What Customers Really Want – And How to Give It To Them Today!

As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want. And in this period of reset, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.

Just a few short months ago, I didn’t think that it would have been possible for customer-centricity to become any more important. But things happen and now everyone is fighting to keep their businesses afloat. So the new and constantly changing desires of our customers have become a top priority for us all to follow.

I’m always trying to understand exactly what our customers’ preferences are, and where they may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this original post. But recent changes have made it important for me to update it once again. At the time, the analysis showed a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent the past few years putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic business crisis. Read further and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, a faithful friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it?  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say:

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer-centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:

1. Positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy.  As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.

Positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity #CustomerFirst #Loyalty #Advocacy Click To Tweet

However, with much of supermarket shopping going online – there was a 161.4% increase on March over February – loyalty takes on a whole new meaning. Customer experience is now far more to do with the online ease of ordering than that of store shopping. Unfortunately, most supermarkets didn’t prepare for such an onslaught.

2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing has been challenged to prove in recent years, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report called The Business Impact of Customer Experience” 

Of course, what customers are looking for in a company has changed dramatically in just a few months. They now expect organisations to provide more than just their products and services. They expect them to care for their employees and the communities in which they do business. Retailers will need to review their bricks-and-mortar strategy as customers continue to order more online than the pre-pandemic era. McKinsey’s article on this topic “Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus” makes a good complement to this post.

Of course, what customers are looking for in a company has changed dramatically in just a few months. Do you know how their behaviour has adapted? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

3. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you differentiate your brand? Through your customer service, that’s how. And knowing exactly what your customers want. It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. Yes MORE for exactly the same product or service, so why are you waiting? You can read a summary of the American Express research that was recently updated HERE.

In the post-covid reset, differentiation is going to move from products alone to increased service and care. As already mentioned, customers expect brands to support them in such hard times, but also their employees and communities. Companies who cut jobs and/or salaries while their board members take bonuses will be shunned.

What customers wanted until this year was a seamless experience from pre- to post-purchase, both on and offline. But with increased out-of-stock in physical stores and more purchases being made online, customers now want companies to support them and deliver an even better experience and service. This is definitely not the time to cut customer care departments when organisations are looking to reduce costs!

 

The Importance of Customer Satisfaction & Understanding 

There is no denying that customer-centricity is important, no vital to growth and profitability. However some companies are (too?) hesitant to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

1. Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer-friendly competitor. And this is why so many start-ups are stealing significant share from the major brands.

It’s also no longer (just) about product and service performance any more. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands have understood this better than anyone. And the pandemic has further accentuated the importance of emotions. Many of us have become over-sensitive, even depressed, after months of lockdown and trying to follow the ongoing, constantly changing regulations.

It’s no longer about product and service performance any more. It's about how the customers FEELS about your brand. #Marketing #Brand #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

Customers have had to become more flexible in their response to constant out-of-stock situations for many categories and brands. However, there is a real danger that once they have accepted to buy a replacement brand, they may then question the need to return to the brand to which that had been previously loyal. I expect to see a lot of brand switching over the remainder of this year as a direct consequence of these forced behavioural changes.

And as if all this is not already difficult enough to cope with, the increased level of layoffs and furloughs, are forcing customers to reconsider their spending, and consider cheaper alternatives that they may never have previously considered.

2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes yet one more social media viral overnight sensation is essential today. Do it right and your complainers may even turn into advocates if they are delighted with the outcome.

Complaints are also wonderful (free) sources of innovation and renovation ideas. Find out what your customers are unhappy about and then propose a solution. You may even be able to charge more since the new offer will better meet their needs.

Reacting promptly to your customers' complaints may even turn your complainers into advocates if they are delighted with the outcome. #Customer #CustomerService #CustomerComplaints Click To Tweet

3. Customer service is still being confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but that is no longer enough – if it ever was!

All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! After months of lockdown, customers have a short fuse and react more strongly when dissatisfied with a company or brand. We need to respond faster and more completely to demands, comments and complaints. Find more inspiring ideas on how to respond to customers in this great article entitled “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”

As mentioned above, the research that prompted this post was a Google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest to those searching online.

I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

What customer want Google trends
Source: Google

These trends suggest that companies search for how to improve their customer services and care centres, but not about how to understand their customers better or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer services should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most companies! They seem to be more worried about the technical side of the process of responding to their customers efficiently, rather than taking the customer’s perspective on what should be delivered.

