7 Reasons Why Your Customer First Strategy Adoption Will Fail!

Every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus can be the answer to many – dare I say most? – of their business challenges!

So why do so many companies continue to struggle in successfully adopting a customer-first strategy and culture?

Here are the seven main reasons why companies fail to effectively adopt a customer first strategy; which one are you struggling with the most 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 for one department to complete, but as a long-term, top 3 company objective.

When this happens, every division is driven to identify how their actions will impact their customers and what part they will play in meeting this important company objective.

This is one area where the CEO can’t set it and forget it. He/she needs to be regularly informed of progress and should ask some “awkward” questions to ensure that everyone is truly embracing the objective. Without this company-wide support, the strategy will never succeed.

The CEO needs to ask the awkward questions that ensure everyone is embracing a customer-first strategy. #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Customer Click To Tweet

A few years ago, 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 to recover from the impact of covid-19, it is interesting to see whether they have all moved forward on these objectives.

The Business Roundtable updated their results one year later. In the summary you can read HERE they say:

One year later – through a period of unprecedented crises – companies have demonstrated a commitment to the values embedded in the Statement.

 

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.

What would our customers think of the decision we just made? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Customer Click To Tweet

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.
  • Genesys showed that improving the experience for customers is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales.
  • Deloitte and Touch claim that customer centric companies are 60% more profitable.
  • Bain & Company research shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by between 25% and 95%.

These numbers should be sufficient to convince every CEO that a customer-first strategy is worth investing in. In fact, it is an essential strategy every CEO would be wise to adopt, no matter what industry they are in. So what are you or your CEO waiting for? Did I miss a different problem you are currently facing? What other challenges have you faced or are now facing in adopting a customer-first strategy? Please let me know by adding your comments below.

If you would like to know what support we can provide in helping you to adopt a customer first strategy, check out our website then contact us here:

https://c3centricity.com/contact

 

Essentials of a Customer First Strategy Every Industry Needs to Adopt

Every business should strive to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore often mentioned as a company objective. Unfortunately, it rarely goes beyond the theory in most organisations, so I decided to help out with these six suggestions.

Hospitality is perhaps one of the most visible industries where customer satisfaction, or lack of, is quickly shared with the world.  (Read my last post for more on this)

It is true that without satisfaction, customers will not return to a hotel or restaurant. And they will almost certainly share their (bad) experiences with anyone who will listen – including online!

Hospitality is also one of the industries that receives the most comments online, thanks to TripAdvisor and other booking sites. There is no hiding from their clients!

Now while I empathise, this is not all bad news. Because it means that great service will also be more quickly known about online. Therefore you can make changes and see the results almost immediately, or at least far quicker than in most other businesses.

However, despite this, I believe that the hospitality industry has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG) where improvements take the consumer longer to appreciate. In fact most other industries could benefit from taking a look at some of CPG’s best-in-class processes.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart; after all it’s in their name. They are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer.

However, as the world changes, customer demands do too and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these requirements, in order to ensure continued growth.

 

The 6 essentials of a customer first strategy

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationship metric. While I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the author of the once popular book that started talking about brand love, who wants to have a relationship with a brand?!

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. They become involved and interested in the brand, the product, their website, even their communications.

Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this. You should also check out another post entitles Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing.”

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. #CEX #CRM #Engagement Click To Tweet

 

#2. Building Relationships with Strangers

While the hospitality industry is based on serving and satisfying its guests, in today’s connected world, it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but who could potentially become clients.

These might be the friends of current guests, who for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract. Let me explain.

 

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a talk I gave to the faculty of a world- renowned hospitality school. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, I am happy to share it. Just email me with your details and what your biggest business challenge is currently in adopting a customer first strategy.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to catalyse your growth. Check out our website for more information about our services and training programs, then contact us here.

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. A few years ago they introduced a new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why these speed cameras seem to be so effective. It’s simple; they’re customer centric! The Swiss police have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share more about this story here.

 

Background

Police speed camera
Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many (dare I say most?) countries, is because of their insidious speed controls.

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 source: 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 in your own area.

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.

speed radar warning
Image source: Pixabay

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 actually installed.

A driver’s behaviour when passing this type of installation, tends to be the following. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and probably over the speed limit. Then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the maximum speed allowed. They then speed up again to continue along the road at their previous faster pace.

This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. In fact, 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 left, 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!

In Switzerland they did try painting the cameras to make them stand out in a fun way. The Emmental cheese on the right used to be close to Geneva airport, but I have seen giraffes and other designs here too. Of course I have also seen other radars that have been painted, but these were done by angry motorists!

 

Temporary radars

Temporary radars have a similar function to the permanent ones, but it usually takes a day or two for drivers to become aware of their location. Their reactions will then be similar to the permanent radars, with the slowing down before and the speeding up after the radar has been passed.

This is not good for traffic fluidity, nor for slowing it down. And the drivers’ reactions if flashed will be just the same as with the permanent installations. Again, not good for making the roads safer by slowing down the traffic, and clearly not a demonstration of a customer first strategy.

 

Laser speed guns

Police laser gun
Image source: Wikipedia

These are probably the most hated form of speed control 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 having a positive influence on behaviour?

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 and make the roads safer for everyone. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit along a larger portion of the road, 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 like.

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 you happy and loyal customers who become advocates for your brand.

I dedicated a whole post to the ways that companies try to cheat their customers. If you’d like to read it click on this link and see many more ways of cheating the customer that you should avoid: “https://c3centricity.com/how-to-cheat-your-customers/”

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 like. Click To Tweet

If you don’t want to cheat your customers – and who would as it is not a viable long-term business model? – then you must objectively evaluate your current practices. Ask yourself what you want your customers to think and feel about your brand. What are the objectives you have for your business and your customers? What changes in your customers’ attitude or behaviour are you looking to encourage? How does your brand provide a solution to your customers? 

These questions are just a small selection that we use in our highly successful 7-step insight development process that is called CATSIGHT™.

If you’d like to know more about it, or get trained in insight-development and adopting a customer first strategy, then check out our new courses in the C3Centricity Academy. You could learn how to develop actionable business insights in under two hours!

Are You Giving What Customers Want Today?

As a dedicated customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want, just like you do too, I hope. In this period of great global unrest, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.

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

To help me keep abreast of the changes, I’m regularly checking online searches for such terms as customer service, customer satisfaction and customer care. Google and Bing have become some of my best friends!

A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post when I first drafted it. But with the incredibly unforeseen events of the past few years, I feel it deserves a update.

Already at the time, my analysis suggested a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent time putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic, global unrest in which companies are trying to do business. I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts once you have read the article.

 

Customer Centricity

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

Gartner defines customer centricity as:

“The ability of people in an organisation to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations.”

It then goes on to say:

“Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”

What I particularly like about this definition, is that it refers to customer understanding and the need for customers to be the focus of decision-making. It also highlights the need to create not just customer satisfaction, but loyalty and advocacy too.

Now whereas it seems to be difficult to build longterm loyalty these days, especially in B2C businesses, advocacy is essential in today’s connected world. Of course the latter means that customers are surprised and delighted rather than just satisfied, so that they are excited to share their positive experiences with others.


Need help in adopting a customer-first strategy?

