3 Reasons Why You Should Be More Customer-Centric by Andrew B.
For most businesses, it’s not that you don’t care about any issues beyond your bottom line. Apparent social apathy is usually due to the fact that cash flow is crucial and takes a great deal of focus to maintain. You’ve spent a huge amount of your money and time developing a near-perfect business machine. Why can’t your customers just accept that your system is better than the one they’re asking for?
The fact is, your strategies and products don’t mean a thing if you don’t make your customers’ experience and needs the focus of your company policies. Here are three reasons why you need to invest in customer-centrism if you want to be successful in the long-term.
If you want a good example of how disregard for customer-centrism can impact your customer loyalty, you needn’t look far. Stories abound, from failed social networks to multi-million dollar Hollywood flops. But here I’d like to focus on a single, personal example: Sears. (See Reference Here)
When I was growing up, Sears was a big part of my life. My parents and grandparents frequently took me along on their shopping trips. The reasons for going to Sears were clear, even as a child: Sears had Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances. As a young adult in college, I was thus quite excited to get a job at Sears and be a part of such an historic company. I looked forward to selling the brands I associated with quality. That, unfortunately, is not how my time there would play out. I watched their legendary guarantees become diluted to the point of being unrecognizable. I saw the Craftsman tool brand outsourced and replaced with inferior products to save the company money at the customers’ expense. I saw the needs of the customers disregarded while our CEO’s pet project–a frankly ridiculous internal social network–was made the focus of our outdated training. It quickly became clear that whatever Sears had to offer a century ago was long gone.
About a year or so later, I moved to a different state for a management job. It seemed sad to me that such an iconic brand should disappear, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided to do some Christmas shopping there. My wife and I encountered the same, ignorant mess that I had seen at the store I worked in 500 miles away. I haven’t been back since. In fact, I don’t know a single person in my age group who shops at Sears anymore. Not when a more customer-centric experience exists elsewhere.
Do you remember your college days? Somewhere between a slave-wage job and late-night studying you had dreams that kept you going. You wanted to be successful, sure, but odds are that you wanted something more: to make a difference, in some way, for good.
One of the top reasons employees quit is that they either don’t feel their work makes a difference, or that they believe their employer is exclusively self-serving. Your workers want to feel good about what they do and the company they work for. When you can’t satisfy their need to make a positive impact, they either leave or work less efficiently. Serious amounts of money are lost every year due to employee turnaround. If you want to avoid the costs of retraining and encourage your employees to stick around, one of the easiest ways is to become more customer-centric.
The media, like the internet, is a two-edged sword. While they occasionally will distribute good news about your company, that’s not what drives up ratings. That comes from bad news. Media reports, factual or not, impact your business in a big way. Interestingly, an openly customer-centric attitude can diffuse the customer outrage that stems from shocking news reports.
An example of this recently played out at Costco. They experienced a nightmare scenario: customers started contracting hepatitis from a Costco product. The news was all over it, making sure that everyone knew that Costco was distributing diseased berries.
Costco’s response was expertly executed. They acknowledged the crisis and took responsibility for selling the product, even though the contamination wasn’t really their fault. Then they offered hepatitis vaccinations as a gesture of both apology and active concern for the wellbeing of their customers. They tried to make things right, before anybody forced them to. The media circus, now void of any controversy, quietly acknowledged Costco’s good response and let the story die. Costco still suffered some damage, but it never turned into the disaster it could have been thanks to their customer-centric response.
It’s impossible to describe the perfect way to become customer-centric. The path to success in that arena is as unique as your industry. Even so, the benefits above hardly scratch the surface of the positive effects a customer-centric mindset can have on your business, and serve to demonstrate that the investment in your customers is always a worthwhile one.