This is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the cost of providing the service than in the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. Do you agree? Whether you do or don’t, please leave me a comment below. This is too important a topic not to continue the discussion.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into the trends for customer satisfaction levels around the world. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days, aren’t they? So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

According to the most recent report from The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best-performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised!

However, this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, and are now leading the pack. But most other industries continue to ignore what their customers want. You can see the full Infographic overview below; click on it to see the full-sized original.

 

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Unfortunately, as would be expected, all the more recent statistics available are from surveys conducted pre-covid, so I decided not to include them until we have a better grip on the impact the pandemic has had on people.

I then went back to Google to search for any ways that were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found over 133 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results of doing it. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found five years ago and the less than one million articles available just a couple of years ago, it is still extremely worrying.

The increased interest in customer satisfaction is certainly coming from a steady decrease in satisfaction levels over the past couple of years – long before covid struck. The latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report shows customer satisfaction has been declining since mid-2018 and is now at a level last seen almost a decade ago! With behaviours changing radically during the pandemic, I will be watching with interest how the increase in online ordering and the decline in retail outlet shopping will impact these levels.

What customer want and satisfaction trends usaIt has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So it looks like we are not out of the woods yet, nor will be this year, if not next year as well.

David VanAmburg, who is Managing Director at ACSI once said:

“Customer satisfaction will need to increase for the economy to grow at a faster pace. It’s tough to pinpoint one cause of the stagnation, but unless it budges, the national ACSI score paints a dire picture for consumer spending growth.”

 

Key Takeaways

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy but ideally delight their customers. With frustration and lockdowns impacting the emotional stability of many, people are likely to react extremely positively to the slightest thing that goes beyond their expectation at the moment. Take advantage of this opportunity to solidify your brand’s reputation and that of your company too.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere technical process of customer-centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation. This means adopting a customer-first strategy of course, but also responding to the increase in contacts resulting from customers staying and purchasing at home. This is not the time to cut costs in the area of customer services, but to invest extensively to respond more quickly to requests for help from their house-bound customers. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this topic.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry, to adopt a customer-first strategy. And as previously mentioned, now that layoffs and furloughs have become the norm, it is vital that customer services remain at the heart of the business and are even expanded if customer connections increase – which they no doubt will in almost every consumer-facing industry.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when dissatisfied. Frustrated customers stuck at home these days, are reacting even more quickly and negatively to being ignored or kept waiting at the end of the line when they call an organisation. After all, they have nothing much to do at home, so will concentrate on getting answers to their questions and complaints. This is confirmed by Matt Wujciak in his analysis “Global Contact Center Trends During COVID-19 Pandemonium.”

    ‘..the contact centre is experiencing an unprecedented increase in overall call volume, with a particular surge in aggressive (if not fanatic) customer inquiries.”

  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction. Responding to customers in a timely manner has become the table stakes for competing in most if not all B2C industries. And yet investment has not been increasing at the same level as the demand from customers. This has to change.
  6. Positive customer experience always increases loyalty and advocacy. It has been shown that a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times as much revenue as a somewhat satisfied customer and 14 times as much revenue as a somewhat dissatisfied customer. Read “5 Reasons why customer experience is the pulse of every business right now” for more on this.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices. Perhaps now is not the moment to increase prices for your over-sensitive customers, but it is definitely the time to excel at providing the best possible service.

In summary, in this post-covid era, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, or even just for information, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver surprise and delight, will see their reputations improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be more open, honest and transparent. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability.

One additional demand has surfaced this year, that for companies to protect their employees, to reduce layoffs, protect salaries and for management to show that they are adapting their own situations to match what their employees are going through. No bonuses or golden parachutes, when those below them are being furloughed or worse.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area, especially in the last six months? Please share your (success) stories below. 

You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! Take the FREE C3C Evaluator™ quiz and find out exactly where your greatest opportunities for improvement lie. 

And for more ideas on how you can understand what your customers really want today, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of customer understanding and service, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures. And yes they can be run online as well as in person.

If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise our support for you and your team, then feel free to contact me. It would be a pleasure to help you in these daunting times. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2018.

