What does it mean to be a customer-centric company?
That seems to be the question of the week. It started off with one of our subscribers emailing in the question, followed by two reporters wanting my take on this now-popular phrase for their interviews.
If you Google the words customer centric (or centricity), you will find many definitions from different sources that are all very similar. I actually prefer using the term customer-focused over customer-centric. A general definition of a customer-centric or customer-focused organization is one in which everything is centered around the customer. In other words, all decisions that are made, the good ones, bad ones and tough ones, always keep the customer in mind. Discussions about every new system being put into place, every new line of merchandise being developed, every new location that is being planned, every website change – in one word, everything – warrants a discussion about how it will impact the customer. In addition, all employees recognize their role in the customer’s experience, even those employees who never have direct contact with a customer.
A couple of examples will make this point.
After hearing multiple requests from customers, a manufacturer decides to add a new color to a line of merchandise. Why? It’s a reasonable request and won’t cost much to set up for the new color. As a result, the customers are happy because of the extra choice. The company’s decision was made because they knew their customers were asking for it. The company listened and responded. It was obvious that the decision of adding another color would make a positive customer impact. This one was easy.
But, what about a tough decision that a company knows will not be received well by the customer, such as a price increase? Raising prices may not make the customer happy, but what if the company doesn’t take this action? If the price doesn’t go up, in order to continue to sell the same product profitably, something else may have to give. Not raising the price might mean a compromise in quality or service. The choice to raise prices, even knowing the customer will not be happy, may have to be done. Or maybe it’s a decision about something behind the scenes that the customer won’t see, but may still may have a negative impact on the customer, maybe even worse than the customer’s concern over a price increase. But these decisions are always made with the customer in mind, even if we know they are not going to be positively received by the customer.
Customer centricity shouldn’t be a concept that is just bantered around. It should be woven into the very fiber of the organization’s culture. Every employee must be a part of this culture that permeates throughout the organization. The best companies do this. So, if you haven’t already done so, make the decision for your organization to be customer-focused. It will positively impact your customers, your employees and your bottom line.