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Fundamentals of a Customer First Strategy For Every Industry

Every industry strives to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore in many company objectives. Unfortunately it rarely goes beyond the theory in many 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.  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.

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 for hospitality! While I empathise, it’s not all bad news. This is because it also means that great service will also be more quickly seen 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). 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. 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.

#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 relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the 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 @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#2. Build relationships with strangers

Whilst the hospitality industry has been 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, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract.

This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to share them with their friends on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these potential clients, since they probably have similar lifestyles to their current guests.

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. Research from Forbes shows that 81% of consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.

For some great examples of successful UGC campaigns, I highly recommend checking out this article on Wedevs. You may also want to readThe Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation.”

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#3. Value is more important than price

Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing.

The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions, preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element. Several brands have understood this and now offer the customer the possibility to define their own, personal bundle of options. Liberty Mutual is one such example of this.

According to research by Walker, 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a better experience. So don’t get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you.

To learn more about pricing and value check out “Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay.”

Don't get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#4. Renovation is more than for buildings

Most CPG companies have targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services.

For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to understand better how they excel at understanding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba’s Facebook page?

If you want more ideas on innovating, then read “A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation.”

 

#5. Loyalty is never really won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. #Customer #CEX #CRM #Satisfaction @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#6. Dialogue, don’t just communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers.

We must have 24/7 monitoring if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Engagement @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a presentation 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 too struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information about our services and training courses, or contact us here.

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

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

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

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

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

“Organisations are drowning in data and thirsting for insights”

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

I call it CatSight™

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C = Category

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

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

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

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

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

 

A = Aim

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

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

For instance:

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

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

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

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

 

How can I expand my business?

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

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

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

T = Target

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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


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


S = Supporters 

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

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

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

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

 

I = Intimacy

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

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

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

 

G = Gap Filling

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

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

 

HT = Human Truth

A human truth is a

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

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

Some simple examples are:

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

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

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

An Offer You Can’t Refuse!

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

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

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

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

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

What a Customer First Strategy Means Today (Why Your Company Needs to Recenter Behind It)

Listen on Apple Podcasts

“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”

 

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

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

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

Reasons for having a customer-first strategy

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

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

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

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


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

get on the webinar

 

Marketing are too busy building brands

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

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that "only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information." 

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

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

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

"We're drowning in data but thirsting for insights."

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a and-sales/#3fdc714521cf">Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to "which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value." It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?

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

 

ESOMAR MR industry growthTrends in ad spend

 

 

But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. and.me/state-of-branding-report-2017/">(OnBrand Magazine study) In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

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

 

CMOs need more analytical skills

Marketing team skills needed

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

 

Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment

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

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

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

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

Customer services are seen as complaint handlers

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

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

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

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called " and-customer-experience-cx-trends-for-2017/#415839175e58">Ten Customer Service And Customer Experience Trends For 2017" details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that "According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard."

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

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

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

 

In conclusion

So to answer the title of this article, a customer first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind this company-wide objective. It can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee to think customer first.

 

It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights.
And it will mean every employee having the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

 

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then let's discuss how you can identify the priority changes needed through our proprietary C3C Evaluator tool. Book a free half-hour strategy session and we will send you the link.

 

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