5 Steps to Developing a Customer-Centric Culture
A company without a customer-centric culture reminds me, in many ways, of a half-popped bag of popcorn.
Parts are edible, sure. Even delicious. But the fact is, it’s not nearly as good as it could be.. Having basic support options, such as email, is like pressing the popcorn button on your microwave — one option does not fit all.
If I think about my own experience with certain companies, this analogy rings true.
Let’s take my six-year love affair with Spotify as an example. I can look up any song I want, recommendations are tailored to my listening history, and they even send me my listening recap as a nice little end-of-the-year gift (Spotify Wrapped). My experience listening to music is not only easy, accessible and free…but personalized and delightful.
In a word, customer-centric.
Compare this to iTunes, which I used until 2015. Not user-friendly, overly complicated, and (in my completely objective opinion) overpriced.
If you put in the time to develop a customer-centric culture, like putting in the right time for a fully popped bag of popcorn, your business will retain long-term relationships with customers and have longevity.
What is a customer-centric culture?
Customer centricity is a business placing the customer and support at the center of everything they do and truly understanding them and their expectations. This is in comparison to a company that’s primarily focused on meaningless innovations, beating the competition and being an industry leader before all else.
Defined like that, you can easily imagine why a customer-centric culture is important for a business.
First off, customer experience is essential in the face of increased competition. The customer is king, true - but competition has never been tougher and it’s more expensive to find new customers than to retain current ones.
It’s no longer enough to write posts with obvious phrases like “the customer is always right.” Instead, you need to ruthlessly focus on things like product features, website design and your customer service. Basically, a user experience that is not only easy and useful, but one that your customers actually influence and enjoy.
Second, there are numerous benefits you gain from building a culture that’s focused on the customer. Here are just a few:
- Builds more trust in your company. Out of all organizations in the U.S., people still trust businesses the most. How do you manage this trust? By focusing on your customer’s overall satisfaction in everything that you do and owning up to mistakes.
- Creates ambassadors for your brand. Superfans that recommend your product are only created when you as a company are fully invested in the customer’s success.
- Improves your product development. The open line of communication that a customer-centric culture enables gives you more exposure to your consumers. Through this communication, you hear directly from your consumer what you could improve.
- Reduces work for agents. If you meet the customer's needs with your FAQ pages, thorough onboarding and chatbot assistance, there are less “open ended questions” that your customer service must address.
5 steps for developing a customer-centric culture
- Understand your customer
- Collect customer feedback often
- Implement customization wherever you can
- Educate your customers as much as possible
- Make empathy a habitual practice
Understand your customer
One of the best ways to start on the path of “customer centricity” is to understand your customer, what they need, and what their problems are. Here are just a few ways you can gather that understanding:
- Chatting with your customers on social media. This will get you valuable feedback, and it also shows presence and availability. Be sure to focus your time on the platforms most popular with your audience.
- Reading online reviews of competitors. This gives you a good idea of what your audience is looking for - and what you should avoid.
- Interviewing potential new customers. This is a great chance to play an active part in shaping how potential customers view you.
This last one deserves a bit of unpacking, and can be illuminated with a personal example.
At Userlike, we’re hosting more webinars and needed new software to keep up with our demands. Leah from our marketing team researched solutions and had a few software demos with different providers. Her favorite, and the company that earned our business?
The one that spent the most time getting to know us.
Before this company even showed Leah their webinar software, they had a conversation about our current setup. They didn’t try to sell anything - just focused on Userlike’s own story and took detailed notes about our needs.
The sales rep then summarized what they had learned. Only after this did they schedule a demo and create a test account, emphasizing the features relevant to Userlike based on the conversation.
The point of this story? This webinar company led with value and truly took the time to get to know Userlike. Something to keep in mind.
As for our favorite way to understand your customer?
Live chat. Quick communication is key to customer satisfaction, which goes hand in hand with a customer-centric culture. Userlike’s live chat and messaging lets you get to know your customers as they’re searching your site and learn their pain points, needs and preferences.
It’s a low-contact barrier and an enjoyable way to talk to your visitors and build customer profiles so you can always offer personalized help whenever they reach out again.
Collect customer feedback often
Listening and responding to customer feedback is an important part of a customer-centric culture. It shows your customer that you care what they think and are truly invested in their success.
Of course, there are a few best practices to consider:
- Know how to respond to bad reviews. Not everybody is going to like your product. Every now and then, customers might even have a genuinely negative experience with your company. Respond with grace, and try to fix the problem.
- Reach out to customers with a low customer health score. You never know who you can win back. Plus, even if you don’t, talking to people that aren’t satisfied or not using your product can often give you invaluable feedback you don’t get from your most dedicated customers.
- Use a tool to track your social media mentions. You should also have a response strategy ready. This includes how to handle negative comments and where to redirect those who need help. Try a tool like Hootsuite to monitor your brand mentions.
