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It might seem like a strange question to ask. You’d think it would be obvious, wouldn’t you?
These days, it seems as though everyone’s talking about it, but how many businesses are really delivering it? How many really understand what it means to be an end-to-end customer centric business?
Let’s break this down into some of the key areas that customer centricity covers and provide some bite-size actionable opportunities.
We’ll start with your own people. If you don’t have a caring and nurturing culture, how long will your colleagues stay in the business? If you have a culture of fear that penalises failure rather than encourages and empowers your people to test and learn and to make decisions on their own, can you really expect your people to hang around in the long term?
Are you training them and teaching them new skills? Can they see a potential pathway where they can develop their careers by staying in your business and taking on new roles?
Do you pay them a market competitive salary and incentives?
If you can’t answer yes to all the above, then the bigger question is, what will the impact of a disillusioned workforce be on your customers and their experience?
Gallup conducted a significant survey suggesting that only 8% of UK workers are engaged in their roles. Compared to nearly 35% in the US. This means that most people are just trying to survive in their roles. They’re not thriving, because the culture of fear that exists in too many businesses suffocates creativity, innovation, and agility.
Do you listen to your people? Do you provide them with a voice to tell you how you can improve? They often have lots of ideas and a better understanding of what might make a difference.
Diversity and Inclusion
The next building block in customer centricity is Diversity and Inclusion. Which using corporate speak falls into the ESG bucket (Environmental, societal, governance).
Diversity is often interpreted too narrowly. Many perceive it to be only about gender or ethnicity. While those are very much part of the requirements for being a diverse organisation, it is broader than that and affects several other communities. It is too often approached like many other industry buzz words such as social responsibility, with a focus on ticking a box. Proving to shareholders that it’s an ‘issue’ that has been addressed.
Addressing the challenge of being a more diverse business cannot be met by quotas. Nor can it be achieved by adding a few lines to the annual report. The workforce should be representative of society in all areas, including gender expression, age, ethnicity, religion, disability, hidden disabilities, and sexuality. Then you can feel confident that your business is diverse and more likely to reflect the customer base you’re selling to.
There are 14m consumers in the UK with some form of disability. And their needs are poorly catered for by most consumer-facing businesses. Imagine every board of directors had a member of the board with a disability, be that overt, or a hidden disability, there is a strong likelihood that the business would do things differently and ensure it met the needs of this community more effectively. That in turn is a significant commercial opportunity as the purple pound is a £350bn+ market.
Being a diverse and inclusive business is both a moral and a commercial imperative.
There are many benefits of diversity from an internal perspective:
Variety of different perspectives
Better decision making
Higher employee engagement
Reduced employee turnover
Better company reputation
Improved hiring results.
All the above adds up to a significant opportunity.
Of course, one of the barriers to creating a diverse workforce is unconscious bias. People doing recruitment often look to hire people like themselves. This is where people get judged on their name, their school or University, and where they live. When all that should really matter at the outset is their ability to do the job.
Too many boardrooms are still pale, male, and stale. With no obvious inclusion of anyone with a disability either. How can any business expect to sell the right products and services to its customers if most of their people don’t come from the same background?
If we don’t reflect the customers we serve, we will end up disappointing them with the choices we make on their behalf.
Being socially responsible is a key building block towards customer centricity. It means that businesses, in addition to maximising shareholder value, must act in a manner that also benefits society.
Social responsibility has become increasingly important to investors and consumers alike. The former who seeks investments that are not just profitable but also contribute to the welfare of society and the environment. The latter who are looking to consume more consciously and to buy from organisations who can demonstrate that they, too, contribute positively to the welfare of their staff and of society and are making moves to become more sustainable.
Critics of this approach might try to argue that the basic nature of business does not consider society as a stakeholder. But it is and an increasingly important one at that.
To some extent, this is where the agenda has broadened and is now often referred to as ESG – Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance, which is an evaluation of a firm’s collective conscientiousness for social and environmental factors.
It is typically a score or a rating that has been compiled from data collected surrounding specific metrics related to intangible assets within the business.
While diversity and inclusion are quite rightly given their own platform outside of social responsibility, one could argue that a business’s approach to diversity and inclusion affects its level of social responsibility.
