C-Suite Lifestyle

The Future Of Business Is Customer-centric: 3 Pillars To Create A Customer-centric Strategy

Ilenia Vidili

In a world of implacable change and challenges we need businesses that care less about the brightest piece of their product and care more about the people inside and outside of their organisation.

For years companies have been focussed on selling as many products and services as possible to as many people as possible in order to maximise profit and gain the highest level of market share as possible. But regardless of the “as much as possible” target that companies have, if they are not able to acquire and retain customers, they won’t survive. This strategy seemed to have worked for some time but in the 21st century companies are under a lot of pressure for many different reasons, such as commoditization of products, more empowered consumers, lack of relevance in highly saturated marketplaces. Pete Fader, professor of marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says “This approach ignores customer heterogeneity and wastes valuable resources on chasing down product sales to anyone and everyone, at any cost.”

Companies have been trying to adopt customer-centricity for years now but are losing the battle to achieve it. Why are so many companies not getting the customer-centricity as right as they think? Companies face various barriers, from data overwhelm to lack of digital experiences but the most common is the lack of customer-focus. Companies that are focused on products and profits are obviously investing their time, initiatives and activities around those ends, meaning that the most important aspect, the customer, gets forgotten. Companies that forget customers are destined to fail.

Customer-centric brands instead build products that meet customer needs, invest in technologies and initiatives that keep customers advocating for the brand and align every team member on these goals. By understanding customer needs when building a specific product and by understanding how to create products that reduce customer time and effort, companies can shift their focus from product-centric to customer-centric. Companies should still care about their products but customers are one click away when they feel that they are not listened to, understood and not taken care of. Customer expectations have changed and will continue to change at an unprecedented velocity that businesses cannot control or predict.

To become truly customer-centric companies should make these 3 pillars the key drivers to creating their customer-focussed strategy.

Human Experiences 

Over recent years technological advancement has been providing us a world where technology is making our life easier, giving us convenience, community, information and connectivity but also leaving us with less human connection. Deloitte mentioned that organisations that go beyond delivering on customer experience to elevating the human experience will be better positioned to create more meaningful connections, foster loyalty, and ultimately drive growth. Creating a customer-centric strategy starts at the top, with a clear authentic purpose that is ingrained in every organisational process and individual.  Proactively optimising increasingly complex series of customer-brand interactions while designing a frictionless journey to ease, convenience and satisfaction is essential but should be defined by empathy, integrity and connection. In the age of automated and augmented intelligence it is critical more than ever for businesses to understand how to connect deeply with their customers by creating customer experiences that resonate on a human level. Building the brightest and quickest user interface is important but customers are humans and humans are filled with values, feelings and emotions which are the basis for what they look for in a brand. Humans are also the people who are internal to the organisation, and those people are employees who also have values, feelings and emotions. Happy and engaged employees create better customer experiences which leads to more loyal and satisfied customers, so brands should put human experiences at the centre of everything they do, both internally and externally. Tackling the power of technology and data to connect with customers on a human level, delivering consistent and authentic human experiences that connect in a personal way with every customer is the first key to the success of a customer-centric strategy.

Digital Experiences

It seems a paradox that in the 21st century only a few companies, even after years of digital transformation, have the technological capabilities to create fully-digitised experiences that customers expect. The influx, volume and speed in which customer data is generated is overwhelming organisations. COVID-19 has pushed the need for businesses to have a digital presence and consequently to be able to operationalise the data collected from it, which is becoming a make-or-break matter of this era. Consumers are also choosing convenient and easy to use online services such as artificial intelligence-powered chatbots as a medical tool that provides advice and assistance. These are now must-have digital transformation efforts that can no longer be avoided. A fully digital customer experience is the biggest challenge of this era and consumers are finding it easier and easier to switch brands otherwise. Infact a research conducted by McKinsey found that 36 percent of customers switched at least one product brand since the start of the pandemic and 33 percent switched to a different store or website.

Data analysis by advanced analytics tools are the basic ingredients for understanding how customers use products, which products and when. In-depth data analysis is the foundation to designing a customer-centric strategy which means proactively identifying and understanding the customer and their needs and desires. A full digitisation of customer experience can also ensure ease of use, convenience and an omnichannel experience, but the lack of it can generate high churn rate.

Customer-centric culture

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how well designed a digital experience is if a business is internally siloed and disconnected. Managing customer experience is a complex task so who should own it? How does it all work together? Customer-centricity comes from the most recent team member, to the back-end developers, to the customer-facing teams. Businesses should hire employees with the customer in mind, meaning that during the acquisition process prospects should be asked questions to understand their customer orientation. Kirsty Traill, Hootsuite’s VP Customer in an article by the Harvard Business Review mentions that this practice ensures that every new employee is aligned with customer-centric thinking. Customer insight should also be shared across the organisation to facilitate customer understanding as customer understanding should not be a task only for the marketing and sales departments. A true customer-centric culture is made by the people working in the business and to really embrace a customer obsession culture companies should improve both employee and customer experiences hand-in-hand because happy employees create happy customers. Culture is the dominating factor when it comes to customer-centricity, where everyone is working toward the same goal: customer success.


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Ilenia Vidili
Ilenia Vidili is a passionate customer-centricity advisor, keynote speaker, entrepreneur and author. She’s been inspiring and advising C-level executives on how to embrace customer-centricity as the key that unlocks the future of businesses. Her latest contribution to a handbook of research was based on why customer experience is the new competitive advantage. Ilenia Vidili's customer-centricity book Journey to Centricity is out in spring 2021. She’s worked with NEC, Bayer, ARM and more. She is originally from Sardinia where she often retreats to find a quiet place from her business travels. Ilenia Vidili is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.
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