Check out our Brand Accelerator™ Course in the C3Centricity Academy


Aim for Advocacy Rather than Loyalty

As we all know, it costs between 5 and 25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain existing ones. (Invesp) Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand. But covid saw us all changing our purchasing behaviours, as we researched, compared and then bought more online. So although loyalty is difficult, it is not impossible to achieve and luckily advocacy demands the same positive experiences that once led to customer loyalty. So we should be aiming for improved customer service and experiences.

A positive customer experience increases both loyalty and advocacy. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity #CustomerFirst #Loyalty #Advocacy Click To Tweet

Of course, what customers are looking for in a company has also changed dramatically. They now expect organisations to provide more than just their products and services. They expect them to care for their employees as well as the communities in which they do business.

 

Customer Experience is the New Differentiator

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.

Do you fix your prices to Amazon if a customer shows interest in buying something but hesitates purchasing in store? Many retail chains do this, especially in durables.

Another important consideration is making the customer’s experience as seamless as possible as their journey takes them r=from online to offline and back.

The experience you provide your customers is the main – dare I say the only? – way to differentiate yourself today. In so many industries product performance and services have become almost indistinguishable.

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 what are you waiting for? 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 recently 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 if your organisation is looking to reduce costs!

What customers are looking for in a company has changed dramatically in just a few months. Do you know how their adapted behaviour is impacting your brand? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

 

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 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. They are super-focused on their customer.

2. Feelings are more important than fact. It’s also no longer (just) about product and service performance. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands and start-ups understand this better than anyone. And the pandemic further accentuated the importance of feelings and emotions. Many of us have become over-sensitive, even depressed, after months of lockdown and trying to follow the ongoing, constantly changing regulations. We want to feel good about our decisions and expect brands to play an active role in making our lives better.

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 for businesses to cope with, the increased level of layoffs and furloughs, are forcing customers to reconsider their spending, and think about cheaper alternatives that they may never have previously considered.

3. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they truly are? Acting promptly before an issue becomes yet one more social media overnight viral 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 for it, 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

4. 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.”

 

The Future of Customer Service

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, although the latter has flattened in the past couple of years. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

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 About What Customers Want

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.

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.

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? Click To Tweet

 

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
A 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Bain & Co) What' stopping you? Click To Tweet

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. 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.” 

 

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. (IBM/CIG) Click To Tweet

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

According to Forrester, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance, is the desire to generate insights. Click To Tweet

It disappoints me that despite the constant flow of data into companies most companies 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 also 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 too, 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 6% in 2021 and is expected to grow around 8% this year. As the graph below shows, these are the first increases after several years of stagnation.

 

 

Global Market Research Revenue Growth
Source: Statista

 

Now compare this to the more than 22% increase recorded for ad spend in 2021!

Global ad industry trends

 

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.

New customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways CMOs use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts. Click To Tweet

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!

 

Marketing's greatest strengths

Important marketing team skills

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 its 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 answers and not just the mere statistics researchers 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 often not very sociable, speak a language others don’t always understand and yet they also seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.

I believe the issue of lack of recognition is due to researchers themselves, who are afraid to voice their own opinions let alone make recommendations. #MRX Click To Tweet

This was 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 telephone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle are the only ones who had this image at that time, now more than a decade ago. Have things changed since? Not much in my opinion. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations today, which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make those much needed improvements.

You only have to 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. And recent Temkins research concluded that SaaS companies can expect to double their revenue within 36 months of adopting a CEX strategy.

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

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.
This 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 regularly get up close and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role that they play in satisfying and delighting them. After all, that’s what we all want, whether we are buyer or seller isn’t it?

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out the C3Centricity website for your first steps. Also, why not answer our free mini C3C Evaluator tool (https://www.c3centricity.com) and see just how good your customer-first strategy really is? It’s always better to know from where you’re starting and what changes to prioritise in order to have the most and fastest impact!

The Exciting Future of Brand Building comes from 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! Marketing had to find ways to stimulate more inbound engagements, but how?

However, after trying multiple inbound marketing strategies, they find that 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. At least those will soon be a thing of the past!

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 that you leave your position when you want to and not on your CEO’s terms.

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.

A more recent change is bringing more marketing tasks in-house, as P&G has done. Read more here. While this certainly saves a considerable part of their budget, the biggest advantage from my perspective, is that these companies automatically learn more about their customers’ behaviour. When you are planning communication campaigns and deciding on ad spend, you need to understand where your customers are and when they are most open to receiving your messages. That for me is far more valuable than any savings on agency costs. What do you think?

Even without making such a drastic move, many other consumer goods companies have 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 businesses. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey where you are accompanying your customers with the aim to satisfy and delight them, however they change.

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

One of the issues that has been created by marketing is that I believe 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, all too often repeated with few changes from one year to the next. As a result they have regular promotions, so our customers understand this and just wait for the next price offs before buying, whenever they can.

Our customers also realise that advertising highlights changes that in reality don’t exist between brands other than in terms of image. In today’s world, products and services have become more and more similar from one company to another. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance and benefits.

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. Just take a look at these statistics from the US.

 

Consumers changing behaviour

What this research also highlights is a change in shopping behaviour, far more complex than just moving purchases online. Customers are open to changing and have become far more comfortable with adapting to new ideas.

They now expect constant innovation which becomes difficult to satisfy, since they quickly adjust 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!

These are your seven starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building, to a more customer centric approach to customer satisfaction and delight. Every single one of them has your customer at the heart of them. Are they any others that you’d like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can on my own, so please share them below in the comments and let your knowledge shine!

If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age, customer-first 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 its roadmap annually. It’s fun, inspiring and a useful way to track your customer centric journey. 

And as I said earlier, if you’re interested in up-skilling your team, then we can provide fun course on many areas of customer centricity, both online and offline. Download our training brochure now and contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our trainings are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

Top 10 Most Popular Articles on Customer Centricity of 2021

Happy New Year to all you Customer-first strategists. May your year by bright and your customers surprised and delighted!

Each January we like to celebrate our most popular posts on customer centricity that were published on C3Centricity during the year. Just like 2020, covid has forced all of us to be a little more creative and a little less demanding in our work.

Here at C3Centricity, we reviewed and updated many of our cornerstone, evergreen articles, so you may recognise a few of them from last year in this list. However, they still make great reading and a reminder that we’re all in business to satisfy and delight our customers. And if you’d like a surprise too, then I have one for you at the end of the post. Enjoy!

 

#1. The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

Show you respect your customersThis is another evergreen post that has been popular amongst our readers for several years. It has moved from second position, to take the top spot in 2021. The article shows you how to connect with your customers and gather their information.

It also has some tips on how to build a good relationship with them and respectfully let them leave if they no longer want to connect with you. Making it hard for them just makes you lose image.

If you’re ready to adopt a customer-first strategy, check out our online course on the topic HERE.

 

#2. Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

Measure your company image

This post has been amongst the top articles on C3Centricity for many years. It is regularly updated so it remains highly relevant in today’s marketplace.

Its popularity clearly shows the need we all have to understand how to get up close and personal with our customers – the right way.

The 5 rules it includes are easy to follow and will make every occasion to watch and listen to your customers so much more interesting and valuable.

And if you want to learn how to watch and listen more effectively to your customers, then check out our training courses HERE

 

#3. Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Boost your insight developmentThis post remains the third most popular one on C3Centricity. Ever wondered why you struggle to develop actionable insights? This post shares some of the main reasons why even large companies fail at this essential art.

Insights are the foundation on which every single successful brand is built. If your brands are lacking strong positive growth, they are probably missing that insight that will make them powerhouses.

