By CEO & Co-Founder Terry Dry
Zappos, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, Apple... famous examples of companies often referred to as “Customer-Obsessed.” The concept is certainly not a new one, but as companies and marketers look for ways to reconnect with consumers after a turbulent year, it’s worth revisiting why this strategy is an essential way to future-proof any organization.
What Does it Mean to be Customer-Obsessed?
Simply put, “customer-obsessed” businesses put their customers first. Sounds easy right? But a customer-first approach means that every part of your organization needs to be centered around meeting the needs of those that buy from you. It's embedded in your business model. It’s embedded in your culture. Everything your business does is about that person on the other end of the transaction.
Why is Customer-Obsession Important This Year?
In a post-covid world, companies will undoubtedly need to find new ways to reestablish a connection with their customers. During the pandemic, many who were once thought to be brand loyalists, jumped ship. They opted for cheaper or more available alternatives. Consumers are also grappling with trust issues after seeing companies not live up to their promises in recent years. Winning them back will undoubtedly be a core goal for brands and marketers for the remainder of 2021 and beyond. Being “customer-obsessed” is a key strategy that can help refocus teams on what’s really important: PEOPLE. Serve them, listen to them, care about them, adapt to their changing needs… love them. This is the only way to build loyalty and ensure your customers not only stick around but become avid fans.
The good news is, there is no shortage of tools and tech available to help an organization become customer-centric. The trick is how you use those resources. Avoid the trap of getting too reliant on algorithms and spots & dots. There are seemingly endless opportunities to better serve your customer, which in turn will better serve your business.
10 Ways to Make Your Business Customer-Obsessed
1. Commit to Being Customer-First: Seems obvious, but It all starts with a real commitment to being a customer-first business and implementing a customer-first marketing strategy. Update your business model and business objectives to put customers at the core. One way to do this: rather than focusing solely on your product and what it does or how great it is, focus first on how it solves the problem of your customer. Simple tweaks in perspective can make a huge difference in how you can better serve consumer needs.
2. Make it Part of Your Culture. Integrate a customer-at-the-center focus into every aspect of your organization. Communicate your purpose often. Reward employees for their customer-obsession. Remove employees that don’t live these values. Make it clear to your team that this is how you operate moving forward. Try this: run everything you do through the filter of “what would our customer think about this?” or “what would our customer want?” If those questions are constantly being asked by you and your team, customer-obsession will become a natural part of your everyday culture.
3. Gather Data & Insights. Use data to help fuel your customer obsession. Learn about your specific consumer’s journey. What they care about. How their needs are changing. Implement robust social listening tools. Pay attention to reviews, testimonials, and customer service calls. Make it your mission to amass as much information as you can to get a much deeper understanding of your consumer. I can’t stress enough how important this is. People have changed so dramatically over this past year that you can’t afford to not dig deeper and work harder.
4. Proactively Engage. It’s not enough to just listen, you need to act. Engage with your customers regularly via social media, chat, DM, and email. Ask questions. Visit your retail locations or the places your customers frequent and talk to them face to face. Proactively reach out to get their feedback on new products or services. Don’t just make it a habit of responding to issues, be a company that values the opinions of your customers at all times.
5. Develop Customer-Centric Metrics. Update your metrics to put customer satisfaction at the center. And not just for your customer service department, for the entire business. Everyone from sales to marketing to human resources should be singularly focused on meeting the needs of your consumer. Make the buyer journey more than just an infographic presented at a marketing meeting, but the central focus of your organization. Something to consider: Rather than always fixating on acquiring new customers, prioritize existing customer loyalty as a core metric.
6. Align Marketing with Customer Service. Beyond a focus on customer-centric metrics, ensure that your marketing team and your customer service team are aligned and meeting regularly. Consider breaking down the barriers and merging them into one team. The insight that customer care and marketing departments can share can greatly benefit the business. You can expect better response times, an improved social media strategy, more robust and personalized content development, better messaging, consistently updated and accurate customer profiles, and so much more.
7. Constantly Innovate. Being customer-obsessed requires constantly meeting their changing demands. Encourage innovation in your organization and build a culture of ideation based on the data and insights your customers are providing to you. This will also invigorate your employees and make them feel more engaged and creative.
8. Focus on People. It can be so easy for companies to think of their customers as numbers. Customer-obsessed organizations focus on the people behind the sale. Consider scrapping words like “consumer” or even “customer” from your company or marketing lingo. The more you focus your organization on the “who” behind the transaction - the more your team will feel connected to them. Don’t forget about your employees in this equation. They need to be treated with the same care and respect that you give your customers. Having happy employees who feel valued and are engaged will trickle down to the customer service experience.
9. Celebrate Your Customers. Customer-obsessed companies don’t just have people that buy their products, they have enthusiastic, dedicated fans. These fans don’t appear overnight. They are the result of a business that celebrates them, appreciates them, and listens to them. Empower your customers to participate in R&D. Tap your loyalists to give feedback on early-stage products. Reward your customers for sharing their feedback with others. Celebrate your customers by featuring them in your content and your advertising. Your customers are media, so by giving them access to you and making them the focus of your business objectives, they are more likely to be advocates and you may start to see a greater return on your marketing investment.
10. Prioritize Existing Customers. Businesses can sometimes focus so much on acquiring new customers that they neglect their existing ones. A customer-obsessed organization prioritizes the needs of its current base first and foremost. Their happiness and repeat purchasing power should be top of mind. That doesn’t mean you should stop reaching out to new audiences altogether, it just means that new customer acquisition should be a secondary goal. Retention and loyalty become the priority. We’ve all experienced a time when a company you’ve been buying from for years suddenly offers an amazing new deal, but only to new customers. It can be frustrating to think about how much you’ve invested in a company, only to feel underappreciated. A customer-focused business approaches things differently, rewarding loyalty before or in conjunction with a new acquisition.
Future-Proof Your Customer Obsession
Being laser-focused on your customer is THE way forward this year for brands and marketers. Everything you do should be in service to the customer if you have any hope of regaining trust and loyalty, and ultimately becoming a future-proof organization. Businesses that follow this approach can expect a more nimble, agile operation that can meet the current and future demands of their consumer; a robust healthy culture where employees feel aligned around a common purpose; and most importantly accelerated revenue growth in ways never thought possible fueled by a deeper understanding of your customer.
Becoming customer-obsessed will take work. The reality is, not every company can be Zappos. But there are incremental changes you can make right now that aren’t as difficult as they may seem. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to seek outside help and opinions to help you identify ways to optimize your business and marketing plans to put the customer at the center.