Published November 16, 2022
There’s a lot of talk in modern business about being customer-centric, but it can be hard to grasp what exactly that means.
In this article we’ll explore:
A customer-centric organisation is focused on providing a great customer experience at every touchpoint. Customers’ needs and perspectives are placed at the centre of the organisation, not in opposition to the organisation’s own interests, but because they will help in achieving those interests.
To create a customer-centric organisation, you need to start by understanding your customers and their needs. Once you understand your customers, you can rebuild your organisation around them. This means creating processes and systems that are customer-focused and ensuring that your employees are aligned with your customer-centric mission. Truly customer-centric organisation design takes time and effort, but the rewards justify the investment.
A customer-centric organisation puts the needs of its customers at the centre of everything it does. This means creating an experience tailored to their individual needs and preferences, making sure that every touchpoint with the organisation is designed with the customer in mind.
There are a few key things that you need to do in order to create a customer-centric organisation design:
The first step is to understand who your customers are and what their needs are. One of the key characteristics of customer-centric organisations is that they recognise the variety of their customers, adapt their offerings for different customer cohorts, and make it easier for customers to find products and services designed for them.
To do this, you need to segment your customer base and create customer personas. These are types or groups of customers who use your services, and how you define them will depend upon your business. They might be demographic groups who use your services differently, as identified by your CRM analytics. They might be users of different product lines. If you have call centre operatives who know your customers well, their experience might feed into the definitions. However you choose to define these personas, you should ensure that these groups bear some relationship to the real experience of people using your products, so that they represent different customer cohorts with different wants and needs.
Once you’ve identified your personas, take some time to understand them in detail. Different groups will interact with you in different ways and use different products or services. The lines between them may not be clear-cut, but you can identify and analyse key cohorts. This will help you to understand the needs and preferences of your customer segments and ensure that you are tailoring your customer experience to them.
The next step is to map out the customer journey. It’s an important principle of customer-centric organisation design that you look at the experience from the customer’s perspective, not your own, and this is the place to bring that principle to life.
For each group of customers, map out the customer journey from the first point of contact with your organisation to the final purchase or interaction. Depending on how your processes and products work, you might end up with a branching map full of varied options or a linear progression through your business’s processes. Don’t just accept what the process looks like in theory but examine customer data to understand how this works in practice. Make a note of how customers feel at different points in the process, where you see complaints or compliments, what works well and what doesn’t. Recording the time it takes to get from one step to the next can be valuable in understanding the process and mapping out how to optimise this process.
Once you’ve mapped out your customer journeys, use them to identify pain points and areas where the customer experience could be improved. Think about what you can do to overcome the problems and accentuate the positive parts of the customer experience.
Once you have a good understanding of your customer segments and the customer journey, you need to make sure that you are putting the customer at the centre of everything you do. This involves rewriting procedures not just to fix the obvious failures but to enforce a customer focus from top to bottom.
Design every touchpoint with the customer in mind, making sure that your customer experience is tailored to their individual needs. Think about each interaction from the customer’s point of view: how does it look, what is easy to manage, what is difficult, what information do they need and what guidance could help?
Build your processes around what works for customers.
It’s not enough to do this once and then sit back. There will be things that you miss the first time around, and the needs of customers, both as groups and as individuals, will change over time. You must continuously measure the customer experience and look for ways to improve.
This work should be guided by data, to ensure that you’re responding to customer needs and not the preferences of your teams. There are a variety of metrics that you can use to measure your performance, and some are more relevant to the customer's perspective than others. Find a way to collect feedback from customers, whether through surveys, meetings or call conversations, or other points of interaction. Keep track of customer retention and satisfaction levels, then relate these to your processes so that you can identify any areas where the customer experience is falling short. Use this data to continuously improve the customer experience.
If in doubt about where to improve next, ask yourself, what does a customer-centric organisation look like? How could these processes be changed to make them easier for customers? Then push toward that goal.
There are many interconnected benefits to a building a customer-centric organisation, lets look at these in more detail:
A customer focus in an organisation has the benefit of encouraging customers to focus on the organisation in return. When customers feel valued and their needs are being met, they are more likely to remain loyal. This can lead to increased customer lifetime value and repeat business.
This loyalty is driven by increased customer satisfaction, a benefit in itself. By using a customer-centric organisation design to put customers at the heart of everything you do, you increase their satisfaction with your company. This reduces the number of problems and complaints your teams have to handle while increasing positive customer reviews and referrals. This leads to more, happier customers.
This helps to create a big advantage against less customer-centric competition. When customers are happy, they will give you more business and tell others about your company. This is great for raising your company’s profile and drawing positive attention away from competitors.
This competitive advantage leads to the bottom-line benefit of a customer-centric organisation: increased revenue. Happy customers are more likely to spend more with a company. This can lead to increased sales and revenue. The old paradigm of ruthless businesses out-competing their touchy-feely rivals has long been proven false. Caring about your customers, putting time and effort into making them happy, can increase your earnings.
A strong reputation builds brand equity—the value in your company derived not from your products and services but from the way that consumers view you. Brand equity is vital for any organisation, as it draws business and allows you to set profitable prices. By ensuring a customer focus in your organisation you can deliver a great customer experience and improve your organisation’s reputation, leading to increased brand equity.
The benefits of a customer-centric culture aren’t just external. Intrinsic motivations are more powerful than extrinsic ones, meaning that the chance to have a positive impact on customers can be more motivating than many other rewards. Employees who feel that their organisation is focused on the customer are more likely to be engaged and motivated because they feel like they’re making a difference. This can lead to improved employee productivity and performance.
When your organisation is customer-centric, you are more likely to make decisions that are in line with your customers’ needs and preferences. Seeing your processes from their perspective helps you to identify and remove flaws as well as to shape better products. This can lead to improved operational efficiency and effectiveness, as processes deliver what customers want, in a way that suits them.
Putting customers first is one of the best ways to build quality into your organisation. By aligning everything you do around what customers need, you improve your business and gain a range of competitive advantages. If it’s not how you currently operate then it can involve a lot of effort at the start, but once a customer-centric approach is embedded it becomes self-perpetuating, so that the most efficient approach naturally emerges from the way you work.
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