So it is vital that you learn how to develop them and then how to action them in your communications and innovation. Again, if you struggle to action your insights, you’re most certainly missing one of the steps covered in this post.

To stimulate your thinking, the article includes many real-world examples of how great insights can be turned into powerful ad campaigns that connect with customers and motivate them to buy.

If you’re ready to finally learn how to develop actionable business insights, check out our online course on the topic HERE.

 

#4. How to Map Your Customer Journey & Overlay their Emotions

Customer journey map

The popularity of this post highlights the importance for businesses to better understand their customers’ purchase journey as more buying went online.

Through a personal example the article includes three suggestions to improve your understanding of your customer journey mapping:

1. The customer journey map needs to integrate all possible contact points. If you miss even one, your map will be incomplete and your understanding will be lacking too.

2. If you mess up admit it AND correct it. Find a solution that is acceptable to your customer, not just the quick fix that suits you. And go further by not just satisfying but aim to surprise and delight them too.

3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy. Replacing a faulty product or service is what our customers expect. Offering free samples, a further discount, express delivery or additional attention is not. These are the small touches that surprise and delight and you will go from the bad guy to the cool guy.

And if you want to learn how to update your own customer journey maps, then check out our training courses HERE

 

#5. Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Customer centric packagingThis post remains in fifth position highlighting the importance of making packaging more than just the protection of  your product or giving it more impactful online presence.

The article shares many great examples from different industries including food, beauty, and even services such as bathroom facilities in airports.

The learnings will guide you in connecting with your users before, during and after purchase, and suggests ways to then keep them loyal to your brand.

And if you want to learn develop more customer-centric packs, or would like an audit of your current packaging, then please contact us HERE so we can discuss your options.  

 

#6. A Winning Marketing Plan: 9 Questions Every Marketer Should Be Able To Answer

Winning marketing plan is just a storyAnother new post appearing in the top ten this year explains how to develop winning marketing plans – not just for your business, but for your career too!

We all have to define our plans each year and get them approved by top management. This article discusses the 9 most commonly asked questions of executives and how you should answer them so they are not only satisfied by your replies, but impressed too. The questions are:

  1. Who are our brand’s customers?
  2. How much are our customers worth to us?
  3. What’s the return on our marketing budget?
  4. How much will we sell and what market share can we expect this year?
  5. What do our innovation plans for the brand look like?
  6. What do we know about our carbon footprint?
  7. How’s the competition doing?
  8. How’s our distribution these days?

Now you might be wondering where #9. is; well I leave you to check out the post to see, as it might surprise you.

And if you want to upgrade your own marketing plans, please contact us HERE so we can discuss your options.  

 

#7. How to Take Local Brands Global: The 5 Rules to Fortune

Brand image and great personalityA new entry in the top 10 this year, coming straight in at #6. The post shares five rules to follow to succeed taking a local brand to regional or global success. These include:

  1. Understanding the market and how it’s changing. Even if you are rolling out to geographically adjacent countries, the trends are not always the same, so it’s worth checking rather than assuming they’re similar.
  2. Understand the customer’s perspectives. The brand has a certain image which may be less relevant in your new target marketplace. Make sure you understand which elements are worth supporting and which others you should ignore. You may also find there are new elements of your brand that will appeal to your new market’s customers.
  3. Following on from the above, using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand what solution you are proposing to your new market and then base your brand on a relevant human truth.
  4. If you have taken advantage of heritage or country image in your local market, check whether or not they are relevant in the new country. Associations of French beauty or fashion, German automobiles or Italian food should be useable in many countries, but other categories may have local specificities not relevant outside their territory.
  5. Finally the category and how the products are used may vary widely by market. Never assume your new customers will use your brand in the same way.

As you can see, the recommendation on all points is to take time understanding the customers in your target market before rolling out. It is only when you have understood their similarities and differences can you decide whether or not your brand is likely to find success in the new country. Never fall into the trap of geographical proximity being a guarantee of similarity. These days it’s rarely the case.

And if you want to learn more about rolling out your successes regionally or globally, then please contact us HERE so we can discuss your options.  

 

#8. Brand Portfolio Secrets to Success (5 Things You Need to Know)

Customer centric brand buildingAnother evergreen entry in the top ten, down one place at #7, this post highlights some of the errors marketers make when wanting to expand their brands.

It concludes with 5 ideas to improve your brand portfolio management:

  1. If you offer a vast choice of variants, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
  2. Manage the corporate brand just like your other brands, especially if it appears prominently on packaging or communications.
  3. Ruthlessly cut the bottom 20% or your brand or service offerings. If you want to keep any of them, then you must have a good reason – such as that it’s a recent launch – and a planned budget to actively support them.
  4. Innovate less but bigger, bolder and better. Be more targeted with each innovation and include your consumers in their development.
  5. Be realistic in your distribution targets. Know what will sell where and why. Not only are you more likely to keep your share, but you’ll also make friends with your retailers.

And if you want an audit of your current portfolio to identify your new opportunities and current space-waster, then please contact us HERE so we can discuss your options.  

 

#9. How to Measure Customer Centricity the Right Way

This post has jumped from position #18 to #8 this year, which suggests an increased interest in customer centricity – which I am ecstatic about.

As the saying goes “what gets measured gets managed.” So assessing your progress when you adopt a customer-first strategy is important, very important. But how do you do it?

This post explains how to measure customer centricity and shares results from around the world. It concludes with a useful 7-point summary of the analysis shared in the article. It also gives a link for you to measure your customer-centricity – for FREE!  – so what are you waiting for?

If you’re ready to adopt a customer-first strategy, check out our online course on the topic HERE.

 

#10. The Good, Bad and Downright Ugly Parts of a Head of Marketing Job

The position of head of marketing has come under a lot of criticism in recent years and research shows that CEOs trust their CMO far less than most of his other board members. Perhaps that’s why the position has one of the shortest tenures, of less than three and a half years!

In addition the marketing budget has come under tougher scrutiny and marketing heads are being asked to prove the ROI of their investments.

The most influential CMOs recognize that their ultimate job is driving business growth. And to do that, they play a larger role, taking on additional responsibilities in areas as diverse as internal culture, talent, IT purchasing, and customer engagement. Talk about broadening their skill-set!

So here are a few ideas on how to prove that a CMO is worth far more than most board members realise.

  1. Mission and vision of the company. These are important for CMOs to understand, since it is their actions that will bring them to life, including the corporate brand as well! It is their role to ensure that all the brands in the current portfolio are a good fit for the company’s aspirations. And when this is not the case, they need to courage to admit it and then to make plans for moving them out.
  2. Once a CMO understands the company’s mission and vision, it’s important for them to evaluate how well these are integrated into the daily working of all employees.Dare to ask the naive questions of your peers and colleagues, so you have a global view of business from every department’s perspective.
  3. Every CMO has more information available to them than either they know, or can use. Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it. Find out what’s available then add AI and ML into the mix (sic) for more powerful marketing mix modelling.
  4. Creativity alone is no longer enough to be an excellent marketer. They need a whole list of other skills and the article lists 20 of the most important ones.
  5. All positions use processes and the head of marketing is no exception. Theirs should follow the six-step formula explained in the post: prioritise, strategise, structure, motivate, excite and lead.

If you would like to review your current Head of Marketing position, their strengths, opportunities and responsibilities, then please contact us HERE so we can discuss your options.  

