27th October, 2021
Most businesses like to think they’re a customer centric organisation, but nobody’s perfect, right? Here’s how to incrementally improve your customer relationships.
Think about your clientele and ask yourself: what are their goals? What are they trying to do for them or perhaps their own customers? What keeps them awake at night? When are they likely to want to turn to you for help?
If you can’t immediately answer these questions, you may not be as customer centric as you’d like to believe.
While customer centricity is a buzz-phrase at the moment, I can tell you that it is truly effective.
Being customer centric, at its simplest, is organising your values, workflows and everyday activity around the needs of your customers. It means considering them in every conversation and every action, and thinking about what would be best for the customer.
Ask yourself, do you often consider these types of questions:
In my experience, true customer centricity pays benefits in terms of customer retention, and also in the growth of services customers will engage you for. Being customer centric means when your customers win, you win.
The tech industry has a whole movement around customer value named Customer Success.
As the name suggests, modern companies dedicate specific resources to enabling the success of their customers, usually working with them in a non-revenue generating way to simply maximise the value obtained from the money already spent on the tech.
This approach was largely pioneered by Salesforce, which went on to develop an entire department called Customers for Life. While you might not create these roles, think about how your staff can act in the customer’s best interests even when a new revenue dollar is not on the line.
By becoming more customer centric, organisations are seeing big changes in both the retention of current customers, and the growth in spend from these customers.
Research conducted by Bain & Company in 2015 indicates several clear benefits to being a leader in customer centricity by delivering a superior customer experience, as detailed below.
Companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues between four and eight percent above market.
Customer centricity delivering better experiences results in customer loyalty and, in turn, better customer value.
In fact, the Bain & Company research found that brand promoters created as a result of good customer experiences generated six to 14 times more value than detractors.
While not covered in the research, customer centric organisations also gain from enhanced efficiencies and reduced costs.
That’s because when a customer is well-supported from the get-go, there’s less chance of them requiring additional help or running into problems along the way, which means there’s less cost in maintaining them.
To become more customer centric, you first need to listen. It’s that simple.
Listen to your customers, and maybe even listen to their customers. Put yourself in their shoes and try to determine what their big business issues are, and problems they’re trying to solve.
I can offer two practical suggestions as to steps you can take with your customers, as detailed below.
This document should capture the business outcomes they are aiming for when engaging you. It should be written in their language and point of view.
From there, develop a collaborative plan to achieve these outcomes, listing both what your organisation will do and what the customer needs to do.
This approach is tailored to a services-based business, but developing a similar view of customer success should be a goal for any business. If you don’t meet face-to-face with your customers, how else can you seek feedback from them? What would their success look like and how can you capture those insights?
Use these quarterly meetings to assess progress to delivery of outcomes (not just delivery of your specific engagements). Identify any blockers and develop collaborative plans to resolve them. Measure your success in the customer’s achievement of their outcomes.
Ultimately, the goal is to understand the outcomes your customers are trying to achieve, and then positioning everything you do around achieving those outcomes, whether it’s hiring a ride-on mower or getting their taxes done on time.
This is where your leadership and internal structures come in.
Think about how you need to set up internally to achieve benefit from becoming more customer centric. The below three steps will help you get there.
Can your key customer groups be categorised by industry, activity or other common denominator?
Customers will naturally value a business that can best listen to and respond to their specific needs, so understanding key similarities between broad groups of customers will help your organisation deliver this experience.
Imagine new legislation lands for the building and construction industry — your builder and tradie customers will no doubt be very interested in this and what it means for them, but other customers won’t be.
Splitting by audience segment means understanding all customers in any particular segment and then being able to talk to them with authenticity.
Customers value convenience, and that means being able to access products and services when and where they want, rather than on someone else’s terms.
Some customers will want to interact online, while others will prefer to meet in person. Ideally, a customer centric organisation is able to meet these needs according to their well-researched and understood customer insights.
From a leadership perspective, the major role you can play is flying the flag for your customers.
Ask the questions your customer would ask during internal meetings and reviews. While I don’t think you need to go this far, some companies even leave a symbolic empty chair in important meetings to signify the place of the customer.
Leadership needs to set and maintain the strategy to be more customer centric, with the understanding that it will pay off in your bottom line even though the inputs may seem like they require more effort upfront.
Stay true to your organisation values, develop goals that align to the value you deliver and embed the customer in the true fabric of your culture. You’ll see the difference soon enough.
You’ll know when you’ve got your Customer Success Strategy right in two ways:
They’ll be advocates and participating in case studies to drive that word of mouth marketing.
Your bottom line will increase through both improvements to retention and expansion of services with your customers.
Above all make sure you talk about ‘the customer’, consider ‘the customer’ and act for ‘the customer’ each and every day in the course of your work.
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