What a Customer First Strategy Means Post Pandemic

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I know, you probably don’t want to read yet another article about the post-pandemic era, especially when the infection numbers in many countries are once again headed in the wrong direction!

But with people having changed their purchasing habits and perspectives due to lockdown, this seems the perfect time to reconsider your customer-first strategy.

Up until the covid-19 virus hit across the globe, almost every single organisation, big or small, recognised the importance of satisfying their customers. But most of them were only giving lip service to customer-centricity and very few were actually going beyond voicing their opinions. This is no longer possible as customers are sharing their experiences of companies and brands far more than just six months ago.

After all, what else have they to do than surf the internet all day long! According to the latest global statistics, social media usage saw an increase of 21 per cent, and news consumption has risen by 36 per cent. You can see the individual country breakdowns at Statista.

A recent NYT article clearly confirms these significant changes in behaviour in the US. Another study summarised on Forbes and run across 30 markets globally, shows that engagement has increased 61% over normal social media usage rates. Companies can no longer hide like they once did; customers are out to highlight their dissatisfaction and point the finger when they are less than happy with a product or service.

A customer-first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is that they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?

A customer-first strategy is not so hard; just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

And even when an organisation decides to become more customer centric, there are many mistakes that are commonly made. This article “7 Reasons for Failure When Adopting a Customer First Strategy” gives the main ones and makes a complementary read to this post.

But today’s world has accelerated the upward trend in the importance of a customer-first strategy and makes it one of the most, if not the most important one for all organisations.  It is no longer the norm or even the new-norm, of successful businesses, it is becoming the make or break criteria in surviving the pandemic. And many companies are already failing fast, although it is said that for many retailers, the pandemic only sped up their likely appearance in bankruptcy courts. For more on this I suggest you read “As pandemic stretches on, retail bankruptcies approach highest number in a decade.”

While retail is clearly suffering as purchases in lockdown went online, it is not the only industry to have been hit hard. Another CNBC article highlights others including cruises, fitness, energy and airlines. Whether or not these too were headed downwards or not, customers hold the key to success more than ever before as their spending becomes less impulsive. The 20 biggest companies that have filed for bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic are listed in this article on Forbes.

 

Reasons for having a customer-first strategy

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer-first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I have found.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • Walker forecast that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co
  • 94% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. Label Insight

These are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!

 


If you’re ready to put your customers first, then C3Centricity can help, inspiring your team, no matter where in the world you operate. Contact us today for more information on adopting a customer-first strategy.

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Marketers are too busy building brands

With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:

“Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.” 

 

According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

It saddens me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:

“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and their communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and their communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. It would be good if they used it to increase… Click To Tweet

Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.1% in 2018, once again confirming that there continues to be no “significant” growth recorded in the past seven years! Compare this to the more than 4-6% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.

 

Ad spend growth trend

But there is some hope. A recent report from OnBrand Magazine on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

KPIs used by marketing

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!

Difficult skills to hire for

So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?

 

Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment

Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.

I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion, let alone make recommendations.

This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, the majority of researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.

It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed analytical skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer-first strategy in many organisations.

Customer services are seen as complaint handlers

When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. And sadly I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which become my clients through a desire to make the much-needed changes.

You only have to take a look at the financial results of companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. Even if it is now quite old, I still believe the article is of immense value, which is why I mention it here. In the post, he mentions that

“According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”

The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:

  • In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
  • CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
  • The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
  • Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
  • This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%

Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

In conclusion

To answer the title of this article, a customer-first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind what must be a company-wide objective. Customer centricity can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and a true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights. But that is a small investment for the huge returns that have been proven.
And being customer centric will mean that every employee finally has the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website for more tips and answer our free assessment here: https://www.c3centricity.com. You will immediately see how to prioritise your actions. 

 

The Future of Brand Building is Customer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. But with the advent of digital in the early 80’s, companies began taking a serious look at their marketing strategies.

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did!

However, even today, with the creation of inbound marketing strategies, they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive pop-ups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use.

Despite these changes CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure you only leave your position when you want to.

 

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies, such as P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, have changed the name of their Marketing departments in the past twenty years, to Brand Building. They hoped that it would revive sales and give new vitality to their communications to better engage their customers in the new social world. But most failed miserably, because they remained very much in a state of business as usual. They continued with the same processes and mind-sets. And with few exceptions, they prioritised thoughts about themselves and their brands, and rarely took their customers’ perspective.

