Have you ever entered a store and felt that the company really doesn’t understand their customer base? This could be due to illogical store layout, unavailable customer service representatives, or old-school technology. In the age of digital storefronts, this could result from a poor site design (leading to a negative UX), a company website with disorganized categories, no clear means to contact the business, or a lack of enticing graphics.
Technology has truly changed how customers interact with a company, both online and in person. Increased implementation of self-checkout kiosks in stores and the proliferation of chatbots on websites, among other technological solutions, are revolutionizing the customer experience and helping companies take steps towards becoming more customer-centric.
What is Customer Centricity?
Customer centricity is a business approach that promotes a positive customer experience at every step. Before a sale is made, companies ensure that questions from potential buyers are answered and supply them with tools such as price scanners in-store to support a smooth transaction. This attitude builds customer loyalty, provides solutions that meet real needs, and grows profits.
Marketing firm Ecoconsultancy polled a number of businesses and c-suite executives to pinpoint the most important characteristics of a “digital native” business culture. Customer centricity was ranked as the most important feature at 58% with a data-driven culture coming in second place at 40%.
Companies and executives alike understand the importance of customer centricity throughout an enterprise, but CMO Council notes that only 14% of marketers describe customer centricity as an integral part of their organization. Where does this discrepancy come from?
From Product-Centric to Customer-Centric Strategies
In the past, companies implemented strategies that focused on improving a product without thinking about the product modifications that customers themselves might benefit from the most. In a sense, the customer didn’t necessarily need to exist (except for the purpose of buying the product). This is no longer a functional approach due to the emergence of customer-centric strategies founded in an improved ability to gather customer data and garner insight.
This shift from product to customer centricity occurred due to a rise in consumer expectations and the wave of technological advancements designed to promote a greater shopping experience. According to a report from Sales Force Research, customer expectations have grown rapidly over the past decade. The research concludes that, of 6,700 consumers and business buyers surveyed globally, 84% of customers expect to be treated like a person rather than a number in a sea of data, 70% of customers say connected processes (including seamless hand-offs or contextualized engagements) are very important, and 64% expect businesses to interact with them in real time.
These high customer expectations imply that, if a consumer can find a company that offers a better experience, they will take their business elsewhere. This is problematic because while new customers are always welcome, due to advertising and other costs it is five times more expensive to gain a new customer than it does to maintain an existing customer relationship. Investing in customized solutions that will satisfy current customers, whether that translates to adding tailored product solutions or revamping platforms for customer interaction, should be a priority to ensure brand loyalty.
Large businesses have already begun harnessing the power of technology to promote customer centricity. Amazon, the classic example, has added features such as one-day shipping after realizing the importance consumers place on decreased shipping time. Through the use of analytics, Amazon predicts other products customers are likely to need and strategically places those products on the homepage — emphasizing customer centricity and leading to increased sales. Even the language on Amazon is customer-centric. When you click on the ‘Accounts & Lists’ tab on the homepage, the drop-down window displays categories to choose from, all of which begin with “Your.” Amazon has taken steps to ensure that shoppers enjoy a personalized shopping experience centered on their needs.
Technology isn’t the only technique businesses use to create customer-centric environments. Consumers also look for personalized products that meet their unique specifications, and many businesses have learned how to cater to these needs. Some shampoo companies now create specific formulas based on hair health and type. Customers can even select the color and scent of the formula selected. This level of personalization is invaluable to those who may be looking for a specific hair care product but can’t find it on the shelves of local stores.
It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to business, marketing, and customer service is no longer a viable solution. Companies must alter their strategy to reflect what consumers find most important. Crafting a customer-centric approach requires collaboration and strategy from multiple departments— a successful strategy will yield loyal customers and products that meet their needs.
A customer-centric approach extends beyond offering great customer service. Emphasizing and improving product design remains important, however keeping the customer in mind means that product design meets the individual needs of consumers. Understanding who the customer is leads to product updates that consumers want. This entails recognizing problems within consumer demographics and how a product or service offered will solve those problems.
Engage With Customers
To accomplish this, take time to engage with customers. The digital age provides many platforms, software types, and tools to meet customers where they are. Social media is one method many companies use to reach consumers. There are many outlets to choose from. Twitter equips companies with a means to engage more informally with customers. LinkedIn promotes professional development, creates a space for publishing whitepapers, business articles, and research findings for consumers. Facebook is a useful, informal outlet for advertising consumer goods to particular groups and promotes B2C interactions. Rather than spreading a marketing department too thin, limiting the platforms a company uses allows an organization to really hear from customers and fine tune customer engagement strategies.
Another option? Customer surveys. When completed, surveys give companies direct feedback and straightforward comments on what changes consumers would like to see. Surveys lend customers an outlet to voice any comments, concerns, frustrations, or suggestions. It lets them know that the organization values their communication.
The downside to this method of engagement is survey bias and low response rate. In many instances, customers only fill out surveys if they have a wonderful shopping experience or a distinctly negative encounter. These polarized opinions mean that constructive feedback is rarely offered. One method companies can use to combat this effect is to personalize surveys. For example, provide customers with an individualized request, using their first name in communication efforts. Once the survey is sent, follow-up with kind, personalized reminders to promote participation. These techniques may not work for every method of survey delivery, but if customers realize that real people care what they have to say, they may be more likely to participate.
Another customer engagement approach is the deployment of chatbots on company websites. Chatbots allow site visitors to ask practical questions about the products they’re looking for or request help from a customer service representative. This technology provides an instantaneous interaction for customers looking for swift answers.
An Analytics Platform Helps Drive a Great Customer Experience
While an analytics platform may seem like a more indirect path towards customer centricity, it yields important, long-lasting benefits.
An analytics platform provides businesses with a singular place to securely hold company data. This data can include customer insights such as purchasing behavior (think items viewed, items added to cart but not bought, etc) that helps companies understand their customers. This information directs companies on how to tailor products or rethink marketing campaigns to better suit the needs of existing customers.
When consumer data is consolidated, it unlocks consumer insight across departments. Depending on authorization level, this means employees such as product designers, high level executives, marketing teams, etc can find out where previous products created issues for customers and adapt strategies or practices accordingly. By democratizing customer data via an analytics platform, the entire enterprise can make decisions based on a holistic knowledge.
Interested in a new analytics platform? Qlik® offers many unique solutions tailored to fit the needs of your business. Included in this platform is access to tools that help companies understand the data in front of them, including the use of a chatbot! This feature allows users to ask questions about their data and understand what trends in the information mean. Download a free trial of Qlik Sense for the desktop to test it out! Have more questions? VanData is here to help, send us a message today and our expert team will be in touch.