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How Do We Make Customer Centricity More Than a Tagline?

How Do We Make Customer Centricity More Than a Tagline?

Leandro Perez and Brian Solis discuss what it truly means to be a customer centric business and how to make customer centricity a reality.

A little while back, I had a conversation with best-selling author and digital anthropologist, Brian Solis. He’s also Salesforce’s Global Innovation Evangelist. The main focus of our conversation was customer centricity, which is a phrase we hear a lot these days. 

Brian sometimes describes himself as a futurist — another word we hear a lot. I’ll let Brian describe exactly what that means to him: 

“Digital anthropology lets us understand how technology impacts communities. If you want to deliver better customer service for a digital-first brain, you need to understand what it is that they value, and what they expect. It helps to humanise the business, giving technology a sense of greater purpose. We’re going full steam ahead on digital, and we tend to make it transactional. We miss that warmth, and technology’s power to develop more meaningful relationships. The role of a futurist is to translate those trends. We ask what the next few years are going to look like, so that we can start to plan ahead rather than react to the next disruption.”

I really enjoyed my conversation with Brian. Here are my takeaways, including how we can make customer centricity more than just a tagline:

What does customer centricity really mean?

As Brian said in our conversation, you could ask any executive from any company in any industry whether their organisation is customer centric, and they would say yes. 

That presents us with a challenge: how can we define customer centricity? Many organisations use it as a philosophy, but perhaps don’t have the tools to turn that into practical activity. 

In reality, being customer centric comes down to whether or not your operations, decision-making, and planning are all based on the information you have about your customers. That data has to be accessible to everyone. If you don’t have a single source of truth about your customers, it is very difficult to be truly customer centric. 

Brian told me about some research that we’ve conducted recently. It found that only 13% of businesses around the world have a single view of their customers and can act in real time based on that data. That means we still have a long way to go before every company is truly customer centric.

The gift of customer service

Customer service teams have the opportunity to drive the move to total customer centricity.

It could be said that customer service is often a weak link in the customer journey. You don’t often hear customers telling stories of being excited to contact customer service, after all.

Service means to serve, to help, to advise. If you think about it, it’s a gift.”

Brian Solis
Global Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce

It doesn’t have to be that way. Some of the best companies in the world have turned excellent customer service into a competitive advantage. As Brian puts it: “Service means to serve, to help, to advise. If you think about it, it’s a gift. You might have a customer who’s in need of attention. And if you can deliver that, then they will feel a sense of reciprocity. That can turn into loyalty in the form of an additional purchase down the road, or a referral. And these are all wonderful things.”

Successful businesses share the desire to deliver a better experience. An experience is an emotional reaction to a moment. If it’s exceptional, you’re going to remember it. This is where many businesses make mistakes. They either deliver bad experiences, or they deliver mediocre experiences thinking that it just checks the box. It takes effort, and the right organisational structure, to deliver exceptional experiences.

A reset moment for business

We have an opportunity to reinvent what it means to do business. This isn’t about the digitisation of old practices. We can invent new ways of working using the technology available to us.

Customers now have a more powerful voice that is being exercised through their digital transformation. The next wave of disruption is happening because people are looking for, and finding, better experiences.”

Brian Solis
Global Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce

Part of this big reset moment is changing how we think about our data, and what metrics we choose to concentrate on. Measuring clicks to resolution, or response times, is measuring the barriers to customer satisfaction. 

What would happen if, instead, we started to measure the things we want to succeed at — satisfaction, lifetime value, etc.? These are human centred metrics that will ensure that we focus our efforts on improving the customer experience.  

Brian says we need to have a ‘control-alt-delete’ moment: “Customers now have a more powerful voice that is being exercised through their digital transformation. The next wave of disruption is happening because people are looking for, and finding, better experiences. So, if we want to become truly customer centred, we have to start thinking like the customer and looking for ways to fix what’s broken. We have to innovate and deliver something new that we might not have otherwise thought of before.”

The ‘experience style guide’

Brian also introduced me to the concept of the ‘experience style guide’. 

Many organisations have a style guide that dictates how their marketing materials should look, or their tone of voice. How many have a document that defines what customer service should feel like for the customer? It has the power to become a very important piece of policy for any business. An understanding of your business’s experience style guide would be just as important as understanding its branding or marketing messaging. 

You can empower your customer service teams by reminding them that they are a key part of your organisation. Their efforts are a meaningful driver of positive customer experience, and have a direct effect on the value of the brand.

It’s time for C-suite engagement

This kind of change in attitude should come from the top.

To succeed, your organisation needs a culture of innovation, a culture of empowerment, and a culture of customer centricity. The CEO is the only one who could own that. 

It can be incredibly difficult for executives to find the time to engage with this kind of thinking. In between meetings, we’re usually catching up on our inboxes, or dealing with dozens of competing priorities. Sadly, this makes it difficult to have that empathy that’s really required to understand your customer, and to know what a day in their life is like. 

The advice I would give is to become your customer. Try a reverse-mentorship with an employee, or with a customer who lives life differently than you. That way, you can understand their needs.

For more insights into how customer service is the backbone of your brand, download our State of Service report.

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