Being customer-centric. It’s a simple idea and one that you’d be hard pressed to find many companies that won’t make the claim that they either are, or desire to be, customer-centric.
It’s also a term that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. For this blog, I’m going to define customer-centricity as “a business approach that is designed to deliver the most possible value to customers in a way that also makes good business sense.” With this definition, it does not mean that you do everything and anything a customer asks, but it does mean you infuse a deep understanding of your customers into everything you do.
With that said, here are 3 tests for customer-centricity :
- Do you have an ideal customer profile that is understood by every customer facing employee (and the majority of the organization)? Ideal customer profiles, we call them Enterprise Personas. are critical to develop, capture, and share customer understanding. They are fundamental to effective marketing and sales efforts. And yet, when I talk to most companies, they either don’t have one or if they say they do, they can’t tell me much of what is in it. A truly customer-centric company has well understood ideal customer profiles that form the context for most of the discussions in the business.
- Do you create products with a focus on maximum value for your customers or maximizing value for your business? This is a more nuanced evaluation, but I regularly see product discussions centered around ways to restrict use or extract more revenue from customers as the first concern. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know revenue matters, but the signals of this issue arise when explaining your products to customers (and what features and capabilities they have or don’t have access to) gets really complicated or difficult to justify (it may feel like a lot of navel gazing). Frankly, this happens more in leading brands that have bigger market share and more ability to dictate terms, and it can work for a while. But it often makes new product launches more challenging (and less successful). It also opens the door for a competitor to step in with a simpler to understand offer. A truly customer-centric company leverages their ideal customer profile to design products that position customers to get maximum value with minimal complications. And in return, the company grows revenue through customer success.
- Do you create environments for customers to exchange ideas and information across your entire value system? Customers are a rich source of information and feedback. But often, that feedback feels like a burden if your organization is prepared to embrace it. I’ve talked to many companies that are worried about customer communities, because of the concern that customers will share bad experiences. Similarly, advisory boards are discussed, but there are doubts that the product management and development teams will embrace any of the feedback from customers. It is almost as if these companies feel that if they don’t invite the conversations, they won’t happen. It is about the illusion of control. A truly customer-centric company creates a variety of forums for customer information exchange. They use these forums to help customers get more value from the products and services, but also as a rich source of ideas,information, and perspectives for improving their own performance. (By the way, they also recognize that the returns from these investments may be hard to quantify, but will be, if done right, invaluable.)
There are my three tests of customer-centricity. All three can be viewed beyond simple yes/no answers–it is a matter of degree. Where does your organization fall?
Any other tests you would add?