Customer centricity is a lot more than good customer service or a positive customer journey.
For years, business owners and managers have grappled with new ways to provide a better customer experience. From focused email campaigns to self-service tools, manufacturing organizations are trying any and every tactic to remove the friction from customer interactions.
The rise in self-service tools offered to customers over the past ten years isn’t an accident. Customers have often wanted the ability to track orders, check on production status, and view their lie of credit. The world works on a seven-day-a-week schedule with little to no downtime. Limiting customers to 9-5 accessibility doesn’t work, especially when manufacturing shops are working around the clock. With manufacturing organizations managing long hours and extended work weeks, customers often prefer to gather the necessary information for their accounts and orders when it’s convenient for them. And given how often job statuses change, it makes sense that self-service tools have become a popular addition to offerings by many manufacturing companies over the last decade.
The term customer-centric, however, extends far beyond self-service tools. A customer-centric mentality means focusing every aspect of your business on filling the needs of your customer targets. Product development would deliver products based on customer needs. Finance, credit, and procurement would also center their processes on what best serves the customer. The entire business is customer-facing, customer-focused, and customer-driven. It’s far beyond good customer service and it’s a lot more than a streamlined customer experience.
HOW DOES A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC PHILOSOPHY BENEFIT A BUSINESS?
Customer-centric companies target customers’ wants, needs, and desires, constantly striving to surpass expectations and be the best in their market. This approach to building “customers for life” is meant to eliminate the need to continually rebuild business units with new customers. The ultimate goal of the business is to attract customers with a focused product, engage them with answers to their questions and information about processes, and then begin working with those customers to deliver the best experience possible. Therefore, the production and delivery phase should focus on customer touchpoints and optimizing these points of interaction. All processes should be customer-oriented, focusing on ease of use and not necessarily the most streamlined approach for the seller. The ultimate goal is to keep customers working with you long-term and minimize the need to acquire massive amounts of new customers each quarter.
HOW DO YOU IMPLEMENT A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC APPROACH?
Many companies moving to a customer-centric mindset start by talking with their customers. Surveys, customer advisory boards, and feedback from employees in customer-facing roles can all add up to crafting new processes and strategies to get your company in line with your customers. Oftentimes, friction between a company and its customers is easy to identify. Things like customer complaints, reasons they chose to work with your competitor, rather than your company, and public reviews and ratings can also help to identify areas for improvement. But a customer-centric mentality goes even deeper than this – it’s an obsessive pursuit of customer satisfaction from start to finish.
Lead and nurture email campaigns are analyzed. How much is too many emails? How long should the emails be? Every phone call, social media post, and blog are examined and refined to determine what is truly ideal for the customer. It’s a top to bottom analysis of your customer journey and can highlight areas that you didn’t know were bothersome or just not needed. In many ways, it can actually reduce the work your company puts in with your potential customers. It can refine the sales process to a few contacts or ramp up the amount of work in every aspect. Either way, it always returns to the needs and desires of your customers. If the process doesn’t result in customer delight, it is torn down, revamped, and relaunched. It’s continuous improvement and it can take a lot of dedication to complete.
ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AND WHY TRANSPARENCY MATTERS
It is inevitable that as processes are improved, an organization changes. Change needs to be communicated, transparent, and based on customer needs. This approach drives change and change can mean the elimination of certain roles and the reduction of hours for other roles. New roles too, may be created, but it’s important to identify that your workforce is an asset and as such their expectations need to be managed. If nothing changes, an organization probably won’t stand the test of time and will eventually close. So, in order to stay strong for the future of work, an organization has to change and its leadership team needs to convey this message to their teams. It’s not about sustaining a workforce, it’s about building a customer-centric workforce – one that is committed to the plan and ready to take on new challenges.
Management will need to adapt and the culture will have to change. Listening to suggestions and hearing team feedback fuels the culture of a customer-centric business and that can’t happen until management is committed to fostering this new culture.
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