How To Become a Customer-Centric Business (Strategy + Tips)

In a world where growth and revenue fuel business decisions, it comes as no surprise that customer-centric organizations are the ones that are most successful. 

Businesses are created to help customers meet a need or solve a problem. However, as businesses scale, they often lose sight of what’s truly important: the customer.

58% of business leaders and experts think being customer-centric is the most important characteristic of developing a truly ‘digital native’ culture.1

But what exactly does customer centricity mean? What does it take to become a customer-centric company?

We’ve put this blog together to help you understand what being a customer-centric company truly means and also help you build a solid strategy to transform your brand in a meaningful way.

Table of contents (you can navigate to the section that you’d like to read by clicking the links below)


What is customer-centricity?

Customer-centricity is a business approach that puts the customer in the front and center of all decisions and activities. In a customer-centric organization, all employees carry out their day-to-day activities in a way that delivers maximum value to customers.

A customer-centric organization will typically have:
– Goals and OKRs that are aligned with customer outcomes
– Unified customer data and insights
– Customer-centric culture codes
– Comprehensive feedback mechanism
– A clear-cut customer journey map
– Customer health monitoring mechanism

Note: Sometimes, the words customer-centric and customer-focus are used interchangeably. However, they are different. 

Customer-centric vs customer-focused: what’s the difference? 

In a customer-focused company, decisions are made by looking at the customer from the product’s lens and figuring out how to present the product in a way that works best for them. So a customer-focused approach lets you create products that are in-line with what your customers want. 

However, customer-centric companies make business decisions based on viewing the world from the customer’s lens. You’ll notice that customer-centric businesses begin their entire business strategy and culture by proactively understanding their customers, and building end-to-end experiences (not just products) accordingly.

Why is it important to be customer-centric?

The importance of being a customer-centric company is three-fold, it leads to an increase in:
– Customer loyalty and retention
– Business growth
– Employee happiness

Let’s understand the benefits of being customer-centric using the example of Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer based in the US. Let’s just say it’s not just their shoes or clothes that have earned them the enviable reputation of being one of the most customer-centric brands in the world.

Zappos is a customer-centric business that is known for going above and beyond to keep its customers happy.2 

For instance, a customer service rep once spoke to a customer for over 10-hours, not because the customer’s issue was very complex, but because the customer just felt like chatting. In the words of a customer service agent at Zappos, “Sometimes people just need to call and talk…We don’t judge, we just want to help.”

The folks at Zappos also added an option in their IVR that lets the customer listen to a joke when they are on hold.

screenshot of a tweet appreciating Zappos 

How does being customer-centric help Zappos? Well, the brand’s customer-centric culture is the glue that retains its loyal customers and leads business growth. Customers who have had great customer service experiences share their love for the brand on social media. 

Screenshot of a tweet praising Zappos for their customer service

This way, Zappos gets an organic promotion online while offline promotion occurs through word of mouth. This helps prospects gain trust in the brand.   

Plus, the employees at Zappos love what they do, and the main reason behind this is their customer-centric culture.

Screenshot of a tweet by a Zappos employee

The customer-centric approach of Zappos enables its employees to win customers for life by creating moments of wow. It also creates a sense of purpose which is a vital aspect of employee happiness.

Good customer service comes naturally from the employees who embraced the company culture. – Tony Hsieh 

By weaving customer centricity into everything they do – whether that’s their products, their business strategy, or their internal culture – Zappos offers consistently delightful experiences to every customer.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s take a look at how you can go about building a customer-centric strategy for your business that’s similar to the likes of Zappos and Amazon.

How to develop a customer-centric strategy for your business?

Step 1: Identify customer needs

At its core, being customer-centric means putting customers first, above all else. To do this, you must first understand why customers are choosing to do business with you. 

What can customers gain from your product? Why should they care? And how much effort do they have to put so as to use or buy your products and services?

The answer to these questions can be found by analyzing customer needs. Once you thoroughly understand your customers, you will be able to create high-quality products and add more value to your customers’ lives.

For instance, Zappos launched the Single & Different Size Shoes Program as a part of Zappos Adaptive, an initiative undertaken by the brand to cater to the needs of the differently-abled. In this program, Zappos allows its customers to buy a single shoe or build a pair using different sizes.

Screenshot of the Zappos Adaptive initiative

Step 2: Understand the customer journey 

Customer-centric companies offer a top-notch experience at every customer touchpoint, from awareness to post-purchase interactions.

Screenshot of a customer journey map

Analyze how your customers are moving from one point to another in your customer journey – identify customer touch-point where you customers are dropping off, sharing poor feedback, or showing visible signs of frustration. 

Prioritize fixing the gap in experience at these touchpoints by making help and information more easily available. 

Use the insights you deliver from this analysis to frame the goals of each of your customer-facing functions. For instance, customers who jumped from your online knowledge base and reached out to support could not find the right information they were looking for. This means that the goal of your technical writing team should be to improve the navigation in your knowledge base. 

Pro tip: You can plan your compensation/incentives according to customer outcomes or goals. For instance, at Freshdesk, the agent that receives the highest CSAT gets rewarded with points.    

Step 3: Centralize customer data and insights 

Data that is siloed to different teams will pose a huge roadblock when you’re looking to become customer-centric. 

Siloed data and insights can lead to inconsistencies in the experience delivered and poor customer service, which can ultimately lead to customer churn. For instance, when a customer interacts with your brand – they don’t care whether they are dealing with the sales team, the support team, the product team, or the legal team – to them, your company is one entity, and they expect a seamless experience across all touchpoints. 

