Interacting with a customer-centric company and a company that isn’t customer-centric offers two distinctly different experiences.
Customer-centric companies are all about their customers and make every decision and strategic move with customers in mind. In turn, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t.
Many companies claim to be customer-centric, but few really are. A truly customer-centric company is obvious to everyone who interacts with it—employees and customers alike—because everything about the attitude and actions of the company is different.
Here are six things customer-centric companies do differently.
1 . They Have Executive Buy-In
Customer-centricity starts at the top with leaders who understand and care about customers. When the CEO values customers more than profits, the attitude extends to the entire company. One of the biggest roadblocks for CX professionals and change agents is getting leaders on board, especially when they can’t see the immediate financial impact of investing in customer experience. But customer-centric companies have CEOs who understand the need to build out strong experience programs and put customers first. Executive buy-in makes it easier to institute customer experience initiatives. Not only that, but it leads to greater revenue success. 64% of companies with a customer-focused CEO are more profitable than their competitors.
Perhaps no other CEO is a greater champion of customers than Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Since the early days of Amazon, Bezos has famously left an empty seat in each meeting to represent the customer. He is on a mission to create the most customer-obsessed company in the world and regularly spends time in the contact center and interacting with customers. Customers are central to every decision Bezos makes, which sets the tone for the rest of the company. Even as Bezos prepares to step down as CEO, his legacy of customer focus will last for all future leaders.
2 . They Have A Culture of Customer Obsession
What starts at the top with executive buy-in then has to spread to the rest of the company to create a culture of customer obsession. Leaders set the attitude for the organization. When they prioritize customers above profits, so will employees at all levels. In a truly customer-centric culture, every employee—no matter their seniority or responsibilities—knows how their work impacts customers. They see the value of what they do on the overall customer experience and are empowered and engaged to serve customers as best they can.
Disney is known for its strong customer-focused culture, which goes back to Walt Disney himself. Employees are excited to come to work every day because they get to share Disney magic with each guest. On the first day of training, every employee learns that their goal is to create happiness. Employees receive regular training so they have the best tools to serve customers. It’s not unusual to hear of employees going above and beyond to create magical experiences for customers. They do it not because they have to, but because they genuinely want to share the magic of Disney with everyone. That’s the power of a customer-centric culture.
3 . They Collect and Treasure Feedback
Customer-centricity is a two-way street. A company can’t just say they know what’s best for customers without communicating with them regularly. Customer-centric companies not only understand the importance of feedback, they make feedback loops valuable parts of their processes and apply customer feedback to improve their products and service.
Companies today have countless ways to connect and gain feedback from customers, both empirically through surveys and metrics, but also anecdotally through social media, focus groups and in-person meetings. Customer-centric companies take that information and make sure the feedback makes it to the right people who can truly make a difference.
TD Ameritrade has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the financial industry, largely because of its huge focus on customer feedback. The company uses AI to analyze contact center calls for common topics and sentiment. If the algorithm notices that customers are regularly frustrated or overwhelmed about certain topics, the company adjusts its messaging and approach to proactively solve those problems. By using AI, TD Ameritrade estimates it has about 500% more information from customer calls. That feedback data fuels a customer-focused strategy and helps the company continually evolve and improve its experience.
4 . They Innovate and Offer Digital Solutions
Customer trends and demands are always changing, and customer-centric companies stay ahead of the curve with innovative products and service ideas. They go through continual digital transformations to offer digital solutions that are seamless and convenient for customers. Innovative companies look towards the future and give customers things they don’t even know they want, but that add value and convenience to their lives. These advances aren’t just flashy and new—they are rooted in what is best for customers.
Lowe’s has taken home improvement stores to the next level with its innovative digital solutions. The store was one of the first to use in-store robots to answer customer questions, and it has a robust app that shows customers exactly what is in store and where to find it. Lowe’s Innovation Labs partners with tech companies, startups and governments to create the future for home improvement retail. Innovative digital solutions create a seamless experience and make Lowe’s more accessible to DIY-ers at all levels.
5 . They Offer Proactive, Personalized Service
Customer-centric companies understand their customers, both individually and as a whole. They don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach but instead find ways to personalize the experience to each person, including things like connected contact centers so customers don’t have to repeat themselves, personalized recommendations and individual relationships.
Customer-centric companies are proactive and look for ways to help customers and prevent issues. Instead of acting as the clean-up crew to reactively solve problems, customer-centric companies address issues before they arise and reach out to customers with potential services before they realize they need them.
Nordstrom has long been celebrated for its fabulous customer experience, largely because it encourages customers to go the extra mile and gives them the freedom and tools to provide great service to meet customers’ exact needs. Nordstrom is known for its personalized approach, both through the human touch and things like personalized thank you cards, but also through its app and robust loyalty program with personalized rewards like free alterations and at-home stylist consultations. It’s no reason why Nordstrom customers tend to be incredibly loyal to the store.
6 . They Make Customers’ Lives Easier, Even If It Makes Their Life Harder
The ultimate marker of a customer-centric company is if it makes customers’ lives easier. Too often, companies fall into the trap of making customers’ lives harder so that the company doesn’t have to work as hard. But truly customer-centric companies go above and beyond with things like self-service options, convenient digital tools and even surprising and delighting customers to make their lives easier. They don’t do it begrudgingly or because they want customers to spend more money—they do it because they genuinely care about customers and want them to have a better life.
Starbucks knows most customers want to start their day with a great cup of coffee, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it. The coffee giant’s app and loyalty program are some of the best around because of the simplicity and personalization. Customers can easily order their favorite drinks for in-store pickup that allows them to bypass the line. The app remembers customers’ preferences to make ordering as easy as possible and rewards customers with personalized discounts and offers. Starbucks’ app is a simple way to make customers’ lives easier and start their day on the right foot.
Truly customer-centric companies think and operate differently to put customers at the heart of everything they do. These companies aren’t afraid to innovate, experiment and build lasting relationships with customers.
Blake Morgan is the co-host of the Be Your Own Boss Podcast with her husband Jacob Morgan. Listen to all episodes here.