 

So there you have them. Our ten most popular posts of 2021 on the topic of adopting a customer-first strategy. Did you find your own favourites among them? Did you see any that you missed or forgot about, and have now found useful after having had the chance to read them? They cover all the important aspects of customer-centricity, as well as the skills that you need to grow your brands faster and more profitably. So I think they are a great summary of all the important elements of adopting a customer-first strategy. 

Looking to 2022, I would love to hear what topics you would like me to cover. You can also share what challenges you think you will be facing in the coming year and where a little extra support would be useful to you.

If you’re in a hurry for you and your team to start working on one of your challenges right away, why not give me a call? I keep a few spots open every day to offer the opportunity for anyone to reach out for some free advice. I should be able to point you in the right direction towards a viable and fast solution to whatever you’re facing.

In the meantime, I wish you a happy, and above all healthy, New Year and even more success in 2022.

Don’t forget to Share this Post! Thanks.

Technology is not a Disruptor, but a Powerful Customer-First Strategy is!

Technology is often seen by marketing as a disruptor of business as usual, but it isn’t. Technology is in fact an enabler, at least when used properly and appropriately. So what is disrupting business as usual? It’s the customer, especially in industries that are not customer-centric.

Technology as enabler, not disruptor
Source: Marco Pacheco
Executive Director JP Morgan

It was 

I had already been speaking about the need for businesses to prepare for the dramatic change that was coming thanks to technological innovation. However, it was Pacheco’s slide that made me realise why I was so keen on companies adopting a customer-first strategy and running scenario planning.

His five simple examples brought it home more powerfully than I have ever done before. That’s why I wanted to share it with you. The summary says:

  • Netflix did not kill Blockbuster, ridiculous late fees did.
  • Uber did not kill the taxi business, limited taxi access and fare control did.
  • Apple did not kill the music industry, being forced to buy full-length albums did.
  • Amazon did not kill other retailers, bad customer service did.
  • Airbnb isn’t killing the hotel industry, limited availability and pricing options are.

In conclusion it states that:

“Technology by itself is not the real disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.”

That’s music to my ears!

Technology is not a Disruptor, but a Powerful Customer-First Strategy is! Click To Tweet

Looking again at the five examples he gives, there are a number of specific aspects of customer-centricity that are highlighted. In my opinion they show the following advantages for the customer:

  • freedom of choice
  • transparency
  • trust
  • being valued

If you don’t want to see your own industry fall victim to start-ups that better provide these, then now is the time to act. Or rather if you’re not already on your journey to adopting a customer-first strategy, you’re probably already seeing a slowing, if not actual decline, in your growth and profitability.

If you don't want to see your own industry fall victim to start-ups that better provide for customers, then now is the time to adopt a customer-first strategy. #startups #Business #Technology Click To Tweet

 

The Future of Many Industries is Unthinkable

By this I mean that change is happening so fast that it is difficult for organisations to even imagine the future. This is why I encourage my clients to develop plausible future scenarios, rather than merely follow trends. Only by doing so, can they be prepared for every possible risk and opportunity. Identifying one, most likely future is unlikely to deliver the variation that will no doubt happen. For more on this topic, read “5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)”

As I mentioned at the beginning, technology is an enabler that permits industries to provide more of what their customers want. There are already many examples of ones which have been helped or radically altered by technology and science. For example:

 

Verizon data revenueTELECOMS now make as much money from selling (geo-localisation) data than they ever did from selling phones and lines.

Already back in 2015, data accounted for 44% of Verizon’s profits, as shown in this Adage article.

Don’t you think their business model changed – dramatically – as a result of this? Of course it did!

In the 2015/17 period the Verizon group bought both AOL and Yahoo’s internet business. This was further proof of their prioritisation of data usage as they tried to access the digital advertising market quickly. But they made several mistakes.

These were both later sold in 2021 as part of their media group disposal, although they did retain a 10% share. During this five-year period, while their revenue has remained stable, their share price rose 25% confirming support of their new business model.

 

FOOD companies are shifting from machine-made to do-it-yourself meal-kits. In fact, to be precise, the industry is being ever-more disrupted by start-ups offering replacements to the mass-produced, less-than-healthy products that Nestle, Mondelez, Kraft Heinz and Danone have been churning out for decades.

Companies like Blue ApronGreen ChefHelloFreshMartha & Marley SpoonPlated, and Sun Basket all offer healthier and fresher alternatives.

In response to their challenge, the largest food manufacturers are trying to compete by lowering “bad” ingredients and increasing “good” ingredients in their mass-produced brands. However, take a look at what they are doing in detail and you will see that in most cases their “improved” products are no better for us. They still have far too much sugar, salt and trans fats, despite being reduced. They also still lack fresh ingredients, which we all know are far better for nourishing a living body.

BEVERAGES manufacturers are getting into entertainment in a big way. They have always sponsored or promoted events, bars and cafes. Coca-Cola is probably the best known for this with sponsorships including American Idol, Apple iTunes, BET Network, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, and the Olympic Games.

But some drinks manufacturers are going much further and have now started including media development too. As a great example, think about Red Bull which today is seen more as an entertainment company that just happens to make a drink!

TOBACCO AND CIGARETTE manufacturers have been fighting to protect, even save, their industry for decades. Andre Calantzopoulos, the former CEO of Philip Morris International, declared in a Radio 4 interview a few years ago that

“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products … to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes.”

Coming from one of the largest global cigarette manufacturers, this is huge! But he is (hopefully) right. The future of the tobacco business is in heating rather than burning it, at least short term. Longer term I believe they need to look to other ways of providing personal pleasure that does less harm to the user and to their environment.

 

PHARMACEUTICALS have for years been moving investment from sickness to wellness and health. An excellent article on the topic mentions that:

“The transition from current ‘high-risk, high-margin’ business model to ‘low cost high volume’ nutria business model is dependent on many factors and also advised to move into less regulated markets like animal and consumer health.”

The line between Food and Pharma is blurring as companies expand and invest in the “other side” of nutraceuticals.

The line between Food & Pharma is blurring as companies expand & invest into nutraceuticals. #Pharma #Tobacco #Cigarettes #Neutraceuticals Click To Tweet

Which will win out in the long run? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

TRANSPORT. Will there even be a viable automobile business in the future? How many manufacturers will survive as the market for personalised road transport collapses?

As people move from ownership to rental, and from self-drive to driven, the industry will need to move into alternative modes of transport to make up the shortfall in their businesses. What do you think?

McKinsey wrote a great analysis of the future of the industry that is worth a read. It summarises the opportunities and challenges as:

  • Focussing on digital, with digital sales offering contactless test-drives, and car home deliveries, that proved effective during the covid shutdown for one Chinese car manufacturer.
  • A shift to recurring revenue streams, since before covid, 34% of Generation Y consumers expressed a preference for rental and ridesharing products, showing how recurring revenue streams could become very important to automotive players.
  • Optimize asset deployment through strategic partnerships, as rapidly growing and hugely inventive tech players—from EV (Electric vehicles) makers to autonomous vehicle (AV) innovators challenge the slower-moving traditional automobile industry.
  • Embrace zero-based income statements, since the pandemic has devastated the auto-industry growth, which showed a 15% decline in 2020. This will catalyze much-needed changes such as the consolidation of production facilities, the elimination of low value-added activities and the reduction of investments in noncritical new assets.
  • Build resilience into the supply chain by using data and analytics-driven demand and supply-chain transparency, which will result in new, faster processes and more agile practices.
  • Establish a strong decision-making cadence which should include faster decision-making, execution discipline and clear accountability.