Luckily a few other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight.

Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

I think we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the next price offs whenever they can.

They also realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now often have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be.

 

Switching economy harming loyalty and brand building
Source: Accenture

They have also come to expect constant innovation as they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “ Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago!

 

Customer Centricity

Brand building needs new skills for marketers
Source: Korn Ferry

In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it confirmed that marketers need new skills and can no longer rely on creativity alone.

 

 


If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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Are You Customer Centric?

Companies that place their customers at the heart of their business, are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and engaging games. Their contact pages provide many alternative ways for customers to reach out to them, rather than the less appealing reason menu and message box that disappears into hyperspace!  Their advertising is emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business.

If you would like to start involving your customers more in your business then the post “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” is a popular and highly recommended read.

And if you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website and then complete our free quiz C3C Evaluator™.

Moving Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are some ideas that you can use to help you quickly move forward on your journey to greater customer centricity:

1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.

2. Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” If they would disagree, then you should reconsider your options.

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.

What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, reconsider your options. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

3. Review the content of your website in detail. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. And while you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Review the content of your website. If there are more we's than you's then you know what to do. Customer centric companies talk about their customers more than themselves. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona / avatar. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C3Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free HERE)

5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.

Review your current advertising campaign. Who is the hero? If it's not your customer, consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers. Click To Tweet

6. If you are lucky enough to have retail outlets, spend time with your front-line staff and your customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know. Then add the information to your persona description and review your future promotions for any improvements you could make.

7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.

 

These are your seven starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building, to a more customer centric approach. They all have your customer at the heart of them. Any others you’d like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can alone, so why not share them below and let your knowledge shine?

If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, please check out my book “Winning Customer Centricity“. You’ll see it’s like no other business book you have ever seen! Then you will understand why numerous major CPG / FMCG companies follow it annually. It’s fun, inspiring and a useful roadmap for your customer centric journey. 

If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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How to Measure Customer Centricity the Right Way

As a customer first strategist (hopefully just like you), I spend a lot of my time searching how to better measure customer centricity for my clients. I also do a lot of analyses on what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly the solutions customers need, desire and dream of having.

My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend! However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get redirected to customer satisfaction!  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

 

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is an incredibly valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics about this in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience.”
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of this and more in the summary report of the American Express research.

 

I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre- to post- purchase, as well as from on to offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.

Find out how good you are at customer centricity. Take the quiz now.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND UNDERSTANDING

There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  1. It is now proven that it is important for the business, so what is stopping companies from quickly adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. It’s no longer (just) about product performance.
  2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
  3. Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking not just to satisfy them but to delight them too!

 

As mentioned before, the research that prompted this post was a google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.

However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)

Google trends on measuring customer centricity
Click to see original

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer centricity. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. What do you think?

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

 

 wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries.

This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised. However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.

I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than  two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.

According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) August 2019 report, customer satisfaction is once again on the decline in the USA.

measure customer centricity
National ACSI Scores, 1994 to Q2 2019 (0-100 Scale) (PRNewsFoto/American Customer Satisfaction)

As mentioned in their press release accompanying the Q2 2019 results “With few exceptions, the rate of growth in consumer spending – which accounts for almost 70% of GDP – has declined since 2016. ACSI is still below its high watermark from 2017, yet GDP growth has, by and large, increased over the same time periods.”

“This is untenable in the long run,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI Founder and Chairman. “It’s also untenable for customer satisfaction to weaken and for consumer spending to strengthen in the long run. But that’s what happened in the second quarter of 2019.”

The UK is showing a similar negative trend. The UKCSI is currently 77.1 (out of 100), 0.8 points lower than a year ago. This is the fourth consecutive, though small, drop in customer satisfaction since July 2017, when the index score was 78.2. This has no doubt also been negatively impacted by the Brexit vote and ongoing struggle to negotiate terms with the EU.

UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2019

 

THE KEY TAKEAWAYS

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their level of satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly demanding.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

 

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

 

You can no longer wait! You’re getting left behind by your competitors who are taking action today! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics.

See more and download the summary brochures HERE.

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Adopting a Customer First Strategy. Even the Police Can Get it Right!

In most countries, the population have a love / hate relationship with their police. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!

