It looks like nowadays many businesses find themselves forced into relentless product development race caused by market dynamics, technology and competition. The only path to survive is to innovate with increasing speed, efficiency, and quality. And the goal of winning the race is put at the heart of decisions, ideas and marketing strategy, making new product development one of the most critical business activities.
But is it only the product that matters? We bet you know the answer! If a company is obsessively focused on the products it brings to market rather than the customers that buy those products, it’s only a matter of time and technology before the competitors will bring something newer, shinier, and more affordable to the market. The companies that stand out are those that have customer relationship at their heart, or at least don’t neglect it too much, if you will.
Customer Focus versus Product Focus: What Kind Of Business Are You In?
If you would ask people whether they believe their businesses are customer-focused or not, you would barely find anyone saying that they really don’t care what their customers think. But despite all the rhetoric about customer being a king, striving for making customers happy and delighting them, that’s quite rare in practice and easier said than done.
So how do you go about defining your focus and implementing the right strategy within your company? Recently I came across an interesting blog post by Chris Brown, the CEO of MarketCulture Strategies. It lets you find out where you stand and visually compare main differences between product-centric and customer-centric approaches through a clear chart highlighting major areas for taking important strategic decisions.
Chris makes a great point that the future for companies is to balance the product focus with a customer focus so that customers feed directly into decision making and are not an afterthought. We can’t help but agree that the customer centric approach should be deeply integrated into a company strategy, processes, and culture. And that living up to expectations of a customer experience matters as much as enhancing the product competitiveness.
Building Customer Centric Culture: What Does It Take?
If your business isn’t focusing on customer centricity, it’s time to start doing some research into how to get things going. Creating a customer centric company takes more than putting your efforts and making an investment in the customer service operations and systems. I was excited to come across an article by Micah Solomon where he shares 7 secrets of building a customer-centric company culture. It definitely can serve as a stepping stone for brands of all sizes for building customer-centric strategy.
What are the seven secrets that Micah believes help customer-centric companies succeed? Here they are, with some food for thought to see if your company culture is as customer-centric as the legendary brands showcased in the Forbes article:
1. Articulate your central philosophy in just a few words, a few meaningful words.
2. Elaborate on your central philosophy with a brief list of core values
3. Reinforce your commitment to these values continually.
4. Make it visual.
5. Make your philosophy the focus of orientation.
6. Train, support, hire, and, if necessary, use discipline to enforce what’s important to you.
7. Include the wider world.
Stages of Customer-Centric Journey
Bob Thompson, CEO of the research and publishing firm CustomerThink, in his outstanding guide for organizations truly committed to being customer-centric and creating great customer experiences, notes that customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination. To progress, companies generally evolve through four stages of development under the leadership of the CEO:
Stage 1. Targeted on Customers: to sell more products and services to the “best” customers
Stage 2. Responsive to Customers: to make improvements by acting on customer feedback
Stage 3. Engaged with Customers: creating an emotional bond that drives advocacy behavior
Stage 4. Inspired by Customers: developing new solutions to solve problems before customers ask!
In his book Hooked on Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies Bob Thompson describes each stage of customer-centric maturity journey in detail using examples and data to help readers better understand what “best in class” organizations do and the results that can be produced. He also comes up with a simple powerful mantra for each level.
The author admits that the vast majority (roughly 70 percent) of companies are at the first two stages of their customer-centric journey. Most of companies start at Stage 1 and progress to Stage 4 over time, but that’s not the only pattern. Also, while it’s true that most stage-four companies are highly profitable, it doesn’t mean you can’t make money at other stages.
So where are you in your journey? Do you believe you are customer-focused? What are your ideas and steps towards more customer-centric culture within your company? We would love to learn about your experience, so please leave a comment if you have something to share. Wherever you are on your customer-centric journey, keep moving. And good luck!
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