In the Age of the Customer, customer-obsessed businesses have a competitive advantage. As more businesses adopt a customer-centric focus and this becomes the norm, this advantage will come to an end. Companies that are unable to provide positive customer experiences will be threatened by the growing number of businesses using customer experience to drive loyalty and adoption of their products.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that customer experience is top of mind: Businesses that do not put the customer first will struggle for relevance in an increasingly competitive market.
The majority of the customers I’ve spoken with want to embrace customer-obsessed culture and create a single view of their customer. They want to understand their customers, respond to their feedback, and anticipate their future needs. These companies understand the value of introducing the customer’s point of view to their business. But understanding this value does not always translate to action.
Putting customer-centric thoughts into action requires the support of your teams, particularly your leadership team. Ensuring this executive buy-in is a key step to any cultural transformation. Becoming a customer-centric organization can present new challenges to company leaders and require some teams, such as strategy and operations, to rethink their approach Leaders can promote positive feedback around customer-centric thinking and emphasize skill development to make sure their teams are equipped with the right tools to put the customer first. Before your business can truly embrace a customer-obsessed culture, your leadership team must be on board.
Focusing on customer experience isn’t new. In 1997 at Apple’s Developer Conference, Steve Jobs highlighted customer experience in the Q&A: “You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and figure out where you are going to try to sell it.”
Twenty years later, customer experience has risen to the top priority at almost every company I visit. Many businesses find that, as this is not a new idea, there are teams within their companies that are already customer-obsessed. The challenge becomes: How do they create an effortless customer experience across all parts of their business while empowering their entire organization to be customer-obsessed?
To create that effortless customer experience, you need to understand the customer journey. Journey mapping provides a full view of how your business interacts with your customer. It is critical to look at the entire customer journey to understand and break down the way your brand is perceived. This requires alignment across your business, with all teams working together to create a journey map to understand the full customer experience. Without the cooperation of teams across your business, your understanding of your customers’ experience will be flawed.
One of the biggest challenges that companies encounter when moving to a customer-obsessed culture is focusing too much on specific touchpoints in the customer experience. When their efforts are narrowly focused, businesses’ attempts to problem-solve and transform are subject to failure. Even if you solve the touchpoint-specific issue, you cannot effectively improve your customer experience without considering how it fits into the bigger picture. Individual touchpoints are often not the cause of negative customer experiences. More often, customers are dissatisfied with many interactions with a business.
Ultimately, to stay competitive your business needs to adopt this customer-obsessed thinking. Start with buy-in from your leadership, but don’t forget about your team. Your team drives your journey to customer-obsessed. Empowered employees are the key to successful customer engagements, as they execute the customer-centric vision defined by your business. And without an internal cultural transformation, you will not be able to truly shift to a customer-centric focus.
Maria Martinez is the President of Salesforce Customer Success Group and Success Cloud. In this role she focuses on helping customers succeed and transform their business. In 2018, she was named #6 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Latinas in Business. Find out more information about Salesforce’s proven approach to customer success in the Playbook for Customer Success.