How to become customer-centric
What it means to be a customer-centric organization and how to achieve it.
Customer-centricity is a way of doing business that fosters a positive experience at every stage of the customer journey. Not only before the sale but also after. In a company with a customer centric-culture, the focus is on customers staying loyal and satisfied. This leads to customers referring your business to colleagues, friends, and family. And that leads to more business deals for you.
Why is the customer-centric approach important? Simply because if a company forgets about customers, it will fail. You’ll build the wrong products, invest in wrong resources, and you’ll lose the initial interest a customer had in your product. And if you don’t acquire and retain customers, you won’t survive — it’s simple as that.
During the last Customer Success Cafe meeting, we’ve been discussing the challenges of creating a customer-centric culture and came up with ideas and good practices that we’d like to share with you.
So, what does it take to become customer-centric?
It’s said that the organizational culture is created at the top and spreads from the top. There’s no way around it. If a company truly wants to become customer-centric, the C-level management, as well as other managers and team leads, have to be customer-focused. No matter if it’s a CEO, CTO, PM or Head of CS — they all need to think first about the customers. Whenever a business decision is made, they should deeply consider how the outcome will influence customers.
Understanding your customer
It sounds easy but is tricky. Everyone in the organization has their vision of who the customer is. The marketing team looks at the type of leads based on some reports, the sales team focuses on inbound prospects and their interests, customer service teams consider current customers and their needs — and other departments like the product, finance, HR — only rely on the information they receive from various teams.
All these points of view, when not in alignment, lead to a distorted picture of the customer. And when the organization believes in this picture, it starts creating a product that doesn’t match needs (or market). Then sales team has a hard time selling the product and customers, who try it, churn easily.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to that. One of the most efficient ways to tackle communication silos is organizing cross-team workshops (for example, Value Proposition exercises). Bringing all the team’s representatives and executives together to brainstorm on the crucial topics, should lead to a common vision of who our customers are.
How teams approach a customer
The atmosphere within the team has a huge impact on our approach to our customers. Always putting your customers first and solving their problems with a big smile on your face may be challenging. There are cases with difficult customers that can make you feel on edge — we have all been there.
But if you develop a customer-focused culture within your team, where everyone speaks respectfully and positively about all clients, it’s much easier to take a breath, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and carry on. In a team where everyone has a customer’s best interest in mind, you will naturally want to find the best possible solution for your client, no matter how stressful the situation might be.
For customer-facing roles, being customer-centric comes instinctively, but there are departments where the client’s voice is not heard. This is our job as Customer Success Managers, to make other teams aware of this voice and to make them see the customer’s perspective more clearly.
It’s not only about sending feature requests to product teams or nagging developers: “The customer is waiting for this bug fix for 5 days now and he’s becoming impatient.” It’s more about sharing positive outcomes. It’s about celebration of customer’s success. Sharing news like: “Thanks to X feature, one of our biggest customers decided to renew the contract, awesome job everyone!”. We need to share the client’s excitement with our colleagues and spread the love.
Feedback that drives continuous improvement
Sharing customer’s feedback and hoping for the best is not enough. The key is to make feedback actionable. The product team should have a well-designed process in place for reviewing feature requests.
In our company, we create a ticket with a customer request. Each task is thoroughly reviewed. The more requests on the same topic, the higher the priority of such tasks is. Plus, the product manager always tells us whether a certain feature will be developed or not.
On the customer success’s side, we need to understand that not all of the customer’s expectations will turn into a planned feature on a product roadmap. Let’s be more considerate and empathetic towards the product teams, as they have to plan their resources wisely. It may turn out that we can solve the customer’s problem and meet their needs by some workaround, we just need to dig deeper to understand what they would like to accomplish.
Being a customer-centric organization is a challenge, but there’s no doubt it’s important. It starts from the top but it involves all teams and departments within the company. As Customer Success Managers we can help to raise awareness, be the voice of our clients and act as true customer advocates.