Customer-centricity. It's become something of a buzzword, table-stakes for a brand to prosper in today's connected world.
If like me you come from a retail background, it's easy to believe that it has little to offer. After all, retailers only survive if they do a good job for customers. They measure customer satisfaction, employ mystery shoppers, and by and large, focus on serving customers in the stores.
However, at the heart of customer-centricity is a key lesson.
Across a retail business, decisions are being made all the time that in some way impact customers: returns policy, product deletions, end-cap features, load-balancing of delivery trucks, the list is endless. The sum total of all these impacts reveal to customers what the business really values, beyond the customer service in the store, and shapes their experience of the brand. A customer-centric business always prioritizes customers in these decisions, and indeed organizes the business around them.
In trying to understand how customer-centric a business really is, I always ask three questions:
- Is the business immersed in the customer from the CEO down? It's all too easy away from the frontline to view customers in the abstract, yet thanks to technology it's never been easier for the whole business to hear the views of its customers. A customer-centric business values reading or hearing real customer commentary rather than just tracking customer satisfaction metrics.
- Does the business prioritize customers in its decision-making? This doesn't have to be complicated. Whenever decisions are made, someone should always be asking "What's in it for the customer?" If this doesn't happen, or the answer is usually "not a lot", then it's not a customer-centric business.
- Does the business focus on serving its existing customers? The traditional approach is to focus on finding as many customers as possible for the shopping trip on offer. In contrast, a customer-centric business prioritizes its existing customers, and constantly seeks to become more useful to them.
For most of my career, being customer-focused was good enough for a retailer to prosper. However, in today's increasingly omni-channel environment, customers are interacting with retailers in so many different ways that centering the whole business on the customer is essential.
Every marketer would be wise to ask: "How customer-centric is our business?"
A version of this post originally appeared in Supermarket News