Customers are, in theory, at the centre of everything your company does. The products and services you develop, market, and sell are for the benefit of the customer, without whom the company wouldn’t survive.
In practice, though, the vast majority of people at your organization may not be spending much of their time engaging with customers or thinking about their needs. A report from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council found that “only 14% of marketers say that customer centricity is a hallmark of their companies.”
This how-to guide will help you make the customer the main character of your organization.
Step 1: Avoid Assumptions About the Customer
When it comes to what customers need, we often assume we already have all the answers. This leads to solving the wrong problems.
Making the wrong assumption is an avoidable problem: There's plenty of insight about your customers living within the organization. The question is whether the right information is being brought into the decision-making processes.
Step 2: Ask More Questions
We want to solve customers' problems, but jumping straight to solutions without fully understanding the problem leads to customers feeling unheard or being misunderstood.
Default to a position of curiosity with customers and ask more questions. The specific questions you need to ask will vary depending on your job function, but if you approach these conversations knowing that the customer is the expert on their own experience, you'll come away with valuable new insight.
Step 3: Build Customer Curiosity Into Your Processes
Are employees formally encouraged to think about the customer in their everyday work? The temptation to say, “I already know what the customer needs,” “The customer isn’t as important to this project,” or “I’ll just go with my gut” is strong. Major processes like product briefs and goal-setting, along with more granular processes across the organization, should include questions and steps that centre the customer. At the very least, these steps should be an invitation to slow down and think about the customer; in some cases, they may even be the basis for new customer research.
Step 4: Create Opportunities for Customer Visibility
Even with greater shared understanding and curiosity around the customer, “the customer” can still feel like an abstract concept rather than a human. The best remedy for this is to talk to customers face-to-face and get to know them as people. Employees that have roles in direct contact with customers are incredible resources for helping teams that don’t have that kind of direct access understand stories and hear from people on the front line of the customer experience.
Step 5: Recognize and Reward Customer-Centric Behaviour
Positively reinforce customer-centric behaviour by rewarding and recognizing it whenever it shows up. Effective recognition can be casual and small, like a private “thank you,” visible and grassroots, like a shout-out thread in a meeting or internal communications channel, or highly official, like an award at a company ceremony. All of these types of recognition signal to the organization that customer-centricity is valued.