Rethinking Customer Focus In 2023: Strategies And Tactics for Future Proof Success

The utmost goal of any business irrespective of the industry is to serve the customers in a manner that contributes positively to the betterment of their lives. It’s the reason why businesses invest millions of dollars in research just enure their products and services meet the exact needs of their customers. Failing to mind your customers is a sure ticket to failure. Hence, the reason to rethink how business approach customer focus. There are a couple of organizations that have demonstrated admirable efforts to improve customer focus and these have paid off. Such an example is Netflix. After delivering nearly one billion DVDs into customers’ mailboxes in 2007, Netlfix learned that their customers wanted something more inexpensive, easily accessible entertainment that does not restrict when and where you could watch it. As such, Netflix recognized the need to be more customer-focused irrespective of whether it’s going to disrupt its business model for years. The switch to video streaming spiraled Netlfix’s popularity and revolutionized how we consume television and movies. In fact, rival DVD rental business competition couldn’t match the competition posed by Netflix. Today, it’s imperative to have a razor-sharp customer focus to survive the competition, with the ever-changing customer expectations and general market competition.

What is customer focus? Why is it important?

Customer focus means having obsessive knowledge of what your customers need and how to exactly deliver it to them. This also means that you have to concentrate on how their interactions help them enjoy a better customer experience as opposed to the interactions benefiting your business. In essence, customer-focused businesses are built around the customer, nothing else. Having your customers at the core of every activity, move and decision within your business places you in pole position to build better relationships, help your customers realize their goals, and achieve customer satisfaction. The State of the Connected Customer report by Salesforce indicates that 73% of customers wish companies understood their needs and expectations. Only 51% think that companies generally understand their needs and expectations. A further 62% expect companies to adjust and adapt to their needs and actions with only 47% thinking that this is already happening. Other examples of companies that have demonstrated great strides to improve customer focus include:

How do you build a customer-focused culture in your business?

To improve customer focus and build a customer-focused culture in your business, you must first understand why you need to be customer-focused, understand your customer’s needs and expectations, and how they interact with your business. For a start, you need to start collecting disconnected sources of customer data and centralize all the data in a single, 360-degree view of your customer and use this data to deliver a better customer experience. Below are proven strategies and tips to help you improve customer focus going into the new year.

1. Listen to your customers

Listening to your customers means you know what their needs are, how they make decisions and what influences those decisions, what their goals are, and what they are generally feeling. The first place to help you get a glimpse of this is to try to walk in your customer’s shoes. To start, building an understanding within your business that improved customer focus is the responsibility of everyone in the company. CEOs must enforce the customer focus message from the top down to the last person in the company. As the CEO, you need to periodically interact with your customers to understand their needs, feelings, and feedback about the brand so far. This includes occasionally picking up customer calls, reviewing web analytics, attrition rates, and reviewing customer feedback. You can start with using survey opportunities to collect customer feedback which then needs to be analyzed and findings shared across the company. Social listening is also a great avenue to collect and understand how your customers feel about your brand. This is majorly through direct mentions and hashtags about your brand on social media,  hashtags your customers use, competitor activity, and running feedback campaigns on social media platforms.

2. Create space for new ideas

With over 50% of customers expecting companies to adapt to their changing needs and behaviors (including millennials and Generation Z at 67%), creating room for new ideas originating from all sources is a win. Forward-thinking organizations have dropped the old habit of leaving new idea generation to a select group and are now open to new ideas from all sources. Companies like Unilever, Lego, and Ikea are currently involving customers in problem-solving and new product origination through co-creation platforms and initiatives. Leaders need to create environments where great ideas can happen and not restrict themselves to being the sole generators of new ideas.

Break down internal barriers

Internal barriers have different names but the effect is the same. For most organizations, chunks of customer data sit in different departments without the possibility of it ever being centralized into one point for analysis and decision-making. The result is a disconnected experience for customers. Most customers expect consistent interactions when dealing with different departments within a business. A good number (59%) feel as if they are dealing with different organizations when they interact with different departments within an organization. Consequently, customers often have to repeat or re-explain their issues to different departments when seeking assistance with their issues. To create a more valuable, personalized experience for customers, breaking down silos or barriers must be the number one priority unify disjointed data into a 360-degree customer view to help understand customers better.

4. Unlock your data with technology

Lately, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have raised the bar for businesses around the world. Consumers and business buyers of today have no problem paying a premium to get differentiated, first-to-market services and products which pile pressure on businesses to get involved with technologies. Nearly three-quarters of customers want companies to take advantage of new technologies or use current ones to create better experiences for them. If an organization already has enough data about the customers, then utilizing new technologies is pretty straightforward. This can include using push notifications to customers’ phones suggesting new discounts on products they were browsing or using their browsing history to tailor product or service recommendations. Chatbots can also be used to collect and qualify information so that agents and other users of such information get more time to solve customers’ problems.

5. Bring in a customer-focused advocate

A lot gets lost in the day-to-day business of running your business. Customer focus can be part of it. Therefore, appointing a chief customer officer (CCO) to represent the customer and also supervise the faithful adherence to customer-focus initiatives throughout the organization is a win to your business. Besides being the voice of the customer, the CCO will be responsible for using research and data to advocate for customers’ needs, advice on processes and product designs, as well help teams adjust their customer focus skills. The CCO’s role also includes being the reminder that having a strong customer focus provides tangible opportunities for customer satisfaction, better revenue, and less customer churn.

6. Create opportunities for learning

As the old saying goes, Rome was not built in one day. So is true for customer-focused culture. As you take steps to improve the customer focus in your organization, you must keep your employees and entire teams updated on the progress. Invite them to scrutinize the steps already achieved, collect their feedback and provide training materials and resources for them to learn more about achieving a more customer-focused mindset. In the end, creating a culture where customers’ needs and embedded in every interaction, they have with your business allows you to create a compelling offer to your customers and gives you a significant competitive advantage. Besides, the rate at which technology is disrupting whole industries is unprecedented and you need to understand your customers to predict what technology may solve in the future to help you move closer to custom-focused culture. You are better off disrupting yourself than when someone else does and you have to try to keep pace with them, as in the case of Blockbuster and Netflix.