You know when you go to visit the doctor and you tell them that you “think” that you have something, and then after carrying out a thorough examination and asking you some questions, the doctor diagnoses you with something completely different? Well, you’ve just witnessed how, despite being the focus of the consultation, the customer isn’t always right.
It’s true. The customer always comes first and they should be the focus of the company’s actions. This is far from the belief that the product was the single and most important focus. In contrast, almost all of the efforts and of employees and collaborators must be channelled together.
Nowadays, the customer comes first. However, this doesn’t mean that the company must do absolutely everything the customer wants or desires.
Professor Peter Fader, author of the famous book Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage, explains that the first thing is to recognise the difference between being friendly with the customer and being focussed on the customer.
According to Fader, companies such as Starbucks and Nike offer a friendly, rich and pleasant experience to their customers. To all of them. However, companies who work under the Customer Centricity concept only focus on some customers, those who generate more value for the company.
In English, “customer-centricity” refers to strategies aimed at putting the customer at the forefront. However, only the relevant customers, not all customers. In other words, you should offer a good service to all customers, as they are all important. However, the main focus on developing new products and services or, even, some special touches, should be focussed on those customers who have been strategically chosen.
Some companies, such as Netflix and Amazon, follow suit and offer discounts to customers who make a single yearly payment instead of a monthly payment, or for customers who take out various services on the platform instead of a single service. The customer experience should be unique and excellent, but the strategy behind it should be focused on a specific strategic segmentation and orientation model.
We’ve established that the customer comes first. Now, how do we achieve this?
The answer to this question should be based on the company’s alignment with the needs of the customer. A study by KPMG showed a significant difference between what company managers believe that their customers are looking for and what these customers really want.
For example, 50% of the directors interviewed thought that customers want new experiences and services in shops. However, the reality was that 67% of the surveyed customers wanted such innovations. Furthermore, 45% of leaders said that their customers asked for detailed information about their products and services. However, in reality, 77% of customers wanted that type of information.
This information allows us to see that there is still a barrier between the customers’ expectations and what companies can offer them. Therefore, let’s dive into the first tip for putting the customer first.
Develop empathy with your customers
It’s no longer enough just to know them. Now, we have to put ourselves in their place: to think about what they’re thinking and to feel what they’re feeling. That is what empathy is.
A company that puts the customer first tries to empathise with their needs. Harvard Business Review cites the example of the business communication platform Slack, which motivates its employees to create mini Personas by carefully observing their customers’ messages. The aim is to generate empathy through the written word and to avoid messages that are copied and pasted and then sent to everyone.
The more focussed a business is on its customers, the greater its success. Francisco Camacho, the president of Danone, stands by this. For him, one of the keys to developing sustainable growth is in keeping customers extremely close, knowing exactly what they want and giving it to them.
Listen to your customers
Just like in the previous point companies should listen to their customers’ opinions, and they can do this in different ways. When the customer comes first, the company shouldn’t skimp on efforts to understand what their customers are saying, whether it’s about the brand, the company, a certain product or a specific experience.
These dynamics provide the company with valuable insights so that they can offer an ever-improving experience.
Facilitate interaction and feedback
According to Deloitte, nowadays, 88% of companies prioritise customer service through their various contact channels. This large majority does this for a reason, as supporting communication also plays a part in the philosophy of “the customer comes first”.
It is important that the various channels that individuals use to reach our company are aligned with each other and all offer the best experience. A customer can get very annoyed if they are unable to quickly find a way to contact the company or if the company ignores them.
In order to prove that the customer is the most important thing, we also need to establish feedback dynamics, which could be through a survey, from an immediate evaluation of the service or from post-sales follow-up.
According to Gartner, for many years, only 10% of the companies that asked for feedback from their customers used it effectively to improve an internal process and to improve their objective, which was precisely to put the customer first. This is an opportunity that cannot be wasted and is a chance to change.
Cultivate the mindset of your collaborators
If anyone in your team still thinks that customers don’t come first, it is almost certain that they will give off a bad impression of the company. Employees must be part of the company culture in which the customer is the most important thing and this is something that companies must work hard on.
Working on the employees’ mentality that the customer comes first should be done from the moment this individual is hired, regardless of the role they will play in the company. In order to do this, they can ask questions in order to gauge the candidate’s orientation towards the customer.
Another important thing to remember is that we can’t have happy customers if the employees aren’t happy themselves. If employees fully commit themselves to the company and are motivated, they will find it easier to offer an excellent experience.
Coming up with creative solutions is also a way of making sure that the customer comes first. Nowadays, the importance of innovation is fairly clear: we already know that the market is changing quickly and that we must be prepared so that our solutions stand out from the other available solutions.
According to an article written by various academics at MIT Sloan Management Review, one of the innovations that companies should take note of is their ways of contributing and collaborating with customers to ensure that the product or service being offered isn’t just good for the company but also for the person who will receive it.
If you have any questions about how you can put the customer first with the help of new integrated technologies, we’d like to invite you to try Zendesk for Service.