Although these came from an analysis of the automobile industry, I think that most of them apply to mostl industries going forward, don’t you?

 

Harnessing technology to enable companies to adopt a customer-first strategy

A 2016 Forrester report shows that while 72% of businesses say improving customer experience is their top priority, only 63% of marketers prioritize implementing technology investments that will help them reach this goal!

It therefore makes sense that I include in this post some of the best examples I have found to start you thinking about your own situation. (If you want to know just how good your customer-first strategy is, click the button below to find out.)

How are you harnessing technology to provide your customers with greater freedom of choice, trust, transparency and the demonstration that you value their business and loyalty? Here are some inspiring examples and ideas:

  • Amazon uses technology to identify suggested products to their clients. Many others have followed this great example and we are now bombarded with “people like you also bought…” proposals. Like it or loath it, they do come in useful occasionally, don’t they? It also shows that the company is using your data for your good and not theirs (alone).
  • Your websites can provide your customers with a wealth of information. It can also provide a platform for them to share their tips, ideas and associated facts which would be useful to other users, as well as ask questions. Petcare, Personal Care and Homecare br>ands make use of this in particular. Check out P&G and Mars Petcare for a couple of the best.
  • Insight development today uses more than information from market research. Therefore technology is used to enable quicker and deeper integration and analysis of all the information flowing into an organisation. Machine learning adds further value by understanding the relationships between the data which may have previously gone unnoticed. Many of the global CPG companies are going this, including Unilever and Coca-Cola.
  • Social Media has become the new customer services department because replies are almost instantaneous.  Pizza Hut is a great example of this, answering any customer complaints in record time. Other brands react more slowly and then feel the wrath of their customers who are today expecting immediate answers to their questions. Make sure that’s what you offer!
  • Chatbots are providing additional resources to the already overworked customer services departments. Findings from recent research in the UK show that many high street brands offering live chat and chatbot technology consistently performed better in customer sentiment analysis.

 

 

These are all examples of ways that are already being used so you can benefit from the experiences of others. But the world is moving fast and you need to also be exploring further new territories where technology can help.

The world is moving fast and you need to be exploring new territories where technology can help your business. #BusinessStrategy #Technology #FutureofBusiness #FutureTrends #NewTechnologies Click To Tweet

Earlier this year ZDNet highlighted five technologies that touched on technological changes that could impact customer service and experience. They were:

1. Two-way video

Tech priorities for customer experience

2. Augmented and virtual reality

3. Virtual assistants

4. Messaging

5. Connected devices

As you can see, all five technologies are enablers of improved customer satisfaction, which will lead to increased relationship building and trust. Customers view them as novel and useful today, but it won’t be too long before they are seen as the norm. Are you using them? If so, what experiences have you had, as I’d love to hear more about their uses?

 

Another recent article, this time on Jacada, spoke about the “4 Technology Trends set to Improve Customer Experience in 2017.” (See their diagram on the right) In it they highlighted ChatBots, Big Data analytics, Mobile customer support and messaging Apps.

In this article they pulled out the larger areas around how technology can help with mass connection and analysis of the resulting exchanges.

What both these articles highlight is the need for marketing to harness technology in order to build relationships with their customers. If they do so, they can set their brands apart from the competition. If you are not already doing so, then you have little time remaining to catch up before being left seriously behind.

It conclusion, it is clear that technology is an enabler and can and should be employed to improve the customers’ experience. We live in a fast-paced world where we expect instantaneous responses from brands, and information at our fingertips where and when we need it. Technology is the only way we can meet these increased customer demands, by collecting, analysing and then actioning the learnings from these contacts. 

Which of these are you working with today? I’d love you to share your experiences – good and bad – below.


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Interested in using technology to help you integrate multiple data sources and develop actionable insights? Then we should talk. Book time in my calendar for a complementary Advisory session.

Should CMOs Concentrate on Brand Building or Business Growth?

Do you remember when Coca-Cola did away with their CMO in favour of a Chief Growth Officer? Then two years later they brought back the position. At the time, I asked if they were wise or foolhardy to make such a change, but they answered the question themselves!

In an interview with Marketing Week, their global vice-president of creative claimed that it had “broadened” the company’s approach to marketing. Obviously, this didn’t live up to their optimistic expectations. I think that other companies who followed suit, also realised that they need a CMO after all. However, their role has changed significantly. 

 

HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’re like me and are fascinated by how change happens, then I’m sure this complete history of marketing Infographic by Hubspot will be of interest.

With the arrival of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Their consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated their consumers with spammy emails, popups and “subtle” cookies for following their every move. No wonder the EU felt inclined to develop its GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

What has changed over the past five years is marketing’s deeper awareness of, if not complete adherence to, what customers like and dislike. The major trends that we have seen and their impact on marketing, include:

  1. Chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to catch consumers on the go with highly personalised messaging.
  2. The use of voice. With the battle between Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the voice search and commands domain, customers can get answers just by asking. This is a huge challenge for businesses because being on the first page of search results is no longer enough; you have to be first!
  3. Video is taking over social media, with its rapid rise on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Influencer marketing is giving way to customer journey mapping with the increased detail that IoT can provide. Many organisations have moved their marketing plans to mirror their customers’ path to purchase. Or rather paths, as personalisation continues to trump mass engagement.
  5. Zero-party data. As social media platforms have seriously reduced the collection of their subscribers’ data, brands are increasing their direct engagements with their consumers. Through polls, quizzes and competitions, they openly ask for consumers’ details, bypassing the need for cookies.

Have you taken these megatrends on board and adapted your marketing accordingly? If not, why not? 

In order to survive many CMOs have adapted to such megatrends as chatbots, voice, video and zer-party data collection. Have you? #Brand #Marketing #Trends Click To Tweet

 

BRAND BUILDING

In the past decade or so, many large CPG companies such as P&G  and Nestle renamed their Marketing departments as Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. They failed, miserably.

I believe the reason they failed is that despite this name change, they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With very few exceptions, their communications are still all about them & their brands and very little to do with their consumers.

Luckily, some more progressive consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy today’s consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be precise, they started on their journey towards putting the consumer at the heart of their business.

You see, consumer centricity is a journey, not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. Therefore the aim for satisfaction and delight is continuous and never-ending.

Consumers are constantly changing & their satisfaction never lasts for long, so the aim for satisfaction & delight is continuous and never-ending. #brand #Marketing #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

WE HAVE TAUGHT OUR CUSTOMERS (TOO) WELL

People understand a lot more about “marketing” than we give them credit for. And certainly, a lot more than they did just a few years ago.

  • They know that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the price offs.
  • They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may be different, but their performances are pretty comparable. So the competition manufacturers see is not reflected in consumer habits. Loyalty has become a rare commodity!
  • They are far more likely to have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. And they are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand.
  • They have come to expect constant innovation, quickly adopt and adapt to the once novel idea, and then start searching for the next 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.

Consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago. @Accenture #CEX #CRM #Consumers #Marketing Click To Tweet

 

COVID AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOURS

As brands were adapting to the new savvy consumer, along came covid and consumer habits and behaviours changed dramatically.

