We all know the customer is now in charge. They decide how, when and where to interact with your brand. It’s not a new concept but one that has become so central to the modern marketing organization, that without it, even the most powerful brands of today will cease to be relevant.
Being customer-focused is not new. All great product innovations start with solving a customer need or want, not the other way around. Great customer service (think Nordstrom, REI and Zappos) translates not just into customer loyalty but also their stock price. However, while customer focus is a necessary mindset, it is an organization’s ability to become truly customer centric that will ultimately determine their success in the today’s marketplace. Customer centricity is really just customer focus on steroids, made possible with the advent of data, behavioral analytics, and digital transformation. So what are the main elements of customer centricity that you should be aware of and work toward?
1. Organizational alignment. Truly customer-centric organizations must re-orient key business processes (product development, supply chain, sales and customer service) around making strong, value-based connections with their consumers. As more and better data (including purchase data, behavioral analytics, and ethnographic studies) is collected and shared across disciplines, marketing automation with personalized marketing offers, loyalty programs and customer lifetime values can inform and drive increases in customer engagement and future sales.
2. Mapping out customer journeys. As customer journeys become more self-directed and digital, targeting and tracking actually become easier. “Task-based” personas segment the audience in terms of their task or what they are trying to accomplish. It acknowledges that as they move from awareness to consideration to preference to purchase, they require different types of content at every step of the way. Mapping those touchpoints against the various types of marketing initiatives (paid/owned/earned media, sales, retail, online, etc.) provides a more structured approach to ensuring prospects are nurtured, and their needs met throughout the path to purchase and beyond.
3. Social Listening. As with any relationship, listening is critical. These days, we turn to our social communities for questions or to express our feelings regarding a brand experience. We’ve all seen the facts about the importance of great customer care:
It is also interesting that the expectations for an immediate response (10 minutes or less, into the evening hours, seven days a week) have become table stakes for a brand’s online customer care. The good news is there’s perhaps no bigger opportunity for gathering actionable insights than by monitoring and engaging with your customers online.
4. Leveraging good data. By gathering more and better data, we now know more about our customers than ever. We can identify the most valuable ones, calculate meaningful lifetime values, and personalize (or customize) just about every aspect of the brand experience. From lead nurturing and marketing automation, communications and messaging, to the product itself and interacting with the brand. Add in the use of machine learning (artificial intelligence) and the personalized user experience has finally come of age! In the case of H&R Block, they’re now using IBM’s cognitive computing to improve the quality and experience of preparing your taxes!
Customer centricity is, of course, a journey, not a destination. It requires that the customer perspective have a seat at the table for every decision made by the brand, that organization roadblocks be removed (or minimized), that brands have a robust online customer service orientation, and that data be valued not for historical charts but mined for the insights that will inform and optimize a brand’s future state.
If customer centricity defines your vision for the future, but the organizational complexity and legacy thinking are overwhelming obstacles, Bolin has a proprietary, agile workshop process we call DISTIL that collaboratively builds the strategic roadmap and gains stakeholder alignment in the process. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a conversation!