By Sweta Patel
Customer-centric companies are trending in the world of business. What does this mean? Customer-centric companies rely on creating positive experiences at the point of the sale and after the sale. They also rely on their customers for validation purposes. This means if they launching a new business or marketing campaign then they will allow their customers to do all the work. Most startups fail because of this very reason: they have not validated their concept or their business.
The process requires testing, market research, and advertising. When there is a 40 percent product-market fit, they can proceed. In other words, if 40 percent of their current customer base cannot live without the product or service, then it is worth pursuing. Now adding the customer-centric component can be the differentiator for a business. Why? They are simply providing an experience their competitor isn’t.
Why spend millions on marketing when you can have your own customers do the job for you?
Customer-Centric Culture Says It All
As a customer-centric business these four components rely strongly on your customers: corporate culture, sales, customer service, product development and marketing. Here is what you need to consider:
- The product or service is built with the customer’s need in mind and solves a desperate problem.
- Marketing is by and for the customers. Just ask them how they’d like to be marketed to.
- Customer service goes above and beyond your competitors.
Now let’s circle back to your company’s values. Most of the clients I have worked with have created a “values” chart, which which their employees and customers can identify. For example, AirBnB realized that most of their customers wanted to “feel like home,” so they created a campaign around “Belonging Anywhere.” Try creating a personal story that rewards your target audience. For example, the birthday of your business can be the day on which you offer your customers a “free product” day. The last ingredient is to really take all of this and have fun with it.
Best Practice: Ask your customers why they chose your company. Write out your values and put them up on a wall for your employees to see. Have your employees and customers mix and mingle. What is the story behind your company? How and why it was founded? Last of all, create a brand voice for all the communications your company will use with customers. What’s your lingo?
Employees vs. Customers
How many of you have been cold called by someone and heard a script? I don’t know about you, but I have usually called out the person on the other end when I can tell they are reading a script. I simply ask them what it means to them to be where they are and who they are working for. Can they identify with their company and its values? Forget the scripts and encourage your employees to get creative. For example, Ritz-Carlton gives its employees a $2,000 budget to fix a customer problem (most of the time they do not use all of it). Another example is Whole Foods Market: when they were out of a product, an employee offered a homemade dish of the same product. Got creativity?
Then of course it is important to measure creativity in all areas. The most important area is the personal emotional connection with the customers.
Best Practices: Get your employees feedback: how can they improve the customer experience? Do you have a policy sheet, which defines what they can do and what they can’t do? What’s one new metric that defines customer satisfaction? Add it to your roster!
Development of The Ultimate Product or Service
When you re-invent for your customers, the ideas should directly come from them. They are your biggest fans! The features should be implemented based on the consumer’s preferences. For example, Reddit.com adds new features to their site based on what their customers love. In correlation with the features is the user experience. For example, when you go to TwoSocks.com allows you to customize your socks based on your personality. These are great approaches, and marketers are also leveraging the emotional intelligence trend. In the business world, this means finding the “hot buttons” for your best customers. MailChimp does the by giving users a high-five after they send out a campaign.
Best Practice: Ask your customers how you can improve your business to make it better for them. Your customers want to feel involved, so create a community around your product for them to share ideas. Last, use a persona to represent your brand so you are able to evoke emotion towards it.
We keep hearing that “content is king,” but why do businesses need to focus on content development? Where is the ROI in this stuff? The truth is that content development is crucial for your company. You want to create content that people can relate to. For example, publishing case studies is a phenomenal way of getting businesses on board with your content. Another strategy is to get others to build your ROI for you through guest posting. The only flip side to this is that the content has to comply with your current content strategy.
Best Practice: The best type of content is in visual form because it is easy to scan through. Recycle your content into slides, Pinterest boards. This will make it easy to distribute them through Facebook and Twitter.
Conversations Are Powerful
Conversations lead to big money for most businesses. The question should be, what are you doing to currently to dialogue with your biggest customers? Are you using social media? Are you inviting your customers to reply to your automated emails? You can do this by adding a do-follow process.
Best Practice: The golden way to have conversations with your customers is through live chat. Whoever is on the other end, make sure they answer all the questions they get, even if they are not directed toward them. Another way is to use a proactive invite and have follow-up conversations to make sure they were happy with your service.
What do you need to add to your business to make it customer-centric?
Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.
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