According to a McKinsey report on “Reimagining marketing in the next normal” they observed six potentially important changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic. Some are just an acceleration of already existing trends, while others are new and only now emerging. Specifically, they mention:

1. Shopping: Catching up to the great digital migration to expand digital borders.

2. E-services: New “service platforms” to help consumers take care of business.

3. Home: Finding a spot in the new “command central” for all activities.

4. Community: Localizing the experiences.

5. Trust: Creating a space for health and affordability.

6. Purpose: Holding brands to higher standards.

To summarise, it appears that people have come to the realisation that they have more control of their lives than they ever did before. Customers now demand far more of companies than just the delivery of products and services.

They want clear proof that organisations can be trusted to deliver on their promises and that they care about their employees and the communities in which they operate, as well as their customers of course. Customer centricity becomes the only viable strategy to adopt and marketing needs to adapt to it.

 

Companies that place the customer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise.

  • Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact pages provide the customer with all possible ways to communicate with them.
  • Their advertising is clearly customer centric and emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero.
  • They involve and seek advice from their customers in many aspects of their business. (see  “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)
  • Their packaging is user-friendly and their products and services are easy to find and buy.

In every aspect of a customer centric organisation, the customer is clearly what drives each and every decision.


If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, especially the contact page. Or why not complete the mini C3C Evaluator? It’s free!


MOVING TO A NEW MARKETING

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently take, to adopt a customer-first strategy:

#1. Customer visibility. Place pictures of your customers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, on the lift doors or anywhere employees spend time.

#2. Customer validation. Whenever a decision is taken, ask

“What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken?” 

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the customers. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customers will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want. For more examples of such bad practices to avoid read “How to cheat the customer – or not!”

What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, it is wrong. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Business #Decision Click To Tweet

#3. Your website. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do.

And while you’re there, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Ensure that there is a customer reason for everything on your website; WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is the new customer mantra.

Should CMOs Concentrate on Brand Building or Business Growth? Click To Tweet

#4. Customer persona. Take a look at your target customer description or persona/avatar. When was it last updated? As previously mentioned, customers have changed dramatically in the last year, so your document needs to be upgraded with the addition of the major changes. In fact it should be a living document to which new information is added on a regular basis.

If you don’t even have a standard form that clearly describes them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free here)

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

#6. Customer connection. Spend time with your front-line staff and customers. Make use of call centres, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. These people will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.

#7. Employee focus. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help each employee understand the role they play in satisfying your customers. 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 starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to adopting a customer-first strategy.

So to answer the question I asked in the title, marketers should concentrate not only on brand building for business growth but most importantly of all, on their ever-changing customers. 

If you’d like more ideas and a clear roadmap for moving to a future-oriented marketing approach, then DOWNLOAD a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. 

This post is based upon and is a regularly updated version of an article first published on C3Centricity in 2016.

The Good, Bad and Downright Ugly Parts of a Head of Marketing Job

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Did you know that the average tenure of a Head of Marketing position continues to fall, reaching just 41 months according to the latest Spencer Stuart research published by the WSJ?

It is still one of the shortest average terms of office of any chief in the C-suite, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry. But one piece of good news in the past year is that although conditions for CMOs have become more difficult since the coronavirus pandemic, “In many cases, CMOs are not being removed, but it’s been pretty dramatic layoffs beneath them” said Greg Welch, practice leader for marketing, sales and communication at Spencer Stuart.

So just how long have you been in your position?

The Bad News

A global survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group provides one possible explanation for the continued decline in tenure. It highlights the ongoing tensions between CEOs and CMOs. A huge 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed with their CMOs, compared to just 10% for their CFOs and CIOs. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because CEOs don’t understand the role of a CMO or is there still an issue with the ROI of the marketing budget? I’ll let you be the judge of this in your own situation.

Another piece of research by HubSpot reported that Marketing as a career suffers credibility issues as well. It ranked the most trustworthy jobs, with Doctor ranking number one and near the bottom, just above Car Salesman and well below Barista, was “Marketer”. Car salesmen? Really? That is scandalous!

The Opportunities

Let’s start at the beginning. What opportunities are there, that marketers can keep their jobs? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, and while the position is plagued by high turnover, this could also be because CMOs are highly visible.

Therefore they can be targets for promotions or a steal by their industry competitors. Nice to feel wanted, isn’t it?

CMOs are highly visible, which is great for promotions or a steal by the competition. #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

It is understandably important that a new CMO quickly makes an impact. More so than any other c-suite function, bar the CEO of course, who sometimes faces almost immediate criticism by shareholders and the financial world, upon being named.

Another piece of good news for the head of the marketing function is that being on the executive board they have access to resources. The bad news is that as the CMO is a member of the EB, management expects them to make (profitable) changes fast.

And even more so if they have just been hired! The board trusts the new CMO to analyse the situation, identify what needs to be done, develop the plan to do it and then take actions. And all of this in their first 3 months or so!

Are you or have you yourself been in exactly this situation? Tough isn’t it?

That’s why many CMOs hire a supportive advisor or sounding board such as myself to accompany them on this stressful early part of their journey. (If you’d like to discuss opportunities of working with me, contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact)

In the meantime, here is what I would do if I were in the position of a new CMO, or one who is reaching their four-year breakpoint and is not ready to leave quite yet.

 

The Challenges

The latest Forbes research into the CMO function highlights three major areas where the head of marketing’s remit now goes far beyond the previous traditional, more creative areas.

In the report they mention three changes that CMOs are grappling with in an effort to impact both inside and outside their organisation:

  1. How the relationships between brands and customers have changed.  The most influential CMOs lead digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.
  2. How brands can offer the very best customer experience. Top CMOs are championing the voice of their customers and aligning their organizations around better customer experiences.
  3. How brands can become more human and approachable. CMOs are no longer afraid to raise their voice or take a stand on political and social issues – because that’s how they connect and build trust with their customers. Take a look at the Forbes list of The World’s Most Influential CMOs of 2019 to see inspiring examples of this.

The report concludes:

“The world’s most influential CMOs recognize that customer experience is the new brand, and inspire marketers everywhere to ask: How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people?”

How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people? @Forbes #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

So how should a Head of Marketing (CMO), whether a seasoned veteran or new to the job, tackle their business from a fresh perspective? I suggest looking at the following five areas. However, before delving into them, it is worth adding a comment. 

The most influential CMOs also recognize that their ultimate job is driving business growth. And to do that, effective CMOs play a larger role, taking on additional responsibilities in areas as diverse as internal culture, talent, IT purchasing, and customer engagement. Talk about broadening their skill-set!

So marketers, have I answered your question about how to keep your job? Are these five steps sufficient to make a difference? Personally, I think so – but only if they are followed with real actions and change.

After all, making an impact is the name of the game in any profession but especially for one that previously relied on creative juices alone. Do you agree? What changes are you making or would you like to see made in your own organisations?

 

Do you feel isolated and could do with an external perspective sometimes? Like some advice or new ideas to grow your business or team? Then we should talk. 

Top 20 Most Popular Customer Centricity Articles of 2020

Traditionally C3Centricity publishes a list of the most popular customer-centricity posts on its blog in January and this year is no exception, despite covid’s extraordinary impact on businesses the world over.

Many people were working from home this year, were you? If so, then I’m sure that because you avoided commuting most days, you had the chance to discover some new blogs and podcasts. If you are new to C3Centricity then welcome, glad you could join us. Many others just like you, found C3Centricity for the first time this year. Perhaps that’s the reason why we recorded an over 15% increase in our readership in 2020. Or maybe it is because the quality of our posts is always improving and we share more regularly. Either way, we’d like to thank you all for your support this past year.