There are many brands who are now proactively demonstrating on an on-going basis their focus on being socially responsible.
For example, Patagonia donated all their profits, $10m, from Black Friday sales to grass roots environmental organisation’s.
If you have any doubts that Millennials care about a brand’s social impact:
83 % are active citizens and believe businesses should be involved in societal issues.
79 % wish it were easier to know what companies are doing and would talk about it.
82% believe businesses can make an impact in addressing societal issues.
69% want businesses to involve consumers in societal issues.
Plus, Gen X are even more conscious of their buying habits when it comes to the environment. According to the Influence on Gen X ebook, 90% of Gen X consumers said they would be willing to spend up to 10% more for a sustainable product. Two years ago, this number was only 34%. It’s clear that social impact is a top concern for consumers.
There’s no escaping the fact that if you’re not socially responsible, you will be held to account by your customers. And by that, I mean they will simply switch to a brand that demonstrates the behaviour they identify with when it comes to social responsibility.
As I said at the outset, to be socially responsible is both morally and commercially the right thing to do.
Of course, Customer Experience is core to delivering customer centricity. But as I’ve hopefully done a good job of pointing out there are so many other key building blocks, that maybe you dont initially come to mind when you hear Customer Centricity.
When it comes to customer experience or CX as we like to call it, too often we view consumers and their expectations as a cost without understanding the benefit of delivering the convenience consumers are looking for. My view is you either accept that you have to continually evolve to keep up with and to meet customer expectations or you don’t. And if choose not to, don’t be surprised when customers choose to buy elsewhere.
Customer experience covers a myriad of things. From the experience in a physical environment to the one online. To calling the contact centre with an issue you need resolving to receiving marketing collateral from a brand be that via email, direct mail, or some other means. It includes the product or service you sell and how it’s sold to the interaction with all the channels and touchpoints of your business.
And talking about channels, turning up where your customers need you to be is a hugely important aspect of customer centricity. You may decide that you don’t need stores. Or, that you won’t sell online and only through the store. You might turn your back on Amazon and other marketplaces through the desire to drive your own direct-to-consumer sales. The reality is all these approaches are potentially flawed. As it’s unlikely that the decision was made after consulting your customers. This and decisions around the customer experience are all too often based on the ‘cost to serve.’ A line in the P&L that in my opinion should never be there in the first place. Everything must start and with building customer lifetime value. Only then can you satisfy yourself that you’re doing all you can for customer and for securing their loyalty to your business. When you focus on cost alone, you make the wrong decisions. Such as reducing the headcount in your store by 50% to remove costs, without doing the math to determine how many customers will leave empty-handed due to there not being enough staff to serve? Or deciding not to offer a delivery option that makes it harder for customers to choose your brand over a competitor.
This brings me neatly on to measures and what we measure. I fundamentally believe that we spend too much time discussing measures and KPIs that we can do nothing about or that tell us nothing about why our business is performing the way it is.
Conversion rates. Good to know how many people bought. On average around 4% in retail. What’s more important to know is why did the 96% of others not buy? Did they intend to, but we inadvertently put barriers in their way.
We don’t spend enough time or effort understanding what customers really think of our business. NPS and CSAT can tell you some of that, but we really need a deeper understanding of what customers think of their experience with us. Of our values, our products and so on.
We can generate this insight and more through the voice of the customer. Conducting surveys on our website, focus groups, social listening. There are so many ways we can get a better understanding of what our customers really think of us. A customer centric approach to data and insight and measuring what really matters can transform your business, from the way you make decisions to the relationships you build with its customers. Increasing your customer lifetime value and the longevity of your business.
I hope this insight into a few of the core areas of Customer Centricity helps you to understand the importance of becoming a customer-centric business and why you should embark on the journey. I truly believe that customer-centricity, when looked at end-to-end within an organisation, will ensure you have a sustainable business for you, your employees and customers now and in the future.
If want to know more, and to go deeper into all 10 building blocks of Customer Centricity, I invite you to join my Mini MBA in Customer Centricity that starts on w/c 18th of September. I am offering my readers 10% off using code MBA10 when signing up.
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