Whether you’re out in the field, managing a team, or working behind the scenes to keep business humming, it’s common to get tunnel vision and lose focus of your customers. From your daily task list to your big-picture objectives, everything is competing for your attention.

But when you create a customer-centric culture and refocus on the people your business serves, there is an amazing array of benefits.

You can outperform your competitors.

You can improve your company culture by unifying your team around a common goal.

And putting your customer first can directly impact your bottom line, too, with one Deloitte report showing that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable. Here are six ways you can shift your business’s culture to be more customer-centric.

 

Align customer-centricity with business goals

Everyone in your organization will take customer-centricity more seriously if it’s tied to tangible results.

First, determine why you’re hoping to build a more customer-centric culture. Is it because you want to improve company culture by aligning your employees with a common goal? Is it because you’ve received poor ratings from past customers and you want to improve service delivery? Perhaps it’s because you want to scale up and grow your client base through referrals and repeat sales. Or perhaps you’ve heard that it costs almost five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one?

Next, work customer-centricity into your mission, vision, and values statements. Post these statements where everyone can see them. Then, meet with your leadership team to start a company-wide initiative to focus more on customer satisfaction.

Actionable tip: Once you know what’s driving you to take a more customer-centric approach, identify how you’ll measure your efforts. For example:

  • Quantity and quality of online reviews
  • Customer retention rates
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
  • Speed of response to customer questions (on specific channels like email, social media, phone, or chatbot — or by department)
  • Employee satisfaction or engagement

Rethink customer service

Customer service used to be synonymous with “crisis response.” It was the work of a special team, and that work consisted of answering questions when customers were confused, smoothing out misunderstandings, or handling complaints or returns (for physical products).

But the notion of customer service has evolved. Now, customer service happens at every stage of the buyer’s journey — and consequently, in every department of your organization. If your customer has a great experience with your sales team but feels ignored by your accounting staff, you’re creating an inconsistent experience that will result in the loss of customers over the long-term.

Actionable tip: Ensure that every department “owns” the customer journey. Begin by outlining your unique customer’s journey and making a note of which departments they interact with at each stage. Identify a mission for each stage and encourage your leadership team to focus on that mission.

Here’s an example of what a customer journey might look like for a B2B SaaS company, and example mission statements for becoming more customer-centric at each touchpoint:

Stage

Team/Department Responsible

Mission

Awareness

Marketing

Attract the perfect customers by sharing valuable and engaging resources. Portray the brand as accurately and authentically as possible.

Decision

Sales

Identify real pain points and show prospects how your solution addresses them. Prioritize caring over selling — if a lead isn’t a good fit, don’t try to push a sale.

Implementation

Support

Respond quickly and kindly to customer questions on the channels they prefer. Anticipate their needs and make helpful suggestions accordingly.

Invoicing

Accounting

Communicate clearly and respectfully and seek first to understand the customer’s perspective.

 

Educate your team on empathy

Why encourage your teams to improve empathy? Empathy is all about seeing from another person’s perspective and anticipating their needs, a skill that goes a long way in all areas of business — from customer retention to anticipating the kinds of products, solutions, and features that meet your customers’ needs.

Aside from the direct impact empathy has on customer satisfaction, it’s a powerful force for overall productivity and happiness in the workplace:

Actionable tip: Empathy is a skill like any other — it takes practice to learn it. Plan a series of team-building exercises or hold a weekend empathy seminar to foster a culture of empathy. Use role-playing to provide your employees with examples of ways to respond to your customers’ needs with greater empathy and understanding. Consider offering free literature on the topic and incentivizing empathetic behavior with rewards, bonuses, and parties.

Make customer data available across your organization

It’s common for technical teams to have exclusive access to customer data, but far less common for an organization to offer this information in one centralized location. When you open up access to customer data across your business, team members in every department will be able to customize interactions and make more informed decisions.

When you use this information from analytics across your organization, you directly impact revenues, too. An Aberdeen Group study revealed that companies who use customer data to inform their decisions generate more revenue from cross-sells and upsells, they see better ROI from marketing strategies, and even increased profits.

Actionable tip: Prioritize data literacy and data availability across your organization. Start by ensuring you have one easily accessible location where you can store and track customer data. Then, train your team leaders on how they can get the most out of these tools. Then, task one person on each team with the role of aggregating and utilizing that data for their team’s objectives.

Facilitate interaction with customers

Certain departments tend to interact more with customers than others, but there’s no reason it has to be this way. Set up customer interactions, meetings, and workshops so every department gets valuable face time with customers.

Actionable tip: Give all employees access to customer communications. When every individual in your company can hear the actual voice of your customer and experience their needs, joys and frustrations, your team will steadily improve their ability to put the customer first.

Connect your marketing team with your customer experience team to give them greater insights into your customers. Let them hear customer phone calls and sales calls and show them customer emails and social media messages. These interactions will often lead to breakthroughs in ideas for marketing or advertising campaigns that truly resonate with your customers.

Collect customer feedback through multiple channels. Start with online reviews, support tickets, and NPS scores, and get in-depth information by organizing focus groups.

In today's digital world, customers can be more selective about which brands they give their business to. By not placing customers at the heart of your organization you risk losing their loyalty - and eventually, their custom. But by fostering a customer-centric outlook and providing a positive experience at every touchpoint your organization can build long-term brand loyalty, increased customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.

At its core, customer-centricity is an act of kindness. It requires leaders and employees to step outside of their comfort zones, challenge their assumptions, and try on a new perspective, all habits that naturally pay dividends in the workplace.