Why Being Truly Customer-Centric Will be Essential in 2020 and Beyond
By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.
To remain competitive, organization leaders acknowledge the need to shift to more customer-centric business models, where the entire culture focuses on what the customer wants out of products and the brand itself. Many of these leaders likely think “my company is customer focused,” but is claiming to be customer centric and operationalizing customer centricity the same thing? The truth is, there’s a considerable difference between the two, and that difference could mean make or break for an organization.
Companies used to be able to focus on product or service design, quality manufacturing and effective pricing. It was fruitful enough to focus on the customer in terms of providing them with good products, answering their questions and yielding a profit. Today, and certainly looking into the future, customers are savvier, more dialed in and have higher expectations. A true customer-centric approach is a broader shift for the organization, one that puts the customer’s entire experience at the forefront of the company’s goals.
A report from customer experience firm Walker points to customer experience, over price and product as the key brand differentiators for 2020. Firms really have no choice but to reframe how they do business. So, how do companies compete and what does it mean to be truly customer-centric?
Below are three realities companies must consider when making a shift toward acting on customer centricity in 2020, and beyond.
It Starts with One, But Needs to Scale
The idea of customer centricity, at its core, involves a sense that each and every customer walks away from any experience feeling understood and appreciated. Numbered are the days where a brand could achieve effective results by simply focusing on a generic cohort or demographic. Effective customer centricity strategies take what is learned from one-to-one, intimate customer interactions and scale it to create overarching institutional change.
In fact, the very notion of increasing ROI on customer experience programs lies in this need. With billions of dollars investing in technology platforms to ensure personalized issues can be solved at the frontline, organizations need to adopt what we call a bias for change, in addition to a bias for action. Until organizations can move from one-to-one customer solutions to implementing structural change that benefits all customers, their investments will fail to reap the rewards on an organizational level.
Customers Want Value and to Be Valued
Customers desire more reciprocal relationships from brands. They want to be valued personally for their purchases and for their loyalty. They demand brands understand their motivations and are in tune with their entire experience. With that comes an expectation that every employee who touches the customer journey, is in a position to offer value to the relationship. To make this happen, brands need to empower their frontline employees on ways to anticipate customers’ needs and provide them with the right tools to make their interactions more authentic and aligned with the brand promise.
Brands can no longer achieve results by focusing on blanketed promises. They need to adjust their strategies to include the values of individuals that aren’t always captured in clusters. The very notion of human personas are ever more important when delivering mutuality and authenticity with customers.
It’s Not Just About Me
Customers increasingly understand that they grant the companies they engage with, and purchase from, access to their information. In exchange for this data, customers are expecting brands to respect, and even align with, their social philosophies. Customers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, support brands that embrace transparency and take a stand on just causes. They often have a need to go beyond product attributes to identify with the brand behind the label, in a way that offers a sense of pride. Oftentimes, the decision to purchase one product over another can come down to how well that brand’s corporate mission aligns with the customer’s beliefs.
Brands aren’t a casual acquaintance that fulfills a functional need, but a meaningful partner that makes life more rewarding for the person and the brand. Today’s brands that meet high public expectations, demands and desires are connecting with people on a deeply rooted emotional level, ultimately evolving the relationship well beyond transactional.
Customer centricity is here to stay and could be the sink or swim factor for companies. Smart businesses are adjusting internal strategies and corporate philosophy to meet the changed face of today’s customers. By combining people, process and technology, companies can create authentic connections through customer-centric approaches and build long-term loyalty and revenues through 2020 and beyond.
As published in MarTech Advisor.