Friday, August 18, 2017

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

Today, it seems like every company claims to be a customer-first company. But really, is that true?

During the past 5-10 years, the brands I've worked with talk about it in meetings, but many rarely followed up with real action. And, as they say, actions speak louder than words.

So, what are some key ways for a brand to bring the concept of customer-first to life?

IT STARTS WTIH YOUR WHY

Being a customer-first company means your products start at the point of solving (or creating) a customer need or desire. That means the brand's products or services are built around the customer, not creating something and then figuring out the customer base for it or backing into a strategy to answer the "why".

Many new companies that leverage technology have done just that. Look at AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon as examples for this. They exist because they figured out a way to solve a problem, not attempting to retrofit a need into their offering. When brands start with their "why", it provides a stronger platform for all other communication strategies to stand on.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Most people say they understand that every touch point someone has with your brand is part of the customer experience. But, for some reason, many companies seem to let certain areas within their business slack off when it comes to putting the customer first.

It's understandable that brands get caught up in their own language and often start speaking to themselves, and that's why outside partners (ad agencies, consultancies, etc) are usually brought in to help provide that outside point of view and convert the internal language into something that makes sense for the audience, in the audience's language.

Another is instances of sales. Yes, of course the company needs to make money and be profitable. But it should not be at the expense of deceiving customers or providing terrible experiences. (Although recent actions by certain companies in the airline industry may prove this wrong.)

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMER

Knowing your customer is absolutely critical to being customer-centric. If you can't understand their wants and needs, you'll have a lot of difficulty proving that your brand is there for the customer. You need to understand their mindset, their passions and what makes them tick. You need to survey as many as you can to remove generalizations that come about from small data sample sizes. It's a brilliant company leader that then even takes the next step to spend time with their customers to get a direct line of contact to their voice, which leads me to...

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

Brands that listen to their customers can make a big impact to their bottom line. Providing channels for customers to give feedback on their experiences gives you an opportunity to improve. It also allows for kudos to be shared with those who are doing things right. Transparency of the feedback loops can also provide a lift in customers' perception of the brand. And if you bring forward a feature or service that was requested by customers, it naturally allows for a proof point to highlight that aspect of the brand in marketing and advertising.

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