There is no more overused term in selling than the words “customer-centric.” Everyone says they put the customer first. Originators will even tell you they know exactly what the customer wants. But thinking that you know what the customer wants is not the same thing as delivering what the customer needs.
We’ve heard the same marketing messages in our industry for years such as “The customer is number one” and “we listen to our customers.” But the truth is that a marketing slogan is not enough anymore to set the stage for success because customers form opinions about a company and an originator well in advance of mass marketing campaigns. Customers have come to rely on recommendations and feedback from family, friends and other customers on social media to inform their purchase decisions.
So what is all the fuss about being customer-centric when customers do not easily believe marketing slogans? Is being customer-focused the same as customer-centric? Well actually no.
Customer-focused is survey-based and entails asking for feedback. It is all about delivering a pleasant customer experience or effectively addressing a customer’s problem. While this sounds positive and promising, the customer has moved past this to a different level of expectation.
On the other hand, being customer-centric is future-oriented and looks at behavioral market trends while leveraging data from inside and outside the sales organization. It also means providing a unique and memorable customer experience that is seamless across all interaction channels. Finally, analytics are used to inspect call logs and problem reports to make changes before the customer complains.
In “Being CustomerCentric,” a great post by Annette Pannier of Imaginasium, a marketing and strategy firm, she cites Stephen Covey’s four levels in a company’s customer-centric journey:
Level 1: We know our customers and what they buy.
Level 2: We get customer feedback and work to improve customer satisfaction.
Level 3: We focus on a long-term relationship and strive to make an emotional connection.
Level 4: We think deeply about what customers are trying to accomplish and create new ways to add value to their experience.
Pannier argues that most companies are stuck at level one or two. Companies that make the biggest strides are ones that have installed a Voice of Customer (VOC) plan. According to Pannier, VOC is the collective insight into the customer needs, wants, perceptions, and preferences that are translated into meaningful objectives that help close the gap between customer expectations and your brand. She also comments that most companies are stuck in level 1 or 2 because even when customer feedback is received, it doesn’t get translated to the sales side of the business. As a result, the necessary changes are not made to deepen the relationship with the customer.
Pannier argues that the solution to this segmented approach is to make VOC a single view of the customer across all touchpoints. This single view will drive change across all departments.
So are you ready to become a customer-centric organization? Do you have a VOC in your organization?