What Does It Mean To Be Customer-Centric In 2021?
Led By Customer-Centric Leaders
True customer-centricity starts at the top. The most customer-centric leaders set the example to ingrain a customer focus into the culture and make customers central to every decision the company makes.
Truly customer-centric leaders systemize customer-focused leadership and development in their organizations to train the next generation of leaders how to serve and connect with customers. When training is an organized part of the company, customer-centricity becomes a long-term hallmark for the company instead of something fleeting that fades when a customer-centric leader leaves.
Tricia Griffith is a customer-focused leader as CEO of Progressive Insurance. She sets the tone within the company by continually listening to customers and employees and taking risks to try new things to best serve customers. Her creative thinking around customers has created a culture where employees are encouraged and empowered to take big risks for customers. And her leadership makes a difference—Progressive is regularly included in lists of satisfied customers, and the company has a 94% employee satisfaction score. Clearly, customer-focused leaders make a difference.
Focus on Personalization
Modern customers have experienced hyper-personalization from big companies like Spotify, Amazon and Netflix and now expect every company, big and small, to offer high levels of personalization. In 2021, companies can’t afford to not prioritize personalization.
Personalization is at the heart of customer-centricity. When a company is wholly focused on customers, it wants to deliver unique experiences to each person instead of one-size-fits-all solutions. Customer-centric companies know that simply plugging a customer’s name into a mass email isn’t enough—they need to create a unique experience tailored to each customer.
Tesla focuses on personalization throughout the entire customer experience, but especially through its driver profiles. Tesla cars remember each driver’s preference for seat, steering wheel and mirror location, as well as suspension, braking, radio presets and even driving style. The seamless integration of driver profiles into the Tesla experience makes the car an extension of the driver and allows each person to drive the car in the way they want and that is most comfortable to them.
Personalization comes in multiple forms, from AI-powered apps to recommendations and products designed specifically for each customer.
Make Customers’ Lives Easier, Even If They Have To Work Harder
One of the main things customers are looking for in 2021 is convenience. They want to be able to get the information and service they need on their schedules, not on the schedules of the brands they do business with. Customer-centric companies realize the importance of convenience and go out of their way to make customers’ lives easier, even if that means they have to work harder.
It’s easier for companies to make customers call a contact center between certain hours to get help. But limited availability means customers are stuck to only getting assistance between certain hours and often having to sort through a difficult phone tree or explain their situation multiple times. A customer-centric alternative is a self-service option where customers can chat with a bot at any time of day or night and then be seamlessly transferred to a human agent if they need extra assistance. Self-service options may be more difficult for companies and require more time and resources, but they make customers’ lives easier.
Undergo a Digital Transformation
To succeed in the era of customer empowerment, companies must undergo a continual digital transformation to create digital solutions for their internal and external customers, tear down silos and use technology to solve everyday problems. When done well, digital transformation creates an agile and technology-driven company that can best meet customers’ needs. Companies shouldn’t undergo digital transformation simply to say they’ve done it or to adopt the flashiest technology; real digital transformation is rooted in solving customer problems and delivering a consistently high-quality experience.
GE’s digital transformation included a radical restructuring of the company that created a new market and consolidated business units to report digital information on a straight path to the CEO. The radical transformation allowed the company to help customers with a digital-first approach and made digital the focus of the company.
A customer-focused digital transformation shifts the mindset of the entire company to solve problems with digital solutions. In today’s world of technology, companies have to continually transform to stay relevant.
Proactively Use Data
There has never been more customer data available than there is today, and customer-centric companies use that data to paint an accurate picture of their customers. Some organizations may scratch the surface of data, but truly customer-centric brands use it to proactively serve customers. Predictive analytics can pinpoint when a customer is most in need of a product or service or when they might require changes or additional service. It’s at these moments that the best companies step in to offer support before customers even realize they need it. Customer-centric companies aren’t just focused on putting out fires or addressing concerns customers have with their products—they proactively aim to create positive experiences, recommend products and solve problems before they become larger issues.
Sephora is as much a data company as it is a beauty company. With its wealth of customer data, Sephora uses its app to predict when customers will need to purchase new products and when they may be looking for something new. Other companies prioritize customers by predicting major life events that may trigger customers needing new products or advice.
Innovate and Pivot
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of agility. Customer trends and needs change at a rapid pace, and customer-centric companies can swiftly change direction to meet those needs, often even before customers realize the need for something new.
Customer-centric companies aren’t afraid to take risks and innovate. No matter their size, they don’t get bogged down with red tape and bureaucracy and instead operate with a startup mentality to move and be agile. Companies that are truly focused on customers aim for continual innovation to bring the best products and services to customers.
Customer-centricity is vital for companies in 2021. When a company is truly customer-centric, every decision and action is done with customers in mind. It’s the customer-centric companies that set the tone and lead the charge with loyal, satisfied customers.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. She is also one of the top speakers of our Mission CX program. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.
This piece was first featured on Forbes.