- Listen to feature requests and act where appropriate. There’s nothing that wins super fans quicker than getting exactly what they want. This is exactly what happened with our calls feature. Of course, be sure any requests you act on make business sense.
Implement customization wherever you can
Customization is an opportunity to delight customers. Done right, it’s a customer-centric feature that sets you apart from the competition and embeds your customer further into your business — which makes you difficult to abandon when competition comes knocking.
However, it’s important that you use customization in a way that is actually useful to your audience. There’s a fine line between a great customer experience and being annoying (or even crossing data privacy lines). Consider:
- The way people are able to use your product. Can people customize your software to fit and improve their existing workflow? Can they adjust the look and feel to fit their brand image? Are you able to support their team size and demands?
- Your marketing language. The typical example here are the emails you send to your audience. Custom emails to customers using important data points you have on them can be extremely helpful. Netflix, for example, will often send you emails based on your viewing habits.
- Your website. Set up the right AI and your entire website becomes a self-service portal where the customer can find quick, specific help. For example, our AI Automation Hub lets you create interactive FAQ pages and contact forms that attempt to answer your customer’s question as they’re typing.
The point of this all?
Customization (no matter what form it takes) is satisfying for your customers, plain and simple. It also shows them that your company actually cares and has solutions in place - an essential ingredient to a customer-centric culture.
Educate your customers as much as possible
New customers want to hit the ground running when they start using your software. They also don’t want to lose time trying to learn your software. And there’s no reason they should - as long as they have the right information.
Here are some ways you can educate your audience:
- Product onboarding. A thorough onboarding process should be your main priority. This quickly gets your new customer up to speed and sets a professional and helpful tone immediately.
- Feature updates. Your audience needs to know when new features or updates are released. Be sure to frame updates in a way that shows their benefit to your customer.
- Knowledge bases. Do you want fewer FAQs in your chat? Make your business knowledge easily accessible to your customers and you’ll notice a reduction in repetitive questions. Plus it’ll make your customer an expert on your product.
- Video tutorials. Many of your customers prefer video format because sometimes seeing is easier to understand than listening. If you have the resources to create tutorials and demo videos, it's worth investing in for the long-term.
- Content marketing. Great content educates your readers on how to fix their problems. This positions you as their helpful guide and deepens your relationship.
What does all of this have in common?
You’re making your customer’s success a priority and enabling them to be great at what they do. This is fundamental to a customer-centric culture, and it’s central to your company’s long-term success.
One thing worth noting: never make your audience feel stupid. You are educating them and making it easier for them to get past their problem - not taking on the role of condescending know-it-all Aunt Sue.
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Make empathy a habitual practice
One of the fundamental needs of humans is to be understood, and it’s no different in their interactions with companies. If you have personal, empathetic connections with your customers, you can expect them to stick around for a while.
An empathetic mindset also sets the tone for your representatives. Your customer-facing teams should focus on warm interactions with your customers, and not feel like they have to push strict (and counterproductive) policies.
To create a culture centered on empathy, here are a few tips:
- Learn when to bend the rules for customers and make exceptions. Nobody wants to deal with a company that’s married to a rulebook. Be a little flexible - your agents aren’t chatbots. Customers will appreciate your willingness to see issues from their perspective.
- Show customers that you understand their challenges. You have a few short moments to keep a site visitor’s attention, so grip them with empathetic copy. Take Hello Fresh. Their whole website screams customer centricity: food that fits in your fridge, high quality ingredients, the option to skip weeks, recyclable packaging - plus button options for personalizing your plan. It’s truly customizable to meet individual needs.
- Use copywriting that makes your customer feel appreciated. Good copy acts as a catalyst to a customer-centric culture. It’s prominent in your ads, website and blog posts, so it needs to connect to the customer. It also shows whether or not you truly understand their needs. Hurting for inspiration? Check out one of the most creative “Your product has shipped” emails of all time.
- Show appreciation to your customers. Truly valuing your clients is its own form of empathy, and often gets people to stay as happy paying customers for longer. Consider offering a referral bonus, sending "user only" benefits and introducing new features to their plan — especially ones that they've asked for.
All things considered, the foundation of building a company culture centered on the customer remains understanding your customer, first and foremost. It’s this understanding that shows you in detail what their problems are as well as how your software can provide a solution.
So, the 64,000 dollar question: what tool brings you close enough to your audience to get this understanding?
Userlike: your ultimate tool for creating a customer-centric culture
Userlike was designed for customer-centric companies, and it helps you do just that. That’s because it makes it easy to chat with your audience wherever it’s most convenient for them — your website, messaging channels or in a video call.
Here are just a few of the features that can help you create an awesome customer-centric culture:
- Chat directly with your customers across platforms. Different people use different platforms (Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp). Userlike makes chatting easy on all of them.
- Sticky chat. Have a constantly running conversation with your website visitors so they can respond at their convenience.
- Self-service automation. Our AI Automation Hub turns your website into an intelