A Customer-centric strategy is still your best way to win

Sept 2017 | John Marik | sharing-business-ideas.com

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 cliché 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 will not know why they are leaving your business.

The catch with being a customer-centric business is to ensure that you meet customer needs in a profitable way.  Anyone can over-service and over-invest and make a loss.

I feel the above diagram, while not exhaustive, is a simple way I can explain the concept of customer-centric strategy and I feel if you fail in one of these three elements it is very hard to win as a business.  Let me elaborate:

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 your 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 and works to reduce friction points in all parts of the business.

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 profits are declining.  Going back to your products or services should be your first port of call.

Find that product or service where there are enough customers to make a successful business (adequate market), at a price that ensures you can make a profit (adequate margin) 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 each and every time.

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 such as regulatory bodies, suppliers, partner businesses etc. 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 this will go 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, in pretty much any industry, is absolutely critical to business survival.  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 failing the customer in the products & / or services provided, in the physical or online store and in the emotional space and all the sub-categories within these categories, and look at the elements that need to be altered in the short, medium and long-term.  This is where continuous improvement methodologies come to the fore.  And you guessed it, these changes will be determined by listening to the common themes that your customers are telling you.  You then update your strategic plan and your annual business plans accordingly for the changes that need to be made.

This customer model can apply for established businesses with existing customers where there is understanding which customer segments (the sub-categories within the your markets) that are your most profitable and you are going after.  Remember not all customer feedback is equal.  There is an assumption above that the reader and their business has a clearly defined purpose, vision, mission and values.  If this is not the case, then the emotional piece has already failed and this is the starting point for you and your team.

For further reference I would recommend The Customer Culture Imperative, still my favourite book on customer-centricity (note if you click through the link I do get a commission from Book Depository, read my disclaimer)

#customercentric #speedtomarket #customerstrategy #customer #sharingbusinessideas

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