I’ve been fortunate to visit all the Disney theme parks benham.jpg
around the world, and I can personally attest to the consistency of their customer-centric approach. They want their customers to be happy. It’s their claim – “Welcome to the happiest place on earth” – and they work hard to deliver on that promise.

My daughter’s college roommate recently finished a six-month stint as a Disney intern. She was hired as a custodian at Disneyworld in Florida, and roamed the park cleaning up spilled food and dropped litter. And yet as an intern custodian, she was empowered to identify and solve many customer problems without having to seek out a supervisor. Elizabeth enjoyed that part of her job so much that when she was promoted to a ride operation role, she quickly requested to return to her custodial position because she felt she had a bigger impact on customer happiness. It’s the culture Disney breeds.

Customer centricity means both a customer focus and an operating model that helps you run your business based on what your customers are telling you. Based on my more than 40 years of positive Disney experiences, I’m a fiercely loyal customer. I aggressively encourage people who have never visited to go, telling them “You’ll never feel better about spending money than you do at Disney.”

Not every business takes the approach Disney does; great customer engagement is the exception, not the norm. In fact, just 14% of marketers say customer centricity is a focus of their companies, according to the “Mastering Adaptive Customer Engagements” report from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. This is unfortunate because customer centricity drives customer loyalty.

If customers have more than one option for a product or service, they’ll be loyal to the company that offers benefits or customer experiences they can’t get elsewhere. Creating customer loyalty is the goal of most organizations. Here, then, are some customer centricity steps that can support your efforts to increase customer loyalty.

Step #1 – Infuse Customer Centricity Into Your Company Culture
Customer centricity begins with employees. Customer loyalty can soar if customers have confidence that a company cares and employees want to give them unique experiences and hyper-personalized benefits. Regardless of how much time they will spend with customers in their roles, employees should understand how important it is to respect customer feedback and tailor products and services to their needs.

When hiring, ask prospective employees questions that will help you determine if they’re customer centric, such as, “What does being customer focused mean to you?” and “What examples can you share of your own focus on the customer?”

Once hired, everyone needs to embrace creating a customer-centric culture. To ensure this, I recommend training employees on customer centricity and prominently featuring it in the employee handbook and the company’s mission statement.

In a CBNC article, Salesforce suggests that successfully supporting customers may first require a shift in processes from product centric to customer centric.

“You can quickly identify product-centric processes by auditing the number of times your team says, ‘You can’t’ to a customer. ‘Sorry, you can’t pick up your online purchases in store.’ ‘Unfortunately, you can’t transfer your reservation to another name because our system doesn’t allow that.’ ‘No, you can’t bundle together for this purchase or contract.’ Your goal should be to reduce the amount of effort – or perceived effort – customers have to apply to get what they want.”

Another strategy for introducing more customer centricity into your company culture is to pick an employee who will act as a customer champion. Not every company can hire someone for the relatively new job title of Chief Customer Officer, but every company can choose an existing employee to act as customer champion. Make certain this person has the power to influence other employees and hold them accountable for customer centricity in decision-making, product development and customer interactions.

Step #2 – Seek Out – And Act On – Customer Feedback
To tailor experiences to your customers, you must learn their pain points and the kinds of experiences and benefits they want. Make it as easy as possible for employees to gain a thorough understanding of not only the voice of the customer (VoC) but also the heart of the customer through customer feedback.

You should strive to know every side and angle of your customers. Collect their feedback from a wide variety of sources, including social channels, the company’s community board, email, and conversations when they visit the office. The more ways you collect feedback, the better you’ll understand your customers.

In the HubSpot blog post “8 Tips for Becoming a Customer-Centric Organization,” Ben Johnson, HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager of User Acquisition, recommends engaging in the following activities:

  • Customer surveys: Conduct regular customer satisfaction and product surveys.

  • User testing: Involve customers early as you’re designing new products and services.

  • Direct calls: Reach out to customers on the phone for a “more robust form of feedback.”

“Every department should be using all of the communication channels at their disposal to learn about customers – and the sheer volume of quantitative insight you receive from these messages can help you greatly as you adjust your product roadmap,” Johnson writes.

After collecting customer feedback, make sure it’s not simply entered into your customer relationship management (CRM) tool and aggregated in graph form in reports. Instead, integrate the feedback into the tools and systems your customer-facing employees already use they can act on the feedback as soon as possible.   Analyzing aggregated customer feedback is important for identifying and solving systemic issues, but keeping today’s customers requires quick action on their feedback.

Step #3 – Wire In Customer Feedback Across The Organization
Meetings are an opportunity to spotlight the customer. Keep them front and center every time you meet. Perhaps set aside time at the start of each meeting for employees to share a story about a customer interaction or how customer feedback helped shape a product or services decision. Take some time to also celebrate customer wins as well—moments when customer feedback led to positive outcomes and happy customers.

Meetings are also a good place to dive into aggregated data about customers. Discuss how to prevent future problems and explore whether an issue represents a larger problem that needs to be addressed with a change to products, marketing or customer service. Uncover and elevate the bad news in the same way you elevate positive stories of customer interactions.

Conclusion: Customer Centricity is Key to Customer Loyalty
Bottom line: Always view your customers as individuals rather than numbers. Internal agendas shouldn’t supersede customer requirements. Customer-centric organizations know this and back up their philosophy by building a company culture around this approach. They operationalize customer feedback, seek out and respond to that feedback, and talk about customers in every meeting. Taking these steps will go a long way toward creating the kind of relationships with customers that make them loyal and happy advocates for your brand.
 
Chris Benham is Chief Marketing Officer at Alchemer, which provides voice-of-the-customer (VoC) and customer-experience (CX) solution that helps you transform to a truly customer-centric organization. Visit https://www.alchemer.com/

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