This article is the first in a three-part series.

We believe that customer service shouldn't be just a department; it should be the entire company.”
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

Have you noticed? Business is not just about business these days. With so many options easily available to so many people around the world now, business has to be about customer experience, regardless of the business you’re in.

This customer-centric approach goes way beyond building a better customer service department or having a salesperson throw in a few freebies. Customer experience extends to every department within a company as each one, in some way, impacts the customer whether through internal interactions or external customer touchpoints. As a result, every employee must reimagine their job description to clearly outline the ultimate benefit they bring to the customer. What does a customer want? What do they need? How does what you do each day in your own job impact the customer experience? How can you improve the overall customer experience?

Great customer experience requires that more than the very front-line of the team (those answering phones or emails) be involved to provide an ongoing, successful customer experience. Management must prioritize the mission and help establish a corporate culture that values and rewards an unwavering focus on the customer.

At the end of the day, your customer needs to heard, satisfied, and — most importantly — understood. Any roadblock or inconvenience along the buyer/user journey has the potential to quickly end that customer relationship forever.

A company-wide business focus on customer relationships will pay off. According to Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95% (The Economics of E-Loyalty, Harvard Business School, 2000). Another, more recent report found 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers (Customer Retention Should Outweigh Customer Acquisition, Adobe, 2013).

A 2016 Gallup poll found that B2B firms with high customer engagement scores also had 50% higher revenue or sales, 34% higher profitability, and 55% higher share of wallet than the other companies studied. Clearly, a lack of customer engagement can represent a significant amount of lost revenue.

Not only do you lose this revenue source, but finding new purchasers has its own expense. Winning new customers costs approximately five times more than keeping the existing ones. Customer acquisition costs are clearly an optional cost that your organization could avoid when investing company resources in current customers makes such good financial sense.

Sounds like a great goal, keeping your customers satisfied, but what does that look like internally in an organization? How are some large corporations shifting their goals to accomplish this? We’ve consulted with multi-million dollar global corporations to educate them on this topic and help guide their management team and front-line team leaders to establish a customer-centric culture and structure into their everyday processes.

In our experience, organizations with a customer-centric culture do six things really well:

  1. They know their customer, inside and out. They thoroughly understand the customer’s perspective, history, and future goals. They know their key customers personally, and their entire customer base as a whole.
  2. They listen to their customers. They’ve analyzed the customer’s entire journey with the business organization and eliminated barriers and frustrations.
  3. They clearly illustrate how every employee impacts customers, whether directly or indirectly. And, they outline the impact positive and negative customer experiences can have on the bottom-line.
  4. They empower employees to make decisions that satisfy customers — even if they're slightly “off script.” This sounds like common sense, but it requires managers to trust their employees to do what’s right by the customer. And, it requires a flexible organizational playbook that is meant to be open for interpretation so employees don’t get dinged for doing what they think is right.
  5. They restructure internal systems and policies — particularly those pertaining to employee motivation and recognition — to reward unwavering customer dedication.
  6. Lastly, leaders at every level understand the customer-centric mission and live it daily. Again, this sounds like common sense, but all it takes is one leader to flip the script, possibly losing customers and revenue along the way, and altering the organization’s culture.

Join us for Part 2 of this series when we’ll explore tools the leaders and managers can use to shift their culture toward a customer-centric model. In Part 3, we’ll look at opportunities and techniques to better understand and satisfy your customers so that the entire team can be aligned in action.

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