Is Your Business Customer Centric?
Successful businesses have a range of factors that have helped them achieve success including clear business focus, talented people, an eye for innovation and a close relationship with their customers whether it be D2C, B2C or B2B. You think of First Direct, Xero and Amazon, all have succeeded because of these factors. In this article I want to cover in more detail the last of these factors, namely customer centricity and the role of insight.
Recently I was at an event where delegates were asked how often they undertook customer insight initiatives whether for new proposition development, customer satisfaction tracking, market trends. I was surprised that the majority said they had not done any insight work for over a year!
Business decisions become easier when you know what your customer would like you to deliver. Customer insight drives your decisioning on how you can provide the product or service profitably to your target market. Getting this right also lowers your acquisition costs and improves retention. At one firm where I was CMO we created a segmentation driven by insight based on investment behaviours which informed both the content of advertising message and the channels where advertising took place. The result was a decrease of almost 20% in acquisition costs.
When A Business Isn’t Customer Centric – 3 Point Checklist:
1. Business Issues: Not an exhaustive list but includes: Not understanding what customers’ value and their needs, lack lustre sales, competitors stealing market share, conflict between marketing and sales, management inability to prioritise resource between improvements to the current business and / or new propositions.
2. Flawed Decision Making: Some of the inward-looking solutions organisations revert to in a quest to improve the performance of the business. Self referencing your own needs to determine what customers want, inward looking team brainstorms on what clients need, finance teams looking at ways to improve profit margin without customer context, changing the sales and marketing team personnel, additional training of the service team.
3. The above can be resolved using a range of insight techniques that drive actionable insight. The change in mindset and culture within your business should not be underestimated and creates a refreshing approach to growing your business.
A good example has been the change in retail shopping behaviours of some customer segments who prefer online shopping to a visit to the high street. Internet shopping you can argue has been around for around 20 years now but gone are the days where (1) delivery time was slow and inconsistent and (2) people felt they needed see the goods before they bought. Technology advances and consumer behaviour have adapted, expectations have changed but many retailers have not seen this coming or failed to adapt fast enough. You can see the consequence through our high streets and retail parks – Homebase, Toys R Us, House of Fraser and Maplin.
What Is Insight?
I’m not going to provide a formal definition here but rather to demonstrate that it is a philosophy that changes a business culture for the better. So, what is insight? It’s desk research, conversations within or outside your network, its complaints data, customer surveys and focus groups, its sentiment in social media, its ratings such as Trustpilot and Reevoo, its transactional data on your CRM and contract systems, its App tracking technology. Much is free. Much can be gained at low cost.
Creating A Customer Centric Business – 5 Building Blocks
1. Is Your Business Future Proofed?
This first building block helps to bring the business together under a united front. By doing this you can start to frame the business to the macro trends that affect all companies and their customers.
The first level of applying customer focus to your business is to regularly review societal trends. This is the big picture stuff happening globally, nationally and locally. This can be broken down into three areas (Fig 1.).
(1) Macroeconomic: applies to such things as geo demographics, legislation, institutions
(2) Domestic: applies to the family home and the practicalities of essential day to day living
(3) Lifestyle: is focussed on the use of non-discretionary time and resource and how this is used
Societal trends tend to evolve slowly, shocks are infrequent such as the financial crisis, the Brexit referendum result.
2. Invest In An Immersion Day
Depending on the size of your business and the budget available the purpose of this is for the key players across the business to be taken through a range of consumer-based research and insight. The day would include
(1) societal trends, as above
(2) voice of customer / customer satisfaction / complaints data which should already be being collected regularly as a matter of course in the business
(3) bespoke primary research investigating your market / potential market. This could be a simple poll amongst customers, an online survey with your target market or depth interviews / focus groups with customers or potential customers.
The resulting output forms the backbone to business and marketing strategy, customer experience approach and compelling the business into a routine for collecting and acting on insight.
3. Gearing Up Your Business To Be Customer Centric
Make insight a day to day part of your business, seamlessly fitting into everyday thinking, operations and business finance. Creating customer advocates across departments provides shared responsibility and creates customer centricity.
Based on the framing of the business in 1 and 2 you can then be clear what insight is important to collect regularly, for example news articles, reports (often free, especially Government statistics), customer feedback (satisfaction surveys, CRM data) and act on it as appropriate. Sales people and front-line customer service operators are also valuable sources of feedback. Warning: It is easy to fall into the trap of collecting (quantity) but not acting, better to collect less (quality) and act more!
Information can be formally reviewed quarterly or half yearly and presented to the board / Executive Team. It is tempting to produce a long report when really something such as Fig.1 plus top line satisfaction survey results will probably suffice, as its intent is to drive informed debate and strategic direction and where necessary supporting data can then be shared.
4. A Clear Picture Of Your Customers
If building blocks 1-3 are in place, build an attitudinal (survey data) and behavioural (CRM data) segment view of your customers. From this you can stand in the shoes of each segment to understand their needs of the product/service and the customer experience and expectations they have. Through a simple customer satisfaction survey, you can identify where you exceed or fall short of satisfying needs. A regular customer meeting can review the feedback and agree the changes to be made.
It is important to tailor your insight effort to the magnitude of business decision. New product idea testing can be done informally when engaging with customers in daily business. On ideas that have traction use focus groups and online surveys to review further. The results can then be used in business cases and modelling. On low cost /easy to implement ideas a test and learn approach can be initiated, with ongoing insight supporting the test.
Remember: the questions asked and the robustness of the analysis are the key to driving action. Data collection in today’s business world is relatively easy but ensure it well structured.
5. The Future Of Insight In Customer Centric Companies
As with many sectors, insight methods have evolved rapidly in the last few years so creating a customer driven organisation through insight needs to also consider what the future may hold using techniques including co-creation, AI and “big data”. The way insight is presented could be death by PowerPoint, in today’s world video, intranets, customers forums all make for more compelling interaction between users of the results and insight participants.
The schematic below shows what a customer and insight centric business looks like.
Written by Mark Pearson
Mark Pearson is founder of Creation Insight a consultancy in marketing strategy, insight, proposition development and brand. He is also affiliated to The Marketing Centre the UK’s leading provider of part time marketing directors. Mark has won multiple awards for his insight, TV advertising and customer experience work. He has been part of the judging panel for the Market Research Society and Direct Marketing Association. He has worked for Prudential, Egg, HMRC, Selftrade and Fortitude Fitness.