Let me explain. They have recently introduced many new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town in Switzerland. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why they are so effective. They are customer centric. They have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share this story here.

Image: Pixabay

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many countries, is because of their speed radars.

Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”

We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.

 

I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home, or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.

Example of a customer first strategy in action with a smiley traffic radar
Image: Alibaba

The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.

You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before.

Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.

 

 

So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.

 

 

Permanent radars

Everyone quickly knows where these are located. In fact, in some countries there are warning signs and they are actually highlighted on the GPS mapping system you may have in your car.

In some places the permanent radars are not always functioning, as the cameras inside them are rotated between installations. It is therefore not possible to know which radars are active and which aren’t. The Police then get a multiple deterrent effect, beyond the number of cameras they have purchased.

speed radar warning
Image: Pixabay

What I have observed with these radars is the following behaviour. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the speed limit. They then speed up again to continue along the road.

This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. They sometimes add a second, mobile radar a few hundred meters down from the permanent one, to catch those who are once again speeding!

Even the warning signs, as on the right, don’t have much impact on drivers and the speed limitation is quickly forgotten.

Whether they get caught with the first or second radar, the impact on the end customer, the driver, will be the same.

They feel angry and frustrated, which makes them less attentive, and may result in them driving more erratically. They may even speed up feeling that now they have been caught, there is nothing more to lose!

Not good for the driver nor the Police’s objective of maintaining a slower, safer speed in the vicinity. Clearly not a part of a customer first strategy!

 

Temporary radars

Temporary radars are similar to the permanent ones, but it usually takes a day or two for people to become aware of them. Their reactions will then be similar to the permanent radars, with the slowing down and speeding up of their driving behaviour.

This is not good for traffic fluidity, nor for slowing it down. And the drivers’ reactions if flashed will be just the same. Again not good for anyone and clearly not a demonstration of a customer first strategy.

 

Laser speed guns

Police laser gun
Source: Wikipedia

These are probably the most hated by drivers. They have no knowledge of where they are, nor even that they have been flashed. It could be argued that they are therefore not a deterrent to speeding, but a pure money-making exercise for the Police.

I admit that the Police do tend to stand in certain places where speeding is a common occurrence. Knowledgeable, local drivers look out for them when approaching the areas and adapt their speed accordingly. But overall they are not really a device to deter speeding and therefore the associated sentiments are very negative. Once again this type of radar would not be used if the Police have adopted a customer first strategy.

 

Speed Information

The speed radar that prompted this post measures your speed but then immediately gives you feedback. You are rewarded with a happy green smiley if you are within the speed limit. Or a red frown with a message to slow down if you are speeding.

I have witnessed people approaching these devices and slowing down whether or not they are speeding. And they don’t speed up after they have passed them either. How’s that for positive influence?

Also, if the drivers are like me, they also get a feel-good feeling for being congratulated for not speeding. I find these by far the most efficient at controlling traffic speed and fluidity, but of course the Police don’t get any money.

 

 

What This Has to Do with Your business

So why is this example relevant for you and your own customer first strategy? well, ask yourself what you really want for your business? 

In the case of the police, I am assuming that they want to reduce the speed of drivers in certain areas. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit, is the information panel. If that is their objective, then the Police in every country should adopt these new style radars.

But if those who consider speed checks to be a mere money-making operation are right, then the Police will continue to use one of their other options. And they must accept the negative consequences on so many levels, not just on their image or speeding in their localities.

So, take a hard look at your own business actions and ask yourself what you really want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t approve.

What do you want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t approve. Click To Tweet

Half filled packaging – gone. False claims and promises – deleted. Getting credit card details for free trials in the hope customers will forget to cancel and you can automatically charge them for a service that haven’t specifically requested. Not any longer! These all might get you that first sale but you won’t get a loyal customer.

And you? What do you want your customers to think and feel about your brand? What are the objectives you have for your business and customers?

These questions are just a small part of our highly successful 7-step insight development process called CatSight™. If you’d like to know more about it, or get trained in insight-development and adopting a customer first strategy, just let us know. 

Check out our website for more inspiration and then contact us here:

https://c3centricity.com/contact

Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)

I’ve just returned from a speaking invitation in Las Vegas. It was an incredible Symposium run by Sitecore and I was blown away by the importance placed on customer centricity during the whole event!