In appreciation of your loyalty, we have summarised the top twenty articles we published in 2020, so you can check that you didn’t miss any, or remind yourself of their usefulness:

 

#1. Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

Measure your company image

This post has been amongst the top articles on C3Centricity for many years. It is regularly updated so it remains highly relevant in today’s marketplace. Its popularity clearly shows the need we all have to understand how to get up close and personal with our customers – the right way.

 

 

#2. The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

Show you respect your customersThis is another evergreen post that has been popular amongst our readers for several years. The article shows you how to connect with your customers and gather their information.

It also has some tips on how to build a good relationship with them and respectfully let them leave if they no longer want to connect with you. Making it hard for them just makes you lose image.

 

 

#3. Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Boost your insight developmentEver wondered why you struggle to develop actionable insights. This post shares some of the main reason why even large companies fail at this essential art.

It is also loaded with examples of how great insights can be turned into powerful ad campaigns that connect with customers and motivate them to buy.

 

 

#4. How to Map Your Customer Journey & Overlay their Emotions

Customer journey mapStarting from a personal experience in the hotel industry, this article shares the lessons learned that are applicable to all industries in how and why we all need to understand and follow our customers’ journey.

From thinking about buying the category to successfully turning purchasers into raving fans of our brands, this will improve your own customer journey mapping and guide you in correcting any weak spots in it.

 

 

#5. Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Customer centric packagingDo you consider packaging to be (just) a means of protecting your product and providing on-shelf presence? If so, then you are missing out on other valuable benefits you have probably never thought about.

Once again, it is filled with great examples and learning which will guide you in connecting with your users before, during and after purchase, as well as how to keep them loyal to your brand.

 

 

#6. Brand Portfolio Secrets to Success (5 Things You Need to Know)

Customer centric brand buildingUnless you only sell one brand with one product, you need to consider how everything you offer impacts your customers, both actual and potential.

In addition, your company name can play an important role if not the same as your brand name, when it appears on your packaging and promotional materials. Learn how to understand the relationship between the two names, something few have really thought about.

 

 

#7. 7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

Customer centric communicationsHow come with all the talk about the importance of customer satisfaction, many companies still get it wrong? Customer eccentricity is vital in today’s connected world where people rely on each other for opinions and experiences with brands.

This article shares seven essential learnings that came out of another personal experience that will make you laugh out loud! But it will also make you reconsider some of your own practices, I’m sure.

 

 

#8. What you need to know about Brand Image, Personality & Archetypes

Brand image and equityA more in-depth look at brand image than most articles usually go into, it includes how to measure it and how to conduct an in-depth analysis of the data.

The post covers all aspects of image, including a brand’s personality that is portrayed in its communications. It also shows how to identify its archetype, something else that few marketers have thought about, and will put you ahead of your competitors. Do you know how your brand is seen by category users? If not, this article will guide you in learning more.

 

 

#9. 7 Reasons for Failure When Adopting a Customer First Strategy

Your whole company needs to be customer centricDespite most organisations now recognising the importance of customer eccentricity, most still struggle to effectively adopt a customer-first strategy. Why?

There are many reasons for this which are worth reviewing. The article highlights the seven most common and most important ones, so you can avoid them or resolve them by following our suggestions.

 

 

#10. Is it Time to Do Away with Market Research Departments?

Customer Centricity starts with insightWhat’s your gut response to the title question about eliminating Market Research Departments? Yes? No? It depends? I am probably in the third camp.

No, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations. Yes, if it is the traditional market research department that merely provides simply analysed data from repetitive surveys shared in boring presentations. This post shares 10 steps to reinventing your market research department – so you never again have to ask this question.

 

 

 

#11. How to Improve Customer Centricity in Hospitality

Customer centricity in hospitality

The hospitality industry should be one of the most customer centric of any business, but it often isn’t. This may surprise you. After all, hospitality relies on satisfying its guests, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem?

This article shares six learnings from the consumer goods industry that can be applied to hospitality for the good of every customer. Of course, it is also a great read if you work in the CPG / FMCG industry.

 

 

#12. Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!Customer centricity make happy customers

We all know how extremely demanding customers have become. Businesses offer constant innovation and novelty, so this has made us all more impatient and critical.

Today we want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Companies need to deliver more, a lot more and this post includes some new and some not so new examples to inspire you.

 

 

#13. Why Technology Won’t Help You Understand Your Customers

Technology supports customer centricityAre you too hoping that technology and specifically artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will save your business? Well think again!

This article explains why technology will support but not replace good analysis and thinking. And of course even today, good decision-making starts by taking your customer’s perspective and asking the right questions of your data and information. How good are you at doing that?

 

 

#14. 10 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Customer Centricity

Customer centricity supports all customersWe all know that customer-centricity is essential; even more so these days with the lockdown in most countries due to the pandemic. Now more than ever, businesses need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation.

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 one of them, then this article is for you. It gives ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation’s path to an improved customer-first strategy and happier customers and employees.

 

 

#15. How to Measure Customer Centricity the Right Way

Customer centricity is all about timingAs the saying goes “what gets measured gets managed.” So assessing your progress when you adopt a customer-first strategy is important, very important. But how do you do it?

This post explains how to measure customer centricity and shares results from around the world. It concludes with a useful 7-point summary of the analysis shared in the article. It also gives a link for you to measure your customer-centricity – for FREE!  – so what are you waiting for?

 

 

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

Customer first strategy means thinking always about your customersThis post is available as an article or a podcast, your choice to read or listen to it. I explain that a customer-first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind customer-centricity as a company-wide objective.

While it will make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits, it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee for you to succeed with the initiative.

Adopting a customer-first strategy will also involve skill upgrades of both marketing and market research departments, to translate data and information into actionable insights. And it will mean every employee getting close up and personal with customers, so they understand the role they each play in satisfying and delighting them.

 

 

#17. How to Sell More to Less People: Essentials of Segmentation

Customer centricity means targeting a segmentBusinesses often make the mistake of trying to sell to everyone. But in most cases, this is a mistake, because if you try to please everyone you end up delighting no-one. This is why best-in-class marketing departments work with best-practice segmentation.

But what do you do if you don’t have the budget to run a full-blown segmentation study? This post shares simple and cheap ways to start identifying the most profitable customers for your offer. And then when you are selling and making more, you will have the money to refine your selection.

 

 

#18. Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

Marketing means more than just 5PsThis post has been regularly updated, as it remains both popular and an essential read for all marketers. It contains seven key questions to ask yourself, to ensure you have the best possible chance to achieve brand success.

From identifying the best customers for your offer to identifying the most profitable channels for distribution and communications, this article will enable you to prioritise the most impactful actions you can take to grow your brands more profitably.

 

 

#19. Getting to Yes: A 7-step Roadmap to Successful Project Management

Customer centricity includes project management skillsWe all run projects, some of us as a profession. So why do so many of them not achieve the promised results, or totally fail? There are many reasons for projects failing on their promises.

This post shares the main errors of project management and then identifies the seven essential steps that practically guarantee management support and your success of every project. Isn’t that what we all want and need?

 

 

#20. What Customer First Strategies Really Are (And What They’re Not!)

Customer centricity leads to greater customer satisfactionEveryone talks about adopting a customer-first strategy but many fail to be successful. Do you know why? Through numerous examples from businesses large and small, this article covers the five main skills that leaders need to be effective in the digital age.

