Customer centricity is a simple concept – it means putting your customer first in all your strategies. But how do brands achieve this, measure it, and use it for success?
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Customer centricity is not just a buzz phrase – it’s a strategy that can be used by any sort of business. For businesses with something to sell, for example, it means fighting the urge to always lead with a product-out approach.
Consider a local grocery shop where the owner knows and talks with their regular customers; they know what they tend to buy and what time of day, and respond accordingly, such as having the morning paper ready at the till. The owner is operating a customer-centric strategy without consciously trying – and creating retention strategies at the same time.
Customers still seek these kinds of interactions to a degree, no matter the size of business. Each customer journey should:
- deliver value
- be easy to navigate
- and to some extent, illicit an emotional response
The emotional response can range from something as simple as relief about an easy process (no more complex sign-up forms!), to being pleased at the pricing point.
Why customer centricity counts
Loyal customers are likely to be more responsive to new products and features. Research from Bain & Co and Harvard Business School reports that just a 5% rise in customer retention leads to a dramatic increase in profitability. Existing customers are also 50% more likely to try new products.
Customer lifetime value has fragmented and changed as more and more entrants move into the marketplace. With so many options to hand, customers are quicker to take their business elsewhere when their needs are not satisfied or met.
The benefits of a customer-centric strategy include:
- better prospects lists
- higher quality acquisition and lower associated costs
- greater understanding of the customer ecosystem
- improved risk management
- generating insights that bring a new dimension to the customer relationship
- refining content that speaks to and actively helps customers
- …all leading to customer loyalty and advocacy.
The Pareto principle says that 20% of customers tend to bring in 80% of profit, so identifying and serving those customers is of obvious importance. However, a customer-centric company aims to embrace the other 80% of ‘unprofitable’ customers.
And the proof is in the pudding: Deloitte Research found that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable. It’s reported that only 14% of B2B companies have a customer-centric culture, despite an average 31% increased growth in revenue recorded by businesses using this strategy.
How do you keep up with a changing customer base?
Customer objectives can be in a flux state, necessitating agile solutions for moving targets. It can seem like a daunting and complex task at first. But approaching your brand with the mindset of a first-time customer can uncover the priority areas for change.
In the case of financial services, Capgemini research found a difference in opinion on ‘knowing the customer’: more than 70% of banking executives say centricity is important to them, but only 37% of customers think banks understand them enough to deliver appropriate services and products.
The strategy is to match the right product, service or communication, with the right time, based on customer demands. If you’re not operating for your customer base, you’re not securing the long-term future of your business.
Marketing expert Bill Macaitis, who worked with Salesforce, Zendesk and Slack believes intuition and common sense also form part of a customer-centric approach.
The customer who has frequently enquired about loans or engaged with emails on the topic, and is pitched a new debit card account instead, is not benefitting from a customer-centric strategy. There may be nothing ‘wrong’ with the content and messaging, but it has no relevance for the customer.
‘Thick data’ can fuel centricity for brands, generating huge amounts of information from their customer base. This is the qualitative information gathered from the interactions, actions, preferences and decision patterns of customers. It adds context to quantitative data aggregation.
If complex datasets seem off-putting, outside the capacity of your tech stack or above your brand budget, then heed the following advice. Marketing expert Bill Macaitis, who worked with Salesforce, Zendesk and Slack believes intuition and common sense also form part of a customer-centric approach.
What is the role for marketers?
Marketing departments can lead the charge on strategies designed around customer needs. In the years ahead, marketers and businesses will need to support customers through more difficult and demanding lifecycles and stages.
The pandemic has thrown financial situations, careers and personal lives into sharp relief. Recovery is predicted to be unequal in many ways for individuals, hampered further by the cost of living crisis. People are also finding their voice, and identifying where companies have fallen short on diversity, equality or even environmental matters.
Your business does not have just one type of customer, so why would a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy work?
Content plays a vital and valuable role in any customer-centric strategy. It provides the depth that allows you to personalise your messaging: to demonstrate gratitude, empathy and show you have the customer’s best interests at heart.
Understanding how people use your marketing is important for refining your strategy. It’s also an incentive for closer alliances and relationships between sales and marketing to understand the effectiveness of your marketing, with a view that extends past short-term metrics.
Contextually relevant content – the right messages through the right channels at the right time – can deliver support at scale throughout the customer lifecycle.
Who is successfully delivering customer centricity?
There is no one way to ‘do’ customer centricity. Slack and Edward Jones are two very different companies with contrasting (and celebrated) customer-focused strategies.
The messaging app company focuses on relatable content for their B2B strategy. A refined self-service package of content and tools do the ‘heavy lifting’ of their customer experience, by anticipating queries.
They seek to create ‘unexpected value’, by sourcing content ideas from other areas of the business, from HR to sales to software engineers, to share knowledge that will address a business’s pain point and keep them consistently engaged and primed for product centricity when the time is right.
By refining their self-service content and including relatable content with one brand voice, they empower customers at every stage.
Slack prioritises customer-centric metrics such as NPS – above financial metrics. This is to ensure they are creating a journey that empowers their customers. It also delivers natural growth, increases customer LTV and commercial value, and supports identification of brand advocates for marketing activities.
Edward Jones investment firm advises ‘to think like clients and not just about them’, to add value in every customer-centric interaction.
Their strategy works on the principle of ‘smart consistency’ – understanding the moments in the customer journey where it’s critical to deliver a consistent experience.
Aggregation technology and onboarding tools support the customer journey and client communication preferences. However, their employees bring the necessary emotional intelligence to client priorities and values to consistently deliver for clients.
It’s this consistency that enables hyper-personalised connections with customers.
Interested in getting to grips with customer centricity? Read our free playbook (UK or US version), with a focus on design, metrics, marketing tactics and our own principles for the strategy. You can also get in touch for help!