From the opening keynote by Sitecore’s new CEO Mark Frost, to the second-day keynote by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp from Gartner, everyone in this tech and data heavy conference understood that data is only as good as the use you put to it. Do you?

We are all excited by the wealth of information available to us about our customers, from the IoT as well as people’s behaviour on the internet. In fact, data gathering is no longer an issue; it is its management, analysis and above all understanding to turn it into actionable insights that is today’s challenge.

I believe that the reason most organisations today are drowning in data and thirsting for insights as I am often quoted as saying, is because they are more excited by data than people.

“Organisations are drowning in data and thirsting for insights”

And yet data usually comes from people and their acts, is analysed by people, so that businesses can have more impact on their customers’ attitude and behaviours. It is therefore vital to turn that wealth of information into actionable insights. That’s why I want to share my 7-step process for doing just that with you.

I call it CatSight™

and the acronym always causes a few giggles as I’m sure you can imagine. After all, business is a serious topic, which is why I try to find ways for us all to find reasons to laugh in all this seriousness.

I choose the name CatSight™ because I thought it is not only memorable but also has a serious relevance to what insight developers do.

Cats have an acute vision, particularly in the dark. They are good at listening because their ears turn 180 degrees. They are highly sensitive – just ask an owner how their cat reacts when they are sad or ill.

Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills for all insight developers.

Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills Click To Tweet

So here are my 7-steps to insight development – and note that information gathering is only step #6!

If you react to business questions by immediately running a market research project, then please read on. It could save you a lot of money and time!

Using my method, you only start spending money on running a survey in step six – and then, only if you have identified a gap in your knowledge of the situation. Many organisations don’t know what they already know and what is already available within the company that they are unaware of.

This 7-step process will save you money because you will run less research AND make better use of all the information already available within the organisation. That’s an immediate improvement in the ROI of your information gathering.

7-steps to insight development, but information gathering is only step #6! #customer #insight Click To Tweet

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. At first sight, this may seem obvious, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might at first think.

Category identification for developing actionable insightsFor instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink! The reason was that they were both seen as being for lively, fun people who needed a kick – whether from caffeine or healthy fresh ingredients with added vitamins and minerals.

If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.

This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.

 

A = Aim

Once you know which category you should be trying to understand better, you must consider what the aim or objective of your initiative is towards the customer. Are you looking to change their attitude or behaviour? Yes, of course, these are linked, but there will be one you are trying to influence more than the other.

Then you need to translate your objective into the words of the customer, or at least a description of your objective in how it impacts the.

For instance:

How can we grow the market share of Brand “A”?

This could be written as: How can we attract consumers from competitor Brand “X” who are looking for a low sugar CSD?

You will notice that the second is far more focused and will deliver more relevant results than the first.

A customer-centric objective is more focused & will deliver more relevant insights than biz objective Click To Tweet

 

How can I expand my business?

This could be written as: Which of my customers would be most interested in my new service offer and why?

This example came from work with one of my clients in the service industry. He wanted to offer something new and was trying to identify which of his clients would be most interested in it.

When we worked together, we first ran a detailed segmentation of all potential customers for this new service. By understanding each segment in detail, we actually found that he had two and not one group to whom he should be selling his basic service to. One of these groups could also be exactly interested in this new offer. Talk about leaving money on the table – he almost doubled his business overnight!

T = Target

There are many different pieces of information that make up a complete knowledge of your customers. This takes time to complete, but there are hree main areaas which I suggest to at least get basic information on:

BCG Matrix for developing actionable insights1. First thing you need to segment all category users and then choose the most attractive one.

For this one of the simplest tools to work with is the BCG matrix. I say that because it works just as well with observed facts as it does with complex measured and weighted data.

 

 

4W Customer persona template for developing actionable insights2. Next you need to develop a customer image or persona.

We use the 4W™ Template as you know, because it reminds users to find out the who, what where and why. That way no area if forgotten.

 

3. The third tool we use to better understand our customers deeply, is their journey map.

Customer journey map for developing actionable insights.This can be as simple or as complex as you like too. However I would suggest adding the emotional state of the customer at each stage, as this provides valuable information concerning pain points. These steps are obviously the ones you want to solve for your customer as a priority.

These three tools will provide you with a great foundation on which you can build both your understanding and insight development. Do you have others which you regularly use? If so, then please suggest them in the comments below. 


