"We are reliable."
"We really care."
"We deserve your trust."
For decades, brands have relied on these broadcasted messages. They are the equivalent of standing on a raised platform, shouting to an impassive audience.
In the modern age, however, it's not the brand that's in control of the conversation.
Consumers no longer just consume. They push. They pull. Doing both with equal, and forceful, power. And what they choose to say - how they apply that force - comes down to their experience: the sum of how they feel across every touchpoint.
Making sense of it all requires a shift in thinking - to look at the world from the perspective of a customer, not a brand. It also requires a shift in how the company operates - moving from brand-first to "customer-first". This part is much trickier, as only 34% of companies are prepared to deliver on customer experience.
What It Really Means to Put the Customer First
Customer-first means making decisions based on who your customers are as human beings, not just data points. It requires a commitment to providing a great experience from the moment a customer discovers your brand. It means building trust over time, and sustaining amazing experiences in everything you do from marketing to customer support.
It might seem like a lot, but getting to customer-first is well worth the effort. In fact, it could be the only thing that keeps your company around at all. Nearly 10% of all public companies fail each year. It's likely that 4 out of 10 companies operating today will not make it to 2025. Of course, businesses close for a myriad of reasons, but the failure to be singularly focused on customers cannot be overlooked.
What It Takes to Put the Customer First
For those of you ready to lead your organizations through the all-important change to customer-first, here are four key actions to put you on the right path.
1. Have a plan
It may sound obvious, but it's vital to start with a clear vision of what your company will look like after it makes the shift to customer-first. Yes, think about the positive impact the change will have on your brand's market position. But also think about the arduous process needed to get from here to there. Be realistic about what's needed to achieve that future state. Which executive will be responsible for customer experience? What's the process for consolidating, managing, and sharing customer data? How will legacy technology systems be integrated with new ones? How will different customer facing teams be linked up? Most importantly, how will these changes affect other areas of the business, the bottom line, and every customer's experience?
2. Share your vision - again and again and again
A great vision only works if everyone understands it and believes in it. Ensure that communications about customer-first efforts stand out from the clutter of everyday business messages. If anything, OVER-communicate. Employees must have a clear sense of what the company is trying to accomplish, and know exactly what they need to do to move the process forward. Keep employees updated on how their roles, teams, and day-to-day will be affected, and fill them in on the company's overall progress.
Most importantly, make sure communication moves across the boundaries of traditional business functions and silos - customer-first is a company-wide effort.
3. Identify and activate the right people
Don't forget to develop internal support for the evolution of your company. Choose individuals with strong influence, credibility, and expertise, and arm them with the information and resources necessary to spur change within the organization. You can inspire change from the top, but you will need allies at all levels of the company to execute.
4. When thinking through technology, start with the customer experience
On average, marketers use 12 distinct toolsets to support the collection, management, and deployment of marketing data, and some marketers use more than 30 different tools on a regular basis.
The problem with adding another point solution to the arsenal of existing tools is that most of these siloed solutions are unable to communicate with one another. They require different interfaces, credentials, and workflows. They often use different metrics and methods of reporting, too. With one or two point solutions, the inconvenience is negligible, but an entire ecosystem of point solutions cannot and will not provide your enterprise with the insights needed to attain rich customer profiles. When you have a point solution for planning, publishing, engagement, listening, asset management, reporting, audience profiling, reporting, governance, and a dozen other functionalities - it's a losing battle.
Brands need a new approach to technology - focusing less on stop-gap measures that address one or two tactical needs, and more on the holistic customer experience.
Put Your Customers First
The journey to customer-first isn't easy, but at a time when customers are more connected and empowered than ever, it's crucial. By starting with these actions and building on them over time, you can re-align your company around the customer, and in doing so, position it for sustainable success.
How are you putting your customers first? Share your best practices here!