these events “are not sales experiences and never will be.”
SoFi is also honest about what they get out of the deal, saying, “It gives us a direct channel to interact with and get feedback from our members in a relaxed setting.”
3. Collect, Analyze, and Implement Customer Feedback
Speaking of feedback, what use is hearing it if nothing is done? Collecting, analyzing, and implementing customer feedback from across multiple channels is key to developing a product or service that customers can’t help but be loyal to.
Wonderflow’s Wonderboard compiles customer feedback and then visually displays all the pros and cons of a particular product or service. There’s also an option for comparing multiple products so that you can see how they stack up against each other.
The Wonderboard draws feedback from reviews, surveys, internal data, and more, making it a comprehensive tool for understanding how customers feel. This sort of data analysis takes all the guesswork out of knowing what customers are thinking so companies know exactly where they stand.
That’s not all the Wonderboard can do. It uses a proprietary technology of Natural Language Generation to create insights about customer feedback. This helps company leaders and developers understand exactly what needs to be improved and what strengths are worth holding on to.
Being customer-centric isn’t just about offering unparalleled support. It’s about offering a product or service that meets customer needs in every possible way. A feedback analytics tool can help do just that.
Become a Customer-Centric Organization
While becoming a customer-centric organization seems like a straightforward concept, there are a few challenges involved. It takes time to totally revamp company culture, build lines of communication between employees and customers, and implement new features. Creating a plan to follow-through will help ensure success.
Establishing customer-centricity as a core value and then communicating it to employees is only the first step. The value needs to become deeply ingrained in company culture and expressed at every available opportunity, no matter how small. Keeping lines of communication open with customers is also integral, as is evaluating their feedback and turning it into actionable insights. Luckily, the right tool can make the job easier.