A line from the pop hit “Royals,” by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, reads, “We’ll never be royals, it don’t run in our blood.” That’s true for most of us; nevertheless, like Lorde, we are more than happy when companies treat us like a Queen or a King. With more and more consumers taking the digital path to purchase, retailers are learning that it’s easy for customers to leave the path or abandon shopping carts. If companies want to succeed in the Digital Era, they must become more customer-centric. The staff at Rock Content observe, “Digital transformation has completely changed the relationship between companies and consumers. … It is essential to have the necessary resources so that the user experience with your brand is the best it can be. Thus, the concept of Customer-Centric is gaining more space within different companies. With actions aimed at consumer satisfaction, the goal is to achieve greater loyalty and, consequently, an increase in sales.”
According to the staff at Kuebix, a focus on customers helps explain why Amazon has become an e-commerce giant. They write, “While many companies consider Amazon to be the ultimate competitor, Amazon didn’t become the trillion-dollar retail and distribution behemoth it is today by focusing on what its competition was doing. Instead, it focused on exciting and delighting its customers.” According to Peter Fader (@faderp) and Sarah E. Toms (@SarahEToms), from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, most companies are deluding themselves about how customer-centric they really are. They write, “If we were to ask you whether your company is customer-centric, you’d no doubt answer with a resounding ‘yes.’ But we think there’s a good chance you’re wrong.”
Becoming More Customer-Centric
Fader and Toms observe, “In our decades of teaching and consulting, we’ve noticed that most companies make four mistakes that prevent them from creating and implementing a winning strategy to acquire, develop, and retain their highest value customers — in other words, mistakes that prevent them from truly being customer-centric. Luckily, we’ve also realized that there are four simple fixes that, if implemented, could help companies become more customer-focused and successful.”
Mistake 1: You focus too much on “the customer”. If that sounds counter-intuitive to becoming more customer-centric, Fader and Toms explain, “As marketers, we’re conditioned to think of customers as kings, to put them — each and every one of them — at the center of our efforts. The result? We end up treating customers as a single, monolithic entity, and we measure our company efforts based on the least satisfied among them. But not all customers are created equal. The fact is, no matter how much time, money, and resources you throw at some people, they will always remain somewhat indifferent to your products or brand.” To fix this mistake, Fader and Toms recommend you identify your most valuable customers. Money spent on ensuring their experiences are great is money well spent.
Mistake 2: You take a siloed approach. I have written often about the dangers of siloed data and siloed thinking. According to Fader and Toms, companies too often use siloed thinking in their approach to dealing with customers. They explain, “All too often, [companies] approach the issue in a siloed way. Maybe the sales team has one way of measuring a customer’s value and the marketing team has another, incompatible method.” Noting that consumers have numerous touchpoints along the digital path to purchase, they argue a siloed approach will result in a “confusing and inconsistent” experience for customers. To fix this mistake, Fader and Toms suggest taking a more holistic approach to customer service and experience. They write, “Develop an organization-wide understanding of what customer-centricity means to your company, and look for opportunities to apply it in every department.”
Mistake 3: Your metrics focus only on volume and cost. Many companies are just beginning to understand how they can leverage data. Fader and Toms note, “Traditionally, the only things we could measure to determine whether a company was succeeding was how much stuff they were pushing out the door and how much it cost them to do that. Today, we can measure so much more, and yet, too many companies still focus only on metrics that reflect volume and cost.” To overcome this mistake, they suggest coming to an understanding of what really matters to your company. They ask, “What would you consider a bigger success: a blockbuster product that millions of one-time customers bought, or a product that appeals to slightly fewer people who almost all go on to become repeat customers?” For them the answer is “a no-brainer.” Fostering customer loyalty is winning strategy.
Mistake 4: There’s a disconnect between you and your external stakeholders. There is a reason most business analysts prefer talking about value networks or ecosystems instead of supply chains. Most companies must work with a number of stakeholders. According to Fader and Toms, getting those stakeholders on board with your customer-centric vision is critical. The explain, “If your external stakeholders are holding you to tired old metrics that make no business sense, your company will never be customer-centric.” Like the Kuebix staff, they point to Amazon as an example to follow. They note, “In his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos made it clear that rather than chasing short-term profits to appease investors, he would be focusing on the bigger picture. ‘Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies,’ he warned them. ‘We measure ourselves in terms of the metrics most indicative of our market leadership: customer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand.’ That clear, candid approach to communication with external partners has paid off. Today, almost half of U.S. online retail spend is on Amazon.”
The Kuebix staff reminds us that that fulfillment is an essential part of the customer experience. They explain, “Customers want to know where their orders are, when they will arrive, and if there is a delay. Amazon does all that — and your business can too with the help of technology. To be able to meet customer needs, Amazon uses technologies to track and optimize shipments, giving visibility to customers so they know what is happening to their orders all along the supply chain. To make customers king, businesses need to offer a technology-driven experience that gives visibility into transportation processes from order entry to proof of delivery.”
It’s true most of us will never be royals; however, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be treated royally. Ben Johnson (@BenFJohnson), a Senior Marketing Manager for User Acquisition at HubSpot, writes, “There’s one tenant that’s common to all enterprises: If you don’t acquire and retain customers, you won’t survive.” He continues, “From this simple statement, you can derive the importance of being customer-centric as an entity. An organization that forgets about customers is destined to fail. They’ll build the wrong products, invest in the wrong resources, and lose goodwill with customers. A customer-centric brand proves quite the opposite case. Every team member listens to customers and is aligned on that goal. In turn, the company builds products that meet customer needs, anticipates customer wants, and they provide a level of service that keeps customers coming through the door and advocating for the brand.” Technology can help companies understand their customers, monitor their KPIs, optimize processes, and provide better customer experiences.
 Staff, “What is a Customer-Centric strategy and how to build one,” Rock Content Blog, 22 October 2020.
 Kuebix, “Want To Be Like Amazon? Treat Your Customers Like Kings,” Supply Chain 247, 8 February 2019.
 Peter Fader and Sarah E. Toms, “Think your company is customer-centric? Here’s why you’re probably wrong,” Think with Google, May 2019.
 Ben Johnson, “8 Tips for Becoming a Customer-Centric Organization,” HubSpot, 28 February 2020.