What does it even mean?
It is important to understand who your customer is, and how they will interact with your product or service. Will you make life easier for them? Will you remove non value added tasks? Are you a dream, an aspiration? etc
How do you know this? How often do you talk to your customer? Talking and listening to them, rather than taking at them is key to understanding if your product/ service is a WANT or a NEED, and how you can market yourself. Where is your customer in the buying chain.... do you sell B2B or B2C or a combo of both - this can make building a product/service for your customer hard, if you are only getting input from the user. In a world where customer service are on hand through social media 24hrs a day almost, the dynamics have changed. Business need to invest in customer service like never before - or be the brunt of a horrific viral social media freenzy! But even a product disaster, if handled correctly, can make your client base even more supportive.
Who is your customer?
Do you really know your customer base? What they want? What they need? Needs are something you can't live without: food, shoes, coat etc. Wants are not necessities: oysters are food, but not a necessity to have them, designer shoes or coat. What problem will you solve for them? How will customers find out about you?
All too often business leaders, Marketing Managers, Sales Teams make assumptions on their client/ customer base. It's a complex world out there.... clients? customers? users? Each have their own demands - but which one is the most important.... well no easy answer - sorry.
You need to have a relationship with customers and users to understand how they interact with your product/ service, you need feedback from them. You are innovating products/ services for them, not for you - your products/services should solve a problem or be of use to them. That is your USP (unique selling point).
Understanding your customer....
Now you know what a NEED and a WANT is you can understand the buyer journey. Once a purchase has been made - what do they do with it? how do they interact with the product or service? Is it as you expected?
Febreeze initially were offering a scent free deodoriser - but after understanding how it was being used in the home - changed to a scented.... this is customer centric - this is understanding and listening to your client. Data alone would never have allowed the marketing and development teams to realise that a small change could create such a strong and desirable product. Understanding the habits and nuances of your customers - helps you to provide better more functional, more desirable products them.
But remember - how they use is only one part - how do they purchase, how good is the packaging, what is the aftersales.... depending on the product/ service these have different weights of importance, but can equally ruin a great product. So when you are talking to customers, ask about the sales experience, the delivery options, the packaging, the after sales - this will help to increase desirability of your product/service event more!
We have all heard about them, or seen them, or been part of them. The train wrecks. Sometimes a major issue, or sometimes a minor one, but always blown up like an erupting volcano.... is there any way back? YES. Managing how you communicate with a client can help you turn it around.... and remember, this is not personal, don't let it become personal. The customer is unhappy due to a product or service no because of you personally. You didn't get out of bed that morning wanting to get on the wrong side of a customer!
It is important to learn from mistakes, it is one thing for a one off event to be recoverable, but if the event happens time and time again - that is very challenging to recover from.
If something does happen, TALK to the customer, LISTEN to them, let them vent if they have to. Don't get into a fight, or become confrontational/ defensive. Let them have their time to speak, and let you know how they feel. Then communicate the issue back to the client, just so you both know exactly what the issue is, without the emotions. Now you can do something about it!
Replace, repair, compensate
TALK to the customer, ask them how they feel, and if there is anything else you can help them with.
Handling correctly, can result in the effected customer actually bringing you more customers... their word of mouth is worth 300% of your advertisements!
Is the customer always right?
This is a phrase we have heard a lot - but what does it really mean? Well, in my opinion, the answer should be IT DEPENDS.So, what do I mean by that?
If you have a product/service fault and the customer complains - then yes, the customer is right and you need to fix that and keep the customer happy so they will return.
If your customer is asking for customisations, changes etc for your product/service then perhaps the customer isn't right. Yes, we should ALWAYS listen to the customer, and its another avenue for innovative ideas - but you need a product/service that is profitable, scalable and marketable. You don't want to have a range of products/services but they are each only applicable to a single customer - that's a situation that is extremely inefficient and will have a lot of cost associated. Also, you don't want to have all your eggs in one basket, so your products/service aimed at one client - what if they go elsewhere? then you have no customers and no product that is market ready..... You want to listen and understand their points and then decide what is best for your business..... could you make changes/ improvements and the product/service be of interest to a larger market? premium pricing at minimum extra cost? These are the tough decisions, whilst maintaining the relationship with the customer. Communication once again is key - as you need to take their feedback onboard, but not commit, unless you really are going forward ith it. If you are not going forward, then you need to manage their expectations and keep them as customers - COMMUNICATION.
Again, you see, Customer Centricity touches so may facets of your business - marketing, training, profit, cash...... you need to keep looking at all of your business to have a successful business!