Why, you may still ask?
Because the tables have turned — with your customers now having the upper hand in terms of the information imbalance that used to exist in the buying process. If you want your prospects and customers to buy from you, become advocates for you in the marketplace, and buy again, you need to WOW them in every part of the buying journey.
Ok, so how do you become customer-centric?
Broadly spoken, there are three steps to become customer-centric.
- Develop an employee culture of customer centricity. It all has to start with your own people. And with the advent of social media, not just with your customer-facing employees, but with all your employees. You have to create a culture where if you were to pick a random employee in the hallway and ask them what they did at the company, they would not respond with their title, but instead give you what they were working on in terms of what it means to the customer and the company. This may be the hardest thing to do on your journey to become customer-centric — it requires training and constant reinforcement, management support and embrace, trust, new metrics for success, deep understanding of your employee and consumer cultures, and more. And it requires a tight partnership between the person who advocates for the customer at the executive table (likely the CMO) and the CHRO.
- Become data-driven. Of course, you need to tap into the information trails that your customers leave behind. They leave them behind with you when they buy, get financing, or support, and they leave them in the marketplace when they research their purchases or comment on purchasing experiences they have had. Becoming data-driven is not something that you can do you with your agency, and it’s not just the creation of pretty reports. It requires integration between various data sources and deep mining for actionable insights. And it requires a tight partnership between the person who advocates for the customer at the executive table and the CIO.
- Technology-enable all customer touch-points. That is the place where most companies start. They try turning their CRM into customer experience management environments, they improve their customer support environment, they may add loyalty management, multi-channel campaign management tools, and better voice of the customer and employee tools. But all of that will fail miserably unless you have the right culture.
Some companies have added new titles at the executive table. It is not uncommon to now have Chief Customer Officers, although I suspect many of them are account sales people, Chief Customer Experience Officers, Chief Commercial Officers, or Chief Revenue Officers. It is good to have one person on the executive team be the customer advocate, and to coordinate the customer experience with other execs across all the touch-points or over time.
But it is not good to just create new silos — which many companies are now doing. There are multiple companies in the Fortune 500 companies that now have a CMO and one or more of those other titles at the executive table. How can you become customer-centric that way? How does anything get done about the customer in an environment like that?