Ready to go deeper into these first three steps that most organisations forget? Book an online training or an in-house 1-Day Catalyst Session for your whole team in November and get a 20% discount.


S = Supporters 

No-one is an island and this goes whether you are an executive, solopreneur or corporate slave. If you work in a business, then I advise you to get out from behind your desk and talk to people in other departments. We can sometimes get so tied up in our work that we never take time to understand the wider corporation in which we work. We live on our floor, take coffee and lunch with fellow employees and never learn much news that we didn’t know already.

by making a habit to speak with your colleagues from other departments and floors, will open you to a deeper understanding of your organisation. It will give you an advantage over your colleagues in knowing what’s going on in other groups and will enable you to gather information you would be unlikely to get otherwise.

If you are a solopreneur, meetings others on a regular basis becomes even more vital. It provides you with some fresh thinking and perspectives, a friendly ear to discuss business with and a change of air for an hour or two. I try to meet up with someone for coffee or lunch at least three or four times a week when i`’m not traveling.

Getting supporters is vital to the success of both projects and business in general, so make a habit of widening your professional circle anyway you can/

 

I = Intimacy

Even if you have a detailed persona of your target customers – you do don’t you? – nothing beats getting intimate with them. Not only does this bring your data and information to life, but you may also learn new things about your customers.

You can do this by simply listening into your care centre calls or by serving in your retail outlets if you have them.

But you can also accompany a researcher while interviewing or organise customer connection sessions. If you are interested in organising these events designed specifically for getting closer to your customers then I suggest you read “Why customers are the answer to all your problems”

 

G = Gap Filling

As I’ve already mentioned, when a business wants to know their customers better they immediately think of running a market research project. Don’t do this!

Save yourself time and money by first reviewing everything your organisation already knows. Identify any gaps and only then run a survey. You will be amazed how this simple habit can save you tens of thousands every year.

 

HT = Human Truth

A human truth is a

“Fact of human attitudes & behaviour, based on fundamental human values & beliefs.”

It is vital to insight development since it is needs based and emotional resonant. It is a powerful and compelling statement that is rooted in basic human values, which is why it is valid for all your customers, wherever in the world they live.

Some simple examples are:

  • Parents want to protect their children so they grow up happy and healthy.
  • Men and women want to find love.
  • People want to feel good about their choices. (be better than their peers?)

These human truths are the basis of many of the well-known brands such as Omo / Persil, Nido, Axe / Lynx, Dulux, Heineken. When you are next watching an ad break on television, it is fun to try and identify the human truths on which they are based. The more clearly identifiable they are the better the ad will resonate with its customers.

I also suggest using this as a fun exercise in a brainstorming or other meeting of marketers in particular.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse!

So there you have it, the 7-step process I call CatSight™ which practically guarantees an insight every time you use it. 

Why not try it yourself next time you are trying to work through a marketing challenge?

If you like this process and would like to learn even more details about it, then we offer two solutions:

  1. An online course of videos and workbooks to take you through every step in detail.
  2. An in-person training in your own office. This is particularly cost-effective when you are upgrading the skills of your entire team.

For either one, we are offering a 20% discount during November, to help you assign any remaining budget before you lose it at year-end! (I’ve been there too so I understand your situation very well) Just contact us and book your session; you can even plan it early in the New Year if you prefer. As long as you pay this year, we will accord the 20% discount. How’s that for an early Christmas present?

What a Customer First Strategy Means Today (And Why Your Company Needs to Adopt One)

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Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and online social media shares.

Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?

A customer first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?

 

Reasons for having a customer-first strategy

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I found.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co

Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!


If you’re ready to put your customers first, then why not sign up and join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.

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Marketing are too busy building brands

With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:

“Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.” 

 

According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:

“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?

Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.2% in 2015, the first “significant” growth recorded in five years! Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.

 

ESOMAR MR industry growthTrends in ad spend

 

 

But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!

 

CMOs need more analytical skills

Marketing team skills needed

So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?

 

Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment

Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.

I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.

This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.

It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.

Customer services are seen as complaint handlers

When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.

You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first. Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that “According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”

The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:

  • In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
  • CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
  • The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
  • Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
  • This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%

Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

In conclusion

So to answer the title of this article, a customer first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind this company-wide objective. It can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights.
And it will mean every employee having the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website and answer our free mini C3C Evaluator tool here: https://www.c3centricity.com

 

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