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Customer Centricity: Lessons from Mick & Keith

11-06-2018 by Tyler Chisholm

In an industry full of overused buzzwords and catchy taglines, it’s time for some honest reflection as business leaders—are we truly customer-centric in our work, or merely focused on customer service? To put it even more bluntly, are we actually focusing on what our clients need, or on what they want?

 

"You can't always get what you want But if you try sometimes you just might find You get what you need"

-The Rolling Stones

 

We know that there is inherently much value created by a customer service-oriented approach, so why is it that so many companies seem to get it wrong? The answer lies in the substantial gap between good customer-service and a customer-centric approach.

On the one hand, customer-service focused organizations spend a considerable amount of time creating the best possible experience for the client. This approach ensures that the client is completely happy, thereby purchasing as many products or services as your customer-service focused org can sell them. The result may be that your customer buys from you (repeatedly, if all goes well). Unless, of course, a new company comes along that is able to meet the same needs—albeit with the added caché of a better reputation or a bigger, bolder ad campaign.

Leaders of this kind of organization may focus their time perfecting every element of the pre- and post-sales process; they may also have a deep-rooted understanding of what generates the most profit—right down to the perceived cost of a happy customer’s smile. This inside-out strategy is not wrong, per se. It is, however, limiting.

Customer-centric organizations tend to approach things quite differently; their strategy is driven by a combination of constant research into consumer insights, and a desire to truly understand what their customers need to succeed. Customer-centric organizations place the customer at the center of everything that they do, and then act based on the requirements the customer expresses.

Does this mean that customer-centric companies don’t focus on the sales process, or on understanding what it costs them to deliver their products or services? No, rather it means that they look at the world from outside-in—every process is instead driven by what the client needs, versus simply what they want (or are told they want). This approach facilitates a more meaningful connection with customers; it goes far beyond a smile and a handshake, deep into delivering true value.

Customer-based centricity drives and informs all aspects of how a company operates, from what products or services it offers, to how it supports the customer journey. Making the statement, “We have great customer service,” simply does not cut it in today's hyper-competitive business landscape. When asked directly, every client will say that they want “great customer service.” They may even go so far as to demand it. If that’s the case, is doing what is required actually a differentiator? The argument here goes against that premise—this is where the customer-centric approach will win out every time.

Three outstanding examples of the customer-centric approach can be found in how Amazon.com, Southwest Airlines, and TD Bank operate. As you read this blog, I would venture to say that a good percentage of us have probably interacted with (or have had some experience with) one, if not all three, of these brands. Each one provides excellent customer service when you do business with them, although I would argue that this is far from the key reason they attract our business. Instead, we do shop with Amazon because they have cracked the code: they can provide us with a dizzyingly wide variety of products at competitive prices, which we are able to access quickly and easily. It all sounds simple, until we consider the fact that, up until just a few years ago, we didn’t even know we needed this kind of online retail experience.


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Unlike Amazon (which has only been around since 1994), both Southwest Airlines (1967) and TD Bank (1852) have excelled in highly competitive industries by breaking the status quo and treating their customers to service offerings that have managed to build up a cult-like following. Southwest separated itself from day one by embracing a “Happy Employees = Happy Customers” approach. This was not just a feel-good tactic; it was enacted to promote a staff culture rooted in anticipating a customer’s needs before those needs were voiced. Effectively, Southwest had immediately empowered its workforce to make customer centricity part of how they served passengers. When looking at your own organization, are the people who know your customers best—your frontline staff—empowered to anticipate and act based on your customer’s needs? If not, now is a great time to start thinking about it!


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TD Bank presents us with another interesting example: its tagline, “America’s most convenient bank,” announcing to the world that they are convenient in no uncertain terms, but it’s in the how that convenience happens that allows them to stand out from the pack. On top of the expanded hours TD offers, and the seamless integration between bricks-and-mortar and digital spaces, the bank employs ongoing real-time customer feedback monitoring across multiple channels, thereby ensuring a timely flow of client input which then informs TD’s services and overarching strategy.


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The discipline in making a values-based decision to listen to your customers (and to truly hear them), reflects how you run your company. It’s a true testament to the customer-centric path—one that goes far beyond simply answering the phone promptly, when a customer calls.

Be bold, be different, and care enough to take the time to look into your client's current and future needs. By building everything you do around those challenges and opportunities, you will leave their world better than you found it!


To learn more about Customer Centricity please check out Customer Loyalty has a Formula


 
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