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Making the case for customer obsession

Whether it’s designing products around customer needs or providing an unrivalled experience, by truly understanding and supporting customers through their entire journey, organizations can become one step closer to achieving sustainable success.

Customer-centricity isn’t just about being customer-focused, it’s about placing customers at the very heart of everything you do.

Organizations that get this right earn the loyalty of their customers and establish long-term relationships with them – providing the best platform for future success. For companies that are customer obsessed, customer experience is more than a ‘nice to have’, it’s a driver for profit and a source of sustainable profit for shareholders. Why? Because customer retention increases profitability – the Pareto Principle says 80% of a company’s future revenue typically comes from 20% of existing customers.1

But for organizations that get this wrong, the consequences can be both sudden and severe.

For any business to survive, understanding its customers, evolving with their life’s needs and fostering an emotional connection requires a customer-centric approach that values long-term goals.

Customer-centric structures

While the traditional company structure drives value through transaction, the digital era has given way to unconventional business models. Product rich, but experience poor companies are being forced to rethink. It’s perhaps not surprising that more than a third of Fortune 500 companies have restructured using customer needs, segmentation and the customer journey as their strategic underpinning2.

Support of these strategies has resulted in a move away from departmental silos to cross-functional working. For example, data-driven customer understanding is being shared across teams such as marketing, sales, customer service and beyond.. In some cases, this information is visible across an entire organization.  

From the brands noted in our 2019 Customer Experience Excellence report, insurance and financial services company USAA is an example of a brand which has embedded customer-centric values into its culture. Cultivating employee empathy for its mainly military customer base includes training from a drill sergeant so staff understand what customers might be experiencing3. Meanwhile, technology seamlessly navigates time zones and shift work, allowing service personnel to log in from any platform to see where their insurance claim or money transfer is at.

The power of purpose

Aligning the needs and aspirations of the customer to the passion behind the brand builds trust and integrity underpinning and fostering customer retention. As a result, customers aren’t simply product advocates but connect with the company’s purpose-driven values that go beyond making money for its shareholders.  

By helping customers minimize costs and maximize benefits, insurance company Topdanmark in Denmark is revered for its approach to going beyond insurance to resolve customer problems. The company has made deliberate efforts to foster a customer orientated culture, enhancing the quality of customer service calls and recognizing many people still prefer to talk to a person when buying insurance4. To support this, Topdanmark redesigned its website to streamline the online customer journey and created digital platforms to improve communication between employees, customers and third-party partners. As a result, its customers say they feel listened to and understood when dealing with the brand and its employees.

Meanwhile, the Apple Store has evolved a program called Today which schedules free classes, experiential events and programs that customers can sign up to online5.

Short-term profit versus long-term growth

Most strikingly, the behemoths in this new customer-centric landscape don’t place value on short-term profit. Rather, organizations are rethinking what it means to be ‘successful’ in this new climate, often combining social and environmental measures to their own business KPIs.

Fast ordering; hassle free returns; helping customers with real-time product selection through data analytics; empowering the customer by encouraging feedback; using online customer surveys as a critical knowledge tool; are just some of the ways companies are placing the customer at the very heart of their operations.

When a great customer-centric strategy, structure, execution and technologies converge in the new human-digital world, success can be exponential. More importantly it can be sustainable.