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Insight Blog

Read the latest thinking from the crossroads of marketing, insight and technology.

What It Really Means to be Customer-Centric

The term ‘customer centricity’ is pretty self-explanatory - it’s putting the customer in the centre of everything: business strategies, decisions both big and small, training programmes and implemented policies, etc.

But while all of this is simple in theory, practically putting customer centricity into action will drastically change your business in the most intricate of ways from the bottom-up. This much change to a system that could already bringing in profit, or is successful in other ways even if it’s not the most sustainable can be frightening and seen as too much of a risk for the sake of the agility that comes with customer centricity.

If It Isn’t Broken, Why Fix It?

This is an outdated sentiment that has no place in the modern world, as it’s not conducive to innovation efforts in the slightest. In terms of business strategies, every company will be different. For some, the more structured, business-first paths might just be the best way to run the organisation – but for others, the needs of the customers are absolutely integral to business success. While the risk might be great, the benefits of customer-centric strategies vastly outweigh the risk:

  1. A way to naturally evolve the business in the future without the need for such disruption
  2. Creating agile customer experiences will provide more success than structured ones
  3. Customer-centric decision-making processes will lead to more right-first-time actions
  4. Listening and adapting to customer needs will uncover many more business and innovation opportunities.

However, if a firm is committing to becoming customer-centric there is a lot of work that needs to be done for the evolution to take place, and it won’t be quick.

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If it's not broken, why fix it? There are many tangible benefits to a customer-centric business strategy, but it's a lot of work and there's a fair amount of risk associated with it, which is what puts normal businesses off.

In Practicality…

Evolving a business into a customer-centric success relies on insights from our customer base right from the start. A customer-driven, insight-fuelled evolution is the best chance for a successful and disruption-less change in strategy.

It’s creating many direct connections to your customers (past, present, and future), so you can hear them unimpeded by any obstacles that may crop up. These direct connections come in the form of communication channels from customer service teams, market research platforms, social media engagement, and interaction with front-line staff – all of these communication channels are equally important, but will allow businesses to directly communicate with as much of their customer-base as humanly possible.

The data and insights gained from these channels needs to be put in a datastore that’s easily-accessible to all senior employees, so they can use these insights within their decision-making processes on every level, and so that any market research that is requested doesn’t result in the duplication of data already generated (thus wasting money, resources, effort, and time).

These insights will directly influence the updating, creation, and deletion of all policies and procedures, which will work to create the best customer experience possible on all levels of the business. Each action from each employee, whether they’re front-facing or behind the scenes, contributes massively to the brand experience you’re creating. So, the policies and procedures that they act on, are influenced by, are enacted upon them, will all influence the end experience as a result.

The constantly collated insights should directly influence and inform employee (re)training programmes and give them an accurate picture of the customer they will be affecting through their own actions; retraining employees to shift their mindsets and their actions to become more in tune with customer feedback.

But it’s important to know the difference between customer obsession and customer centricity – while everything I’ve stated is true of customer centricity, there are other factors that need to be taken into account alongside customer insights. Customer obsession on the other hand is taking into account nothing but the voice of the customer, a territory that comes with dangers of it’s own.

Great Examples of Customer Centricity

With the buzzwords ‘customer experience’, ‘human experience’, and ‘agile’ reaching god-like proportions in the business world, it’s easy to see how customer-centric strategies are on the rise in all industries.

Sephora in the retail industry is one brilliant beauty brand who have been customer-centric for nearly ten years now. They recognised that most of their customers experienced their online shop over their traditional brick-and-mortar shops, and so revolutionised their website and smartphone app to create more personalised experiences. Virtual try-ons and the creation of an online community were great boosts to their customer experience. Since 2010, this customer-centric approach has led it to triple it's business worldwide.

Capital One's customer-centric innovation came in the form of cafés within their banking branches. Now instead of just being places customers visit only when they need to bank a cheque or create/sort out an account, Capital One branches have become inviting, casual, and comfortable places to hang out, grab a drink, and relax. This informality has completely changed the face of Capital One from clinical, financial professionals to humanised, friendly people who consumers can have a chat to about their finances over a coffee.

Where Market Research Can Help

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best channels to communicate with your customers is on a market research platform. Our InsightHub is a brilliant example of the platforms out there that can host thousands of your customers in one long-term, online community, through which you can set research tasks for them to complete and maintain a blog or forum on a more informal research basis that allows them to communicate with each other and unlock insights you weren’t even looking for.

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Evolving a business into a customer-centric success relies on insights from a customer base from the start. A customer-driven, insight-fuelled evolution is the best chance for a successful and disruption-less change in strategy.

Allowing them to get comfortable in this environment (as well as your other communication channels) will enable trust between yourself and your customers, they will be more inclined to participate in your research tasks, converse with others in the forum, provide more detail than they would have otherwise through the continual and prevalent use of this dedicated communication channel.

Building this trust and comfort will enable a true community bond to form between your customer-participants, which has a myriad of additional benefits like an increased rate of customer retention, increased consumer trust in your brand, and a better brand experience not only for future customers, but for you and your employees as well.

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Emily James

Written by Emily James

As a graduate of Creative Writing, Emily has a passion for content creation. She brings our global vision to life through her excellent writing and editorial skills across a broad selection of our content, and manages communication through social media channels. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Topics: Insight Innovation, Customer Experience, Business Strategy