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What is customer-centricity?
Customer centricity means putting your customers at the centre of everything you do. This means putting your customers first when it comes to every decision you make, a deep empathetic understanding of your customers empowers you to anticipate their needs, and to create meaningful solutions that help foster long term relationships.
Customer-centric businesses start this process of customer centricity first and foremost by designing an internal culture that enables their employees to make the decisions that represent the voice of the customer. Companies such as Jeff Bezos’ Amazon encapsulate this internal customer centric approach where every meeting has at least one empty chair to represent the needs, wants and voice of their customers.
Why is customer-centricity important?
Customer-centricity is fundamental to product development, sales, marketing and pricing. Consumer insights is often overlooked as an outsourced aspect of the marketing department that is used to tick a box, or worse, an insurance policy for any potential product failures. Companies must be empowered to engage in frequent, effective and innovative research techniques that bring them closer to their customers. This will enable them to align every decision made within the company to be accurately informed and guided with their customers at the forefront of their mind, nurturing a sustainable business into the future.
Product-centrism vs customer-centrism
One of the fundamental drivers of failure for any company is a lack of understanding for your customers. The idea that if you create a solution, rather than actually solve a problem, you are destined for demise. It’s the reason why between 80-95% of new products launched into the market fail, and why 90% of all start-ups collapse. In fact, less than 50% of CEOs feel prepared for change, citing a lack of customer insight as their biggest deficiency. Coherent strategy requires clear direction. Customers are the only ones who can provide answers by understanding their present and future needs, many modern companies leverage and nurture customer communities to avoid this.
Harvard Professor Ted Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole”. The issue is, too many companies focus too much of their energy on the product, and not on the problem they are actually solving for their customers.
There is a deep misconception that the likes of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk were product-centric as they reimagined the future for their customers who could not have possibly told them they wanted a Ford, an iPhone or a Tesla. The reality is, these innovators were so deeply customer-centric that they could anticipate their customers’ needs by identifying their problems, listening to their pains and leveraging their expertise to mould their product vision around this core problem they were solving.
Ultimately, if Henry Ford was product-centric, he would’ve sourced a ‘faster horse’ as the solution. However, as he understood that the real problem customers faced was getting from A to B as fast as possible, he leveraged his customer-centricity with product innovation to create the world’s first motor vehicle.
The customer-centric approach
The antidote to such a dismal outlook is the prioritisation of frequent, regular and innovative research to constantly listen and react to your customers behavioural changes. In essence, this is the re-birth of customer-centricity, a way of doing business that fosters a positive customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. It builds customer loyalty and satisfaction which leads to long-lasting growth as a business.
A customer-centric approach is dynamic. It requires every team member to actively listen to customers and align themselves with that goal. In turn, this builds a company culture of consistent and regular communication with the people that matter most, guaranteeing a level of service that will foster fierce brand loyalty.
That is where consumer research is paramount. Understanding your customers is built on frequent, engaging and innovative ways of reaching them for feedback and insights. A sustainable, future-proof brand will build itself around consumers as the most important asset within a business. Becoming customer obsessive is the only strategy to become an iconic brand, consistently providing customers with what they desire today but accommodating future needs before customers realise they have them.