Why Your Company Needs to Adopt a Customer First Strategy

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Every few days there seems to be yet another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and swamps our online social media feeds. The mistakes companies are making in serving their customers are becoming ever more frequent, at least it appears that way to me. You too?

I find this strange, since almost every organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of satisfying their customers. They all talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why do you think that so many organisations continue to struggle?

After all, a customer first strategy is not that difficult, at least in theory. 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 – a lot of – money to implement.

Reasons for adopting 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
  • The price premium for great customer experience is real—and it’s big, up to 16% PWC
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • By 2020, customer experience was expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. I haven’t heard if it did! Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co

Those numbers 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 for the C3Centricity Academy and follow the course on the topic?  FIND OUT MORE.


 

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 the data that is available to them these days.

Continue Reading

13 Most Inspiring Marketing Quotes and Questions to Live By in 2022

Are you like most businesses? Do you have a plan you are following that will (hopefully) enable you to reach your goals?

In order to meet them, we are often looking to make changes, large or small, in our organisation. At times like these I find it useful to motivate with some inspiring quotes from people much wiser than I. If you are looking for ways to motivate and inspire your own team, then I am sure you too will enjoy these.

This is my selection of great quotes from some of the best marketers around, together with a relevant question to ask yourself for each. If your favourite quote is not included, then please add it to the comments below the post.

 

#1.  “Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills” Al Ries 

This quote refers to the Catskills, a province of the Appalachian Mountains, located in southeastern New York and only 1270m high. It compares them to the Himalayas, a range that includes some of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest (8,849m).

It uses this comparison to suggest that to succeed in marketing you have to afront the highest peaks of strategy and timing, and not be satisfied with scaling simple hills. In other words, be in the right place at the right time with the right offer. Simple!

QUESTION: Are you going to upgrade your marketing this year to meet this lofty challenge?

 

#2.  “In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last” John Romero

I love this quote because it refers to knowing and understanding your customers. The best ones, however you define that, come first and your best prospects come second. If you’d like to know if you’re targeting your very best customers and best prospects, then check out the following post: How Well Do you Know Your Customers? 13 Questions your Boss Expects you to Answer

QUESTION: Do you know who your best customers are and everything you should about them?

 

#3. “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation”  Milan Kundera

This post shows the often forgotten importance of marketing to business. I know those of you in sales or operations etc will complain, but if customers don’t know and love your brands then you don’t have a business. It really is as simple as that. I also like that innovation is included, because especially today, customers have become so demanding that we need to constantly upgrade our offers to them.

QUESTION: Does your business value marketing? If not, how can you help them to recognise its value?

 

#4. “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions” Claude Levi-Strauss

Are you better at asking questions or answering them? Which is more important in your job? Why? A leader doesn’t have all the answers but should surround himself with people who do. Continue Reading

10 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Customer Centricity

We all know that adopting a customer-first strategy is essential for business growth and profitability. However, customer centricity has become even more important today, as a result of all the changes in our customers’ behaviour following the global covid lockdown. We are now even more impatient and demanding of businesses, and quick to complain publicly when things go wrong, or rather when we are not totally satisfied.

All companies need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation. But I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re in this situation yourself, then this article is for you. In it I share ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to an improved customer-first strategy.

 

#1 Review & Revise the Description of your Target Audience

Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to speak about personas or avatars.

Complete this 4W persona template for customer centricityIs it as complete as it should be? If not, then regular readers will know about and probably use the C3Centricity 4W™ template for storing all this information. You can download it and get the accompanying workbook for free here.

In your avatar, you must include not only your customers’ demographics and consumption / purchasing habits, but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to purchase and use your brand.

 

#2 Assess the Optimum Way of Connecting with Your Customers

Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect?

Review how you communicate with your customers and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?

Obviously the second is what it should be. You can learn far more about your customers by listening, especially when they are ready to share their information with you.

For an original take on engaging your customers see “You’re missing out on a Free Communication Channel!” (Any guesses what it is?)

 

#3 Identify the Needs Your Brand is Addressing

Maslow's hierarchy of needsDo you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?

They certainly have more than one need, but you must identify and address only one at a time.

