Each era in marketing comes with its own catchphrase, and the past few years have been all about customer centricity. It has become the North Star for brands as they refresh their growth strategies in response to shifting marketplace dynamics. Many also seem to be adopting the phrase merely because everyone else is, and they do not want to risk being left behind. However, adopting a slogan is not the same as adopting a mindset. So, what does it mean to be customer-centric and why does it matter?
A cultural re-jig
At its core, customer centricity means placing the end user of your products and/or services at the centre of the decisions you make, on both an individual employee level and holistically as an organization. The first step in achieving true, sustainable customer centricity is to develop a clear vision of what the brand wants to be. That vision must then be shared widely across the organization so every employee, even if not directly customer-facing, can contribute to the brand experience.
While you can articulate your customer-centric vision in a top down manner, you should develop and implement it in a more bottom up way, listening to your customers and melding their experiences into your organization’s growth strategy. This can help employees understand the role they play in the brand’s growth and elevate engagement levels by satisfying a deeper sense of purpose and alignment to the organization.
Know your relationships
To place your customers at the centre, you must first truly know them and the relationships that your brand has established. This goes beyond measuring your customers’ satisfaction and even beyond knowing their propensity to recommend you to others. It is about the actual strength of the current relationships you have, how they compare to your competitors, and how to safeguard them while also working to improve your performance in impactful areas. Customer relationship strength can be as simple as asking two questions—but its measurement offers powerful insight into potential blind spots and areas where you are expending more effort than needed.
Relationships are built through interactions customers have with your brand—each and every encounter ladders up to a holistic experience that is governed by two critical elements: how you perform against customers’ needs (the rational part of the relationship) and the degree to which your customers prefer you over your competitors (the emotional part). Ask yourself: Do you know how strong are these relationships? Do you know which levers to pull and where to pull back? Ultimately, you do not have to be good at everything, just at the things your customers need from you.
Create a powerful brand
Focusing solely on your customers, however, will not provide a well-rounded view of your brand. Retention efforts are critical to sustaining business growth, but to get to that point, the first step is the acquisition strategy your organization implements, measures, and monitors over time.
“Brand equity” is a widely used term, but what does it really mean? Ultimately, we are trying to imprint our brand on the minds of consumers. This is a longer-term process, one that can be difficult to implement if you do not know the power of your brand in the marketplace relative to its competitors. We strongly believe in quantifying the degree to which your brand is meaningful, different, and salient. Once you know this, the next step is to understand how to increase your brand’s power and build its equity. However, this leads to an essential question: where does your brand’s credibility lie and are you leaving equity behind?
Knock down silos
We can inadvertently leave equity behind when we work within silos and do not marry what we hear from our customers to the perceptions held by all consumers about our brand. Through marketing and brand communications, a variety of promises are made, such as our brand is strong and unique. our products and solutions are right for you, and our service levels are incomparable. By telling your brand story to consumers, you can drive choice in your favour, but only if your customer experience lives up to your brand promise. If you have silos in place, it becomes difficult to gain an overarching view. You can learn how to strengthen and differentiate your brand and keep your finger on the pulse of how your customers feel you, but when 20 percent of your touchpoints are delivering 80 percent of your brand equity, why continue to isolate your learnings and limit the synergies between them?
The end game
Globally, brands that saw the greatest increases in brand value in 2018 were also those seen to be delivering a superior brand experience. In an age when customers know what they want, and when and how they want it, it’s never been more critical to focus on experience. If the experience your brand delivers does not live up to the promises you’ve made, 41 percent of consumers are unlikely to stay loyal, 56 percent would not recommend your brand, and 62 percent are unlikely to buy additional products or services from you.
That is why customer experience, brand strategy, and employee experience can no longer sit apart. Together, they create a ring around your brand equity and business growth. When they are linked together, you are positioned to take a holistic view of your brand, drive organizational change, and speak one consistent language across your organization and initiatives. In doing so, you can place your customers at the centre of your business decisions and differentiate your brand in a manner that builds equity. While not always easy, looking past short-term objectives and taking a view of long-term value creation ultimately serves to build your brand and future-proof your business.
Written by Susan Sanei-Stamp, Senior Director, Kantar