Research shows that being ruthlessly customer eccentric is the first by a long margin, but the other four skills all support it. These include being more data-driven, being more innovative, being more collaborative and agile.

The post concludes with a reminder of the seven main reasons for many company’s failure, which are covered in detail in the post mentioned in #9 above. Read both for guaranteed success in adopting a customer-first strategy.

 

 

So there you have them. Our twenty most popular customer-centricity posts of the last twelve months. Did you find your own favourites among them? They cover all aspects of customer-centricity as well as the skills you need to grow your brands faster and more profitably.

Looking to 2021, I would love to hear what topics you would like me to cover and which are of particular interest to you. You can also share what challenges you think you will need support in facing in the coming twelve months. If you’re in a hurry for you and your team to start working on a solution right away, why not give me a call? I can point you in the right direction towards a viable and fast solution to whatever you are facing – and provide ongoing support whenever you need some help.

In the meantime, we wish you a happy, and above all healthy, New Year and even more success in 2021.

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Are Smart Things Really Smart or is it Just Smart Marketing?

Earlier this year I wrote about the impact of AI and ML on digital marketing. The article is called “AI and ML are Taking Digital Marketing to the Next Level.” In it, I compared the positive and negative implications of technology for customers and companies alike.  So this week I wanted to write about the impact of smart choices for business in general.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? 

The reason for my question is that an article entitled “Taking ‘Smart’ Out Of Smart Things” by Chuck Martin made me think about whether “smart things” really are that smart, or whether it’s something else that’s making them appear smart?

So here are my views on it. Feel free to add your own opinions in the comments below, I would love to start a discussion on “smartness”.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? Click To Tweet

 

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In one of their older Customer Experience reports Forrester claimed that we are now in the Age of the Customer. This was music to my ears when I first read it, because as you know I’m a customer champion. However, The World Economic Forum reported a few years ago that we are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolutionwhich is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

In their article, they explain that

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Does this mean that people are becoming less and less important as technology takes over more and more areas of our daily lives – and value? Luckily no. The author, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes the article by saying

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

So no panic; there will hopefully still be a place for people in this brave new world! But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have to adapt – and adapt quickly if we don’t want to be left behind. This will mean understanding what technology can and can’t do and then building our skills in the latter. 

 

Smart Data

In researching for this post I also found that “smart” is being attributed to many, many new areas and no longer just people. And this is thanks to the increased use of data, or as we now like to term it Big Data, and algorithms to analyse it all. 

Data gives us information about what to do, or more precisely, AI now controls many of the processes in which we are involved. Although humans are still smarter (for now?), machines can tell us things that we didn’t know, couldn’t work out for ourselves, or if we could, not as quickly.

AI and ML can recognise patterns in the data and then apply their “learnings” to future processes. You can read more about “What is Smart Manufacturing?” in this article from Industry Week.

It’s not that Big Data is smarter. While we certainly have more information and should be able to make a smarter use of it, unless we ask the right questions, it won’t make us any smarter!

Big data isn't smarter data. While we certainly have more of it and should be able to make a smarter use of it, unless we ask the right questions, it won't make us any smarter! #BigData #SmartData #Smart Click To Tweet

 

Smart Things or Lazy People?

Another aspect of smart things is that they make life easier for the user. This might suggest that people will become lazier if they don’t compensate for all the actions they no longer have to take during an average day.

Of course, those with fitness bands on their wrists, like myself, may just continue to do things manually for the increased statistics on our activity counter. We are also in constant competition to do better than we did yesterday. This article makes a good read on the topic.

But the average “Jo or Joe” will add more and more robots to do the manual work that they don’t want to do. So what will they do with all this new-found leisure time? Work more or play more? My bet, or rather hope, is for the latter!

With machines taking over the more menial tasks, we will be forced to make better use of our brains; after all, it’s the only thing that robots don’t have – for now at least! So are you training yourself to think more, improve your memory and polish up your analytical skills?

According to Korn Ferry’s 2019 CMO Pulse survey,

“As the champion of the customer, it is not surprising that CMOs cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority. What is concerning, however, is that while more than a third of the CMOs (35%) cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority, only 10% spend most of their time on optimizing the customer experience.”

Why? It’s simple:

“Customer centricity is the top priority for CMOs, but it is a significantly lower priority for the C-suite”

This might explain how CMOs are spending their time:

“67% of the CMOs surveyed said (they were) either driving revenue or driving strategy. The survey also found that 41% of CMOs see strategic thinking as the top capability gap they are focused on developing in their direct reports.”

So if you’re in marketing you’d better start honing these skills and not just your digital marketing, before the robot takes your seat! Smart people will realise and take action; the less-smart will wait and see. Which are you?

 

Smart Marketing is Responsible Marketing

If you do a Google search for smart marketing, you’ll get a lot of articles suggesting to use the old SMART objectives so popular with HR. You know, SMART is the mnemonic for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or relevant and time-based. And while these criteria can be just as applicable to our marketing goals, I think we deserve something a little more modern and relevant for today’s world, don’t you?

It’s wonderful to see that over the past decade, we’ve seen a huge increase in businesses becoming more responsible. Whether that is by looking after their employees better, supporting the region in which they are active, or through improved ecological and sustainable practices impacting the whole planet, companies have now recognised the importance of their place in the world beyond merely financial.

The current pandemic has now provided an additional opportunity for businesses to become even more responsible and show empathy as well. A great article  on Business2Community entitled “5 Ways to Do Smart & Responsible Marketing During COVID-19” summarises five ways companies can practice empathetic marketing:

  1. Adjust Marketing Campaigns and Scheduled Content Timelines
  2. Evaluate Your Imagery and Language
  3. Don’t Capitalize on the Crisis
  4. Be Positive, But Not Ignorant
  5. Highlight How Your Brand Can Help

But the pandemic will be over, eventually, so we need to consider continuing to practice responsible marketing in the years and decades to come. But what does that mean exactly and what will it mean in the future? I was fascinated to see just how many companies claim their marketing to be responsible, but then put a different meaning on it.

Perhaps for obvious reasons, the pharmaceutical industry talks about it more than do any other industry. For Merck, it simply means being ethical. But under that title, they include a lot of actions. These include reviewing all marketing materials, addressing violations to their standards and regulations, training their employees regularly, and limiting direct-to-consumer advertising. For a pharma company, the last one is particularly noteworthy, since many Europeans find the US approach to be somewhat shocking.

Bayer takes responsible marketing much further, highlighting the integrity of its marketing and sales in term of four commitments:

  • “To Comply with Laws, Regulations and Good Business Practices”
  • “To Be Honest and Reliable”
  • “To Listen Attentively and Communicate Appropriately”
  • “To Care about People, Safety and the Environment”

I love these statements, as they clearly apply to their employees as much as they do to their customers, clients, consumers. I also believe they sum up very well what responsible marketing should be all about.

If you work in B2B then I highly recommend your reading the article “Smart Marketing during the Covid-19 pandemic.” It’s full of both ideas and examples. In fact, even if you work in B2C I still believe you will find it useful for sparking new ideas in your thinking too.

 

So that’s my take on smart and responsible marketing. What do you think? What challenges and opportunities will smart things bring to marketing and business in general? Please add your comments below and let’s start a wave of smart discussions!

 

Winning Customer CentricityThis post includes concepts from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. 

It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

Want a discount code? Then email me at [email protected] and get the book almost half off!

 

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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