what is customer-centricity, and what does it mean to be customer-centric?
Customer-centricity is the practice of focusing on doing what's best for your customer at all times (from an internal and external perspective), or the discipline of putting the customer at the core of every business aspect. Customer-centricity is entirely proactive; anticipating customer wants and needs, and making the delivery of those the highest priority.
Customer-centricity is about putting the customer first at every step of the journey.
Being customer-centric means focusing on and listening to your audience at all times, understanding their mindset, delivering answers to their questions before they are asked, and then guiding them through their journey from start to finish. Being customer-centric means believing the customer comes first, understanding the world through the customer’s eyes, and always doing what’s best for the customer. Customer-centricity isn't just a way of thinking, it's a way of operating, entirely focused around the customer. Being customer-centric means creating connected experiences that eliminate friction and frustration; it means creating experiences that make it extremely easy for the customer to become aware, find, research, learn, purchase, contact, and engage with a brand, service, or company.
Being customer-centric means creating value for customers that exceeds their wants, needs, and desires.
Being customer-centric requires dedicated strategic planning and journey-mapping across the customer’s entire journey, ecosystem, and experience. To be fully customer-centric, the experience should be:
- Personalized: The experience should be dynamically tailored to each customer's specific journey, providing a close human-to-human experience whenever possible.
- Contextually-Relevant: The experience should understand and anticipate customers' questions and answers, addressing both current and future wants, needs, and desires.
- Enjoyable: The experience should have an easy-to-navigate, positive, and satisfying experience across all engagement areas.
- Connected: The experience should be seamless across channels, devices, platforms, as well as the digital and physical spaces so customers never have to start their journey over again (unless they choose to).
- Frictionless: The experience should be easy to start, stop, transition, and complete the journey at the customer's own pace while exceeding their expectations.
- Consistent: The experience should provide the same great engagement each time (meaning, customers won't have to re-learn how to engage) to enhance repeat engagement and loyalty.
- Compelling: The experience should make customers want to come back (and should make it easy for customers to come back) instead of looking elsewhere.
focusing on the customer-centric experience
Today’s marketplace is customer-controlled: Customers know that there are many options available to them, mere miles or clicks away. Customers can perform more research and shop competitively, easier than ever before. Customers expect brands, products, and services to be where they are. Customers want to be able to research, shop, and engage on their own schedule.
"Everything is now everywhere, all at once. Consumers are smarter than ever before. The market is more saturated than ever before, more competitive than ever before, and changing more quickly than ever before. It is the perfect storm, and it explains why people are so demanding: they can be."
- Peter Fader
The increase in channels and platforms has created more opportunities for customer interaction which can make managing the overall customer experience (or CX) difficult, but the reward is an increase in both customer loyalty and customer lifetime value. Most companies think about the customer experience as bits and pieces of a linear journey, breaking it apart into touchpoints, or into micro-level, individual engagements that make up the full picture. But this siloed focus on individual touchpoints misses the bigger, and more important, picture: the complete customer-centric, omni-channel journey (or end-to-end experience).
people don't think in touchpoints and channels; people think about their overall experience.
Building a complete customer-centric experience (or CCX) is crucial because people form impressions through multiple interactions with a brand, product, service, or experience. Typically, these are not one-time interactions — customer journeys can span days, weeks or months; some journeys can even last multiple years (think of how long customers spend interacting with a car brand during the post-purchase cycle, or how long customers interact with a financial institution).
Customer satisfaction — or frustration — will develop from the overall customer experience of an end-to-end journey. If any single engagement along the journey is negative, the entire experience can be soured for the customer, resulting in both customer friction and customer defection. Most important of all — a complete, connected, customer-centric experience is what people expect from companies and brands.
breaking the touchpoint paradigm
The biggest flaw in focusing solely on touchpoints is that businesses and teams are separated by design; the managers and experts of the touchpoints who shape how customers interact are typically in a siloed business culture. The owners of these touchpoints are constantly at risk of losing sight of what the customer sees (and wants) because they’re focusing on a micro-level of engagement, typically ignoring larger events and the overall customer experience.
In most cases, touchpoint, platform, or channel subject-matter experts are not naturally wired to think about the complete journey their customers take or how their function fits into an omni-channel ecosystem. Teams and subject-matter experts are directed to maximize productivity in their realm; they are wired to look at discrete elements or interactions, not customer-centric journeys as a whole.
It's important to let subject-matter experts be the experts in their field, but it's even more important to have a director who can manage, monitor, and brief those experts on how they are a part of a full journey, and how they should be shaping the overall customer-centric experience. Assigning a chief customer experience lead — with the main focus of managing the full experience strategy — can help actively manage the landscape and create a shift to a customer-centric experience.
shifting to a customer-centric experience
There is no specific, one-size-fits-all method to mastering a customer-centric approach: Each brand, product, service, or company will be unique (as will be their customer base). But, by focusing on the following aspects of customer-centric transformation, you can shift towards creating a customer-centric experience:
- Focus on Customers and Put Them at the Center: Thoroughly understand your customers’ mindsets (perceptions, wants, needs, and desires) and build experiences for them. Define the ideal, holistic journey and customer experience from the customer’s point of view, from start to finish.
- Anticipate and Answer Customer Needs: Build solutions that support and engage your customers through their journey; answer questions before they are asked, help guide them to the next step in their process, and empower and educate them throughout the experience.
- Exceed Customer Expectations: Listen to your customers at every step of the journey to provide additional value. Understand their perceptions, pain points, and emotional states so you can create an experience that exceeds their expectations.
- Remove Customer Roadblocks: Competition is fierce and customers can go elsewhere at any time. Remove areas of friction to create a seamless, personalized, contextually relevant, customer-centric experience that customers will want to continually come back to.
- Over-Deliver Value to Your Customers: Focus on building long-lasting relationships with customers to maximize value and loyalty. The job is never ending; you must continue to provide value through post-purchase interactions as well.
- Invest in a Customer-Centric Experience: From a business perspective, the experience is only as good as the people, parts, and processes that make it complete. From a customer perspective, the experience is only as good as the value it delivers. The more you engage and invest in your customers, the more clear things will become to determine what you should be doing next.
- Invest in a Customer-Centric Culture: Being customer-centric is not tied to a single department: it’s everyone’s job, and good customer service begins at the top. To make your business truly customer-centric, invest in people who focus on doing what's best for the customer, then give your employees the freedom, tools, and responsibilities to help solve problems from a customer-centric standpoint.
“The most important single thing is to obsessively focus on the customer. It's our job everyday to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.”
- Jeff Bezos