If there’s one thing every marketer knows these days, it’s this:
Our companies need to be customer-centric.
It seems so straightforward. Customers demand personalization, so we give it to them. Customers use multiple devices, so we support them. Customers bring us a problem and we solve it.
Except, if it’s really that easy, why do brands continue to struggle? Why, after many years of hard work and good intentions, are most companies still not as customer-centric as they hope to be?
The challenge is culture…and communication
Many a blog has been written about the challenges of customer centricity, but here’s the key: It’s rarely the technology that’s holding us back. It’s nearly always people, process, leadership, and culture.
It may come as a surprise, because why would our company cultures be resistant to changes that would delight our customers? Isn’t that exactly what leadership wants? Resisting customer-centricity just doesn’t make logical sense. So why do businesses keep doing it?
The answer is alignment and understanding.
It’s easy to say Yes, we want to be more customer-centric! What’s hard is understanding how to do it. How do we serve customers in a way that’s best for them? How do we take mindsets and assumptions our marketing departments have been basing decisions on for years upon years and change them all in an instant?
Shifting to a customer-centric mindset
I found the answer while reading a parable-driven book called The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.
The crux of the book’s message is something the author calls the “law of value,” which says, “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”
This, the author argues, is true for people, and it’s true for businesses. Our success hinges upon delivering—and even over-delivering—value. We need to understand our customers’ purpose and help them fulfill it.
It struck me that this is the answer to the problem of culture change: We need to use customer purpose and value as the tools to drive alignment across our organizations.
How to put customer interests first and over-deliver
The book’s third law is another foundational truth for customer centricity: “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.”
Which brings us to our next question:
How? How can our businesses truly put customer interests first? How can we deliver value—or, better, over-deliver? How do we understand customer purpose and help them fulfill it?
The simplest things that come to mind are these: We can reduce friction in the customer’s process of achieving their purpose. We can educate them on how to reach their goals (and even hurdle past their goals and onto something better). We can safeguard their interests throughout the journey, even when their interests diverge from ours as a business. (In fact, especially when their interests diverge from ours. Protecting them over ourselves builds an incredible amount of goodwill.)
But ultimately, all of this starts with understanding our customers’ purpose.
And that starts with mapping the types of customers we have across all the products and services we sell.
Understanding our customers
What do I mean when I say we need to map our customers?
Personally, I like the 5 Whys Methodology, which encourages us to ask why five times, digging deeper into the problems we solve (and the people behind them) with each question.
Start by listing your products/services and drilling into each. What’s the purpose behind that product or service? What problem is a customer trying to solve with that product or service? Is there more than one problem? Are there multiple use cases?
Next, use the methodology to peel back the onion and get to the heart of customer use.
Let’s say you’re selling puzzles. Why are people buying your puzzles? For your customers, let’s say the answer is to relax and spend time with their families. So then you ask: Why do they need to relax and spend time with their families? And maybe the answer is that family life is busy and this is the one chance everybody has to come together and do something fun together.
And then you ask why again and each time you drill down you start to see more clearly that this isn’t about puzzles. It’s about family, fun, and togetherness. You start to see the customer values behind the purchase emerge.
From there, it’s a lot easier to map out your customer’s journey and figure out how to add more value along the way. And armed with all that knowledge, it’s also easier to build a customer data acquisition strategy that allows you to gather customer data incrementally through their purchase process and provide even more value to them in exchange for that data.
In the case of our example above, maybe this means asking for their email in order to send a bi-weekly newsletter about family time—how to get more of it, how to keep it peaceful, how to keep kids engaged as they grow up. Or maybe you ask them to create a profile so that they can access lists of puzzles most popular with families or so that they can order without putting in their details every time if they need a new puzzle every two weeks.
In any case, make sure to be clear about how you’re using their data (don’t forget how skeptical today’s users are on that count). And once you have all this data and you understand what value the user needs you to deliver, it’s time to incentivize your internal teams to understand and deliver on those values. No more siloed organizational behavior. No more fragmented understanding.
Systematizing your new understanding
Operationally speaking, once you understand users, the challenge becomes organizing your data into a single, unified repository that can be leveraged across all customer touch points or channels.
Simultaneously, you have to build a culture that uses data in a consistent way, progressively serving the customer purpose.
The more you can keep your operations and internal teams on the same page—with that page being centered around delivering customer value based on customer purpose—the more loyalty you’ll inspire in customers. Because who doesn’t want to buy again from a brand that understands and values them?
Making real progress with customer centricity
The truth is that customer-centric ideas have been around for a long time, but they’re rarely achieved. The biggest challenges are organizational ones. Because the technology has outpaced our internal cultures and processes.
In fact, systems like Lytics help you not just understand overall customer motivations but also cater to different customers based on their behavior and engagement. If your customer buys puzzles weekly, you can send her weekly best-of emails. If she takes a week off, you can encourage her with a coupon. If she always looks at blog posts about family time, you can share more with her. If she never looks at those posts, you can point her to something more relevant to her interests. And all of that can be automated to extend the capacity of your team.
So the bottom line is that the tech is here and ready for your business. It reduces complexity and makes your marketing more effective. But without organizational alignment, without getting rid of silos, without changing our mindsets and focusing on delivering value, the tech itself can’t make us customer-centric.
And in a world where 81% of customers want brands to know them better, it’s essential that marketers start getting this right.
Want to talk about how Lytics can help you with the tech side of becoming customer-centric? We’d love to set up a demo.