In 2014, online Chinese retailer Alibaba went public. It set the record for one of the biggest IPOs in financial history. Just like that, the company was valued at a whopping $25 billion. Despite the company being based outside of the U.S. or Europe, suddenly, people were interested in how such a company became that successful.
A deeper look into the company revealed a (then) unique approach by its CEO, Jack Ma. A business that truly put customers first.
He explained his perspective in an interview to be: "...‘customers first, employees second and shareholders third...as fiduciaries of the company, we believe that the only way for Alibaba to create long-term value for shareholders is to create sustainable value for customers. So customers must come first." It’s a mantra Ma has repeated consistently throughout the years and one that we can see is working.
Large companies like Zappos, and even smaller ones like Chewy, have continuously proven that fears of taking on a customer centric approach hurting your bottom line are largely unfounded. In fact, companies are now opening their mindset to try to copy the stellar service they provide because of its positive impact on growth and profitability.
Steps Toward Customer Centricity
We’ve talked about customer centricity before, but the journey to good customer centricity is not a simple one. Here we will dive into several additional steps you can take towards better customer centricity.
1) Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
People are interacting with brands more than ever before. A large percentage of companies engage with customers along multiple touch points such as social media, in-store and online presence. It’s easy for a company to lose touch with what customers want.
The best way to prevent this is to simply put yourself into your customers’ shoes? Be a customer for a couple of days. Engage with your brand the way a customer would. Take note of problem areas and see how these can be improved.
2) Listen, listen, listen
In the past, many companies had the “take it or leave it” approach to customer service and experience. Such a mindset just does not work today.The operating environment is much more competitive.
It’s easier than ever for customers to switch to a competitor when their needs or wants are not met. Companies today should take the time to listen to their customers. Collect data. Conduct surveys that give you actionable insights. Put up studies and focus groups. Step away from the corporate boardroom and actually listen to what customers are saying.
Make customers a part of your story, a part of the process. Don’t keep them as outsiders. Listening to customers can help dictate your current strategy and establish a strong relationship which can equal: loyalty.
3) Create (emotional) satisfaction, create value
The principle behind this is simple: Make your customers happy. It may sound simple, but as you can see when profit margins come into play, it’s actually a complicated task.
Brands that seek to align with customer values are slowly dominating the market. Aligning your values with theirs creates a higher level of satisfaction, and identification with the brand. This results in a higher rate of repeat business.
4) Create brand ambassadors
With services and products becoming similar in their technology and price, part of the success of a brand or business is with customers who become brand ambassadors.
Companies should create and support means of communication and interaction outside of just in store, or random email blasts. One idea is to engage in forums where customers can interact and exchange inputs. This is a relatively easy thing to do, made all the better when customer issues, compliments, and suggestions are acted on.
The great thing about this is that customers will feel heard while also providing a genuine, reputable, and voluntary advocacy for your brand. Think of it as a chance to let customers to tell your story too.
5) Understand customers as both individuals and as groups
Sales data is all good and well, but it’s marketing and publicity that first attract customers. Marketing should be at the forefront of creating better customer experience and emotional connections.
Think of it like giving a gift to a friend. The better you know him/her, the more meaningful your gift. This is achieved by collecting relevant data. A well-created survey asking customers why they engage with your brand can do wonders.
Before, it was all about who gave the best price. Today, research has proven that emotional marketinghelps customers derive more value and satisfaction from a brand..
6) Never lose sight of the “human” aspect of the customer experience
In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to get swept up in investing in R&D and/or digital technology. But companies should also keep in mind that technology is not the be-all and end-all solution. Technology enables the process. It is incomplete without the human component.
A customer centric approach creates a customer experience that is cost-effective and helps build customer satisfaction and loyalty. A customer centric approach creates successful and meaningful interactions. The human connection in a digital world is what drives a brand’s success, and ultimately profitability.