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This article was published 4/1/2020 (267 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In 2017, Forrester conducted a worldwide survey of more than 1,000 chief executive officers and found that an overwhelming 91 per cent of the CEOs polled believed their companies were customer-focused. I am certain that readers will count themselves in the 91 per cent group because they believe they are customer-focused. However, when the companies’ customers were surveyed, only 10 per cent believed these same companies were customer-focused. Clearly, there is a disconnect that shows most companies have an inside-out view of their customer relationships that is not grounded in reality. To be successful, companies need to adopt an outside-in perspective, since it’s really your customers’ vote that counts.
Building a customer-centric winning game plan for 2020 includes three major steps. First, you need to map the overall customer experience. This step includes understanding the various customer personas that use your product or service. By carefully assessing all of the customer touchpoints and their journey, you will have a better understanding of what types of customers deal with you at what stage of their life cycle. This step only works when you map the personas with the journey. And, no customer journey is the same because people change. In business-to-consumer relationships, a customer can change their buying behaviour based on many different influences they experience in their day from what they had for breakfast or their anger at having a fender-bender in the parking lot. In business-to-business exchanges, the customer can change their buying behaviour because of the person they are dealing with at the supplier. Is this new person someone who may be dissatisfied with your company and/or buying from you?
Second, collect all your messaging from the various customer touchpoints. Assess them to ensure they are customer-focused. Consistency across platforms and the tone you expect from your employees is essential. Knowing more about your customers allows you to craft messages that demonstrate you know them better than any competitor and you can customize what you say to reinforce your positive differentiation. Your message will have legitimacy and will appeal to your existing and potential customers because of this relevance. The relevant message can have an emotional play, based on facts, or a combination, so long as the message resonates with the customer.
The final component of your 2020 winning customer game plan is understanding that review and adjustment will be required. Creating the plan is not a "one and done" approach to building a customer-focused organization. The greatest plan of any type will fail if implementation is not managed properly. When you implement a customer culture shift in your organization, you must be prepared to review, adapt and adjust as necessary. You are the captain of the ship. Even with the destination determined, you must be prepared to adjust your course and manage the winds of customer change to arrive together for an outstanding customer experience. The end game is not simply improved revenue and profitability. Establishing a customer-focused culture is a never-ending process. Ensure your employees know the fundamental aspects of your game plan and be prepared to adjust your plan, particularly when the variables around your company or industry have changed. As a player, and as a business leader, there were times when I knew that sticking to the plan was the wrong decision because assumptions we originally made had changed substantially. As long as the human element exists, and it always will, there is a need to stay tuned to your customer. Creating this type of culture will provide greater opportunities to satisfy your customers and provide your employees with the means and support to create moments of customer magic.
Tim’s bits: One of the most challenging aspects of implementing a customer-focused culture is to have the discipline to keep this as a priority. Countless studies have been done that show customer-focused companies are consistently the top financial performers in their respective industries. My colleague, Chris Brown of Market Culture, recommends physically placing a different coloured chair at your management meetings to represent your customer. In this way your customer is always present and remains a focus for the company leadership as you move forward. You may also consider creating customer advisory councils or user groups that you convene to obtain their specific insights and perspectives.
When the leadership demonstrates this type of commitment to the customer, the entire organization will more readily buy into this concept. The collective efforts of all employees will provide a better chance of long-term success.
Tim Kist, CMC, a certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being truly customer-focused.
Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.
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