So it’s important to maintain a single, integrated customer record, especially when you’re building your customer-centric strategy, all teams need to have centralized access to customer data and insights. When a customer support agent can tailor their conversations based on information recorded during their sales cycle, it simplifies their workload while making an easier experience for the customer as well, who won’t need to repeat details of their purchase. Similarly, if your marketing team can offer deals or recommendations to a customer based on their previous purchase history, they automatically increase the chances of a repeat customer. 

AirBnB, an American vacation rental online marketplace company, democratized data by introducing Data University, a center for data education.

Screenshot of the vision of the Data University by Airbnb

One of our fundamental beliefs is that every employee should be empowered to make data-informed decisions. This applies to all parts of Airbnb’s organization — from deciding whether to launch a new product feature to analyzing how to provide the best possible employee experience. – Jeff Feng, How Airbnb Democratizes Data Science With Data University3

Examining your customer journey, analyzing the needs of your customer, and creating a unified view are the basic steps to creating a customer-centric strategy for your business. Once you’ve completed these three steps, you can fine-tune the details of your strategy based on the industry you belong to and the size of your company. 

We’ve put together some actionable tips in the section below that you can implement to strengthen your customer-centricity.

5 actionable tips to become a customer-centric company

#1 Foster a customer-centric culture

Creating a customer-centric culture starts bottom-up – with hiring customer-oriented people, and also top-down – by forming customer-centric culture codes for the entire company. 

Once you’ve hired the right set of people, you can incorporate customer-centricity as a part of your culture codes. For instance, at Freshworks, one of our customer codes is ‘True friend of the customer’. 

The founder and CEO of Freshworks, Girish Mathrubootham, always says that “We don’t just want to be a vendor or a partner to the customer; we really want to be their friend.”

Our customers know exactly what we mean:

Screenshot of testimonial from Brewdog a customer of Freshdesk

#2 Break down organizational silos  

Building a customer-centric culture cannot be achieved by a single team alone. It should be the goal of the organization. 

Let’s say you’ve got a customer who has a pricing-related question that should ideally be routed to the sales team, but has reached out to customer support instead. Your support team should be ready to help the customer and not look to pass on the baton to your sales team. This is possible only when all teams share information, a common goal or mindset, and have the right processes and tools that facilitate smooth intern-team communication and collaboration.

#3 Improve your customer service

Customer service plays an important role in customer-centricity. The way you anticipate and tackle customer problems, empower your customers with self-service, and the response and resolution times you maintain are a reflection of how customer-centric your organization is.

Here are a few ways in which you can improve your customer service:

– Be available on the channels that your customers most popularly use email, phone, social media, and mobile-first messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. 

– Use an omnichannel customer service software to improve agent and customer experience 

– Provide a range of self-service options such as knowledge base, chatbot, and community forum

– Incorporate proactive customer support strategies

– Automate complex workflows 

– Deploy agent assist bots to boost agent productivity 

– Track and monitor important metrics and make improvements accordingly

#4 Collect (and act on) customer feedback 

Customer feedback is invaluable to customer-centric businesses. It tells you how your customers feel about your product/service and shines a light on avenues of improvement. 

Sending a feedback form, a questionnaire that contains a set of closed and open-ended questions regarding the customer’s experience with your brand, right after resolving a customer’s issue will help you understand if the solution that you offered was satisfactory or not. 

Screenshot of a feedback form

You can also measure popular customer service metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings, or customer effort score (CES) to understand whether your customer-centric approach is working. 

Just collecting feedback alone is not enough. You also need to use the insights gathered to make improvements to your strategy and operations. Acting on customer feedback shows customers that you listen to them and value their opinions.

#5 Create value that goes beyond your product/service 

Creating a product that is in-line with the needs of your customers is great, but you also need to think beyond just your product or service and identify other ways of offer value. 

Customer-centric companies do this because they want to offer a comprehensive experience that makes an impact on the lives of their customers. 

For instance, Freshworks launched the Freshworks Academy, a medium for our customers to learn and upskill. This was built by a customer-centric marketing team. 

Screenshot of the Freshworks Academy

How to measure the success of your customer-centric strategy

Measuring the effectiveness of your company’s customer-centricity helps make sure that your efforts in putting customers at the forefront of your daily operations is paying off. Here are three metrics that can help you do that: 

– NPS

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular metric that tells you the likelihood of your customers recommending your brand to others, and reflects on your product, service, and the customer experience you deliver. 

NPS is measured on a scale of 1-10. This is how the scale works:

– Detractors (0-6): customers who aren’t too happy with your brand

– Passives (7-8): happy customers but aren’t loyalists

– Promoters (9-10): customers who are extremely happy with your brand and are loyal

– CES

Customer effort score (CES) is a metric that lets you measure the effort your customers put in to get their issue resolved by your customer support team. This metric enables you to reflect on your customer engagement and customer service strategies – a low CES tells you that your team is delivering a good experience and a high CES is an indicator that something is wrong. 

– Customer lifetime value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value, also known as CLV, refers to the profits that your company makes from any given customer. Calculating CLV helps you understand how much each customer is spending before moving on from your company. If your CLV is low, you may need to re-evaluate your approach to customer centricity. 

In conclusion

Your products and services were created to help customers meet a need or solve a problem. By creating your own customer-centric strategy, and incorporating the tips discussed in this blog, your entire organization can operate in the same manner, with the customer at the center of it all.

Not only will this keep your customers happy, becoming a customer-centric organization will lead to increased customer loyalty, happier employees, and rocketing business growth.

What do you do to ensure that your business is customer-centric? Let us know in the comments below. 

Source:
1 – https://econsultancy.com/reports/effective-leadership-in-the-digital-age/
2 – https://medium.com/@alessiafabbioni/best-of-zappos-customer-service-stories-543606d76637
3 – https://medium.com/airbnb-engineering/how-airbnb-democratizes-data-science-with-data-university-3eccc71e073a


Updated on March 4th, 2021