A customer-centric strategy is still the best way to win in business
Author: John Marik | sharing-business-ideas.com | Sept 2017
Customer-centric strategy, it’s the buzzword in keynote speeches, in business journals, financial papers, on blogs, in every strategy paper going around right? That’s right, it is cliche’ and so mainstream, however a customer-centric strategy executed correctly can set up a business for success.
A customer-centric strategy is essentially looking at your business through the customers eyes, standing in the customers shoes, listening to what the customers are telling you. This may be directly through feedback from surveys, word of mouth and through your digital channels. There are indirect ways too to understand what is and isn’t working by reviewing your customers actions and behaviours of where they are going online, parts of your physical premises they are not going to etc. While declining sales in products and services will ultimately tell you that customers are not happy, by this time it is too late and you want understand why.
The catch with being a customer-centric business is to ensure that meet customer needs in a profitable way.
I feel the above diagram, while not exhaustive, is a simple way I can explain the concept:
1.) Customer is at the centre of everything that you do. If the customer is buying your product or service that means you have something that satisfies their problem or their need. Customers do not care that you are having a bad day, your website is slow due to connectivity issues or the suppliers were late with deliveries which put production behind. A customer-centric business will ensure the customers sale goes as smoothly and easily as possible.
2.) Products and/or services are ultimately the most important element of a business. Your business needs to sell something that customers actually want or need. While this may seem so ridiculously basic it is almost laughable, many times businesses look to improve culture, employee engagement, better leadership etc. when businesses are declining, interesting going back to basics and ensuring the mix of your product offering needs to be the first port of call.
Find that product or service where there are enough customers to make a successful business (market), at a price that you can make a profit (adequate margin) and that the customer values and you are well on your way to success. Make sure you can make, prepare, deliver your product and/or service on a consistent and easily repeatable basis at the quality your customer expects.
3.) Physical premises and /or digital this encompasses the physical store, online store, digital channels, processes, procedures, systems etc where you connect the customer to your business and make the sale. This is what separates the good from the great customer-centric businesses. The truly great ensure that the customer can find products and services easily, can pay for them easily, delivery is seamless etc. A truly great customer-centric business will work on continuously reviewing and improving all facets of not only customer facing operations, but ensuring all back-of-house areas understand how important they are in the process of making a sale to a customer.
4.) Making an emotional connection with your customers, with your staff, with your community and other stakeholders like regulatory bodies, suppliers, partner businesses will ensure that people will want to do business with you. If your company treats people well, builds relationships, makes strong connections with people, performs business in an open, transparent way then trust will result and that will lead to a strong corporate culture. A strong culture goes a long way to having a successful business. Emotional connection = loyal customers that come back and buy again and again, loyal employees that will go the extra yards for you, loyal suppliers that will go out of their way to deliver on time and make sure they provide quality goods.
5.) Speed to market pretty much in any industry the traditional 5 year plus planning cycle for strategy is dead. In some industries 3 years may even be too long i.e. IT. The premise of speed to market in the customer-centric sphere is to look at where is the organisation is failing the customer in the products & / or services provided, in the physical or online store and in the emotional space. Look at those three elements in the short, medium and long-term by listening what your customers are telling you and update your strategic plan and your annual business plans accordingly.
This customer model can apply for established businesses with existing customers. There is an assumption the company purpose, vision, mission and values are well established. If this is not the case then the emotional piece has already failed and this is the starting point for you and your team.