If you attempt to address more than one and especially if they are not sequential, your customer may be confused.

Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them, will leave your customers perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their needs and objectives.

Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying cultures with similar levels of a specific need. Continue Reading

What a Customer First Strategy Means Post Pandemic

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?

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. Continue Reading

7 Reasons for Failure When Adopting a Customer First Strategy

By now, every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus is the answer to many of their business challenges. Why therefore do so many companies still struggle to adopt a customer-first strategy and culture?

Read on for my own thoughts and perspectives on what should be a top company objective which results in proven business success. 

I provide answers to the seven main reasons why companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy; which one are you struggling with today?

 

1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what nor how the organisation will change

While it is essential that a customer-first strategy has a board-level sponsor, it is important that every employee understands their role in making it happen. It should not be treated as just another project but as a long-term company top 3 objective.

When this happens, every division is obliged to see how they will be impacted and what part they will play in meeting it. This is one area where the CEO can’t set it and forget it. He/she needs to be regularly informed of progress and then ask “awkward” questions to ensure that everyone is truly embracing it. Without company-wide support, it will never succeed.

In August of last year, the Business Roundtable, which is an association of over 180 CEOs leading US companies, agreed to put people before profits. They specifically said they would be:

  1. Delivering value to our customers.
  2. Investing in our employees.
  3. Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers.
  4. Supporting the communities in which we work.

With many organisations now struggling with the impact of covid-19, it will be interesting to see whether they will have all moved forward on these objectives one year later. For more details on this announcement I suggest you read the Forbes article.

 

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

As mentioned above, everyone has a role to play in satisfying and delighting the customer. It is not the job of marketing, sales or market research alone to understand their needs. It is vital that each employee thinks customer first and ensures that every action and decision they make is customer centric.

One easy way to do this is to ask this question at the end of every meeting:

“what would our customers think of the decision we just made?”

If there is something they wouldn’t like or you know that you yourself wouldn’t approve of, then it needs to be reconsidered.

I would also suggest reading the recent post “7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service.” It includes seven recommendations so that everyone in an organisation can treat the customer with the respect and great service they deserve.

 

 

7. They think it costs too much

While this may be the perception, in reality, it costs a lot more NOT to adopt a customer-first strategy. It makes both business sense AND customer sense.

There has been so much research done on the impact of adopting a customer- first strategy that there is no doubt that it provides a positive ROI (return on investment):

  • Walker found that 86% of buyers would pay more for a better experience.
Continue Reading

How Marketers Can Benefit From More Than Technology: Modern Marketing

Just like most entrepreneurs and business people, I go to my fair share of conferences. I believe that marketers can benefit from being regularly challenged by new thinking and ideas.

One that stays in my memory for many reasons, was an event I attended in San Jose, California. Some say California is the centre of internet marketing; the San Francisco area for technology and San Diego for marketing. I tend to agree after having recently attended events in both cities.

The conference that changed many of my views on modern marketing was one about how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. It is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can relinquish our well-established thoughts and actions to make our businesses grow more profitably. If this is of interest to you too, then read on.

 

HEART-CENTERED VERSUS CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

The conference I attended in San Jose was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world. People who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity. I love to support companies that want to put their customers at the heart of their businesses.

So you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After the conference, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.

As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go even further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.

Creating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market. Reliance Jio, Merck and Bank of America lead the way according to the Fortune “Change the World” List.

If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested in reading an article on “Innovation and Creating Shared Value”, which I was invited to contribute to one of the first issues of the Journal of Creating Value. I will also be speaking at the 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value in New York later this year. So let me know if you too will be attending and we can meet up.

 

CUSTOMER FIRST EXAMPLES

But back to defining the types of business. Which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet?

Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet your customers? That’s a dangerous thing to do as you may be limiting your brand’s potential. Here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:

 

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic then I would highly recommend you follow Steve Aitchison, as well as read a wonderful guest post there by Kathryn Sandford called “ 3 Strategies to master the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back in life.”  Continue Reading

How Well Do you Know Your Customers? 13 Questions your Boss Expects you to Answer

Be a true leader; share this post with the members of your team who need the inspiration and support.


Your boss expects you to be able to answer all his questions and especially to know your customers. Here are the 13 things your boss is likely to ask you and a handy Checklist to prove to him that you know your customers better than he realises.

Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really? The following is a checklist of 13 facts you need to be able to answer in order to know your customers as well as you should.

As you read the post, keep tabs on your answers and share your final score below. I’m offering a personal 50% discount code to spend in store for everyone who publishes their score here in July 2018. And if you’re the boss, I’d love to hear how well you think your team would do – 100% of course, no?!

 

 

#1. Who is your customer?

C3Centricity how well do you know your customerOK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you really know about them?

Their age, gender and location are the basics, but there’s a lot more you need to know about them. Check out12 things you need to know about your target customers for more on what you need to know to be able to describe them in the depth your boss expects.

The C3Centricity 4W™ Template is a great resource for storing all the information you have on your customer. Download a free copy and watch the related videos HERE.

 

 

#2. What business are you in?

Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customers. Many organisations are working with industry definitions rather than customer ones. What about you? If you want to know your customers, you need to understand what category they think they are buying.

This is one of the essential elements you need to understand in order to know your customers deeply. It is something that many organisations don’t take the time to clearly identify, which results in an incorrect appreciation of their market and competitors. By not correctly identifying the category you are in, or plan to enter, your innovations will also lack the success you are hoping for.

For instance, are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? One of my clients wanted to launch a fruit flavoured soft drink and thought they were competing with other soft drinks. When we worked together we discovered that they were actually competing in the energy drink business!

How many of your brands are not competing where you thought they were? See How to Innovate better than Apple for more on this topic. Continue Reading

Why You Struggle To Meet Your Business Objectives (And how to Crush them)

“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”

I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you? 

Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.

In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.

Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.

This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:

  • Grow our market share to X%
  • Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
  • Launch three new brand variants

All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.

Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.

Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:

1. Who are you targeting?

Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes, you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no one!

“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”

2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?

In order to attract your competitors’ customers, you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.

3. What reason might make them consider switching?

If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?

4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?

Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Continue Reading

Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees

Your customers only really care about themselves and your product’s value to them!

I’ve been a customer champion for most of my career. But with the likes of Richard Branson saying it’s employees first, customers second, my confidence was beginning to slide a little.

Thank goodness, therefore, for some new research from Global RepTrak® that has finally confirmed what I have always believed. Customers care about themselves first and foremost! Everyone else comes second.

Dale Carnegie spelled it out really well when he said:

“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”

It was the below chart that I first saw on MarketingCharts.com that alerted me to this work by RepTrak™. (I highly recommend signing up for their daily charts by the way; they’re a great source of facts and inspiration!)

 

 

The article that accompanies the chart is a great read too. However, I wanted to take a look behind these numbers and try to understand why some influencers have been pushing employee centricity.

 

Products And Services Are Key

The first four factors of reputation shown in the graph above are all product related. Therefore it’s clear that customers think about themselves first and foremost. They want satisfaction and therefore it’s a product’s value that matters most. I think that’s normal, don’t you? They are looking for a solution that meets their needs and a company that stands behind what they offer.

Great customer service won’t make up for a terrible product or service offer. So every organisation needs to ensure that what they propose is the very best they possibly can.

However, it is also true that the quality and value you offer depends to a large extent on the excellence of your employees in delivering it. If employees are not motivated to give their best, then what they deliver will be sub-optimal.

This is why it is essential that everyone within a company understands their role in satisfying the customer.

One of the quickest ways I have found to achieve this is by providing regular access to the customer. Once an employee sees and understands what they can do to increase satisfaction, they are much more likely to do it. After all, it’s absurd to think that they would want their employer to fail, isn’t it? In fact, I have seen a genuine excitement around customer connections whenever I have introduced them within an organisation.

If you’d like to organise your own customer connection sessions then I highly recommend reading “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

 

Employees Are An Important Touchpoint

I think it was P&G who coined the phrase “the first moment of truth” in referring to the beginning of the shopping experience. I would, therefore, add employees, at least in retail and other consumer-facing industries, as being a close second. However, the vast majority of products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with their customers. Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

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