CEO, CCI Global Holdings
“Customer obsession” is a popular — and often misunderstood — catchphrase in enterprise circles lately. While many companies have no problem focusing on and satisfying their customers’ needs, they’re still missing out on significant opportunities to build deeper, longer-lasting relationships. True customer obsession involves turning our customers into fans who believe in, advocate for, and keep coming back to our business.
So how do we promote customer obsession? Like any other critical practice or methodology, it’s not enough to hold one training session and then call our enterprise “customer obsessed.” Customer obsession needs to be built into our organizational culture and consistently reinforced and strengthened with the right strategies and mechanisms.
Let’s walk through the seven steps to achieving consistent customer obsession. From these you should see how small, impactful shifts in organizational processes help to create a more positive customer experience and build stronger relationships.
Customer obsession starts with understanding our customers’ goals, and how our offerings can help. We should think of ourselves as problem-solvers, helping to make customers’ outcomes more attainable — and that may mean going outside the box. Our offerings may not always be what our customers need, which is why we must approach the research phase with an altruistic perspective. Even if we can’t directly help them, we should always look for an opportunity to help customers help themselves, demonstrating that we are committed to their success, and are working to build a long-term relationship.
Our research should lead to valuable insights into our customers’ business and personal goals. None of us just works for the sake of working; customers are individuals with their own interests and drives. The more we understand what’s motivating our customers at a personal level, the better we’ll be able to partner with them to reach their desired outcomes.
This insight should inform our behavior and communication style as well. We should consider what would help each customer feel most comfortable. It’s our responsibility to adapt our style to communicate more effectively with our customers, especially if our styles are very different. This engineers the entire customer interaction, including its psychological and behavioral components, toward meeting the customer’s needs.
Commitment to customer obsession is an organizational drive to discover customer needs and respond immediately. Many enterprises already focus on meeting customer needs, but they make the critical mistake of not doing it in real time. A recent DMS study found that companies are seven times more likely to close a sales opportunity when they reach out to a customer within an hour of the customer contacting them. Unfortunately, a staggering two-thirds of companies don’t have a system in place for delivering the real-time contact their customers need. This can be costly; customers today have a strong voice, and bad news travels fast over the internet and through social media.
A key aspect of committing to customer obsession as an organization is applying its principles to every conversation — both external and internal ones. It takes changing our language from “me” and “I” to “us,” “we,” and “you.” These small tweaks can have a major impact on how our customer perceives us during an interaction. We help spread the right habits and mindsets throughout our organization when we practice them in routine conversations with co-workers, or in meetings with partners and stakeholders.
Developing consistent customer obsession takes reinforcement. As humans, we’re apt to keep doing something if we’ve been rewarded for it — and the more we do something, the more habitual it becomes. To reinforce customer obsession from the top to the bottom of our organization, we can put mechanisms and processes in place to reward its practices.
We might establish weekly or quarterly meetings at every level of the organization in which leaders recognize individuals exemplifying customer obsession. The company might also reward badges to employees; if a salesperson gets a glowing review from a customer, reward his or her customer obsession with a badge in the company directory.
Business leaders are in a prime position to drive customer obsession from the top down. Customer obsession principles need to become part of executive conversations and business planning — during pipeline reviews, inside shareholder meetings, and throughout the business development process. To create a customer-obsessed culture, it must be modeled at the highest organizational levels. If we’re asking our employees to carry out a customer-focused strategy, we should be doing the same with our business plan.
Customer obsession also requires empowerment all the way through the organization. Institutionalizing customer-obsessed behaviors and processes helps enable customer-obsessed companies, from presales to sales to postsales. Reward mechanisms can play a huge role in this process, as can quarterly training refreshers, e-learning resources, and even role-play scenarios during sales kickoffs. The more employees are on board and engaged with the customer-obsessed mindset, the more ingrained it will become in their day-to-day behaviors.
“The more we understand what’s motivating our customers at a personal level, the better we’ll be able to partner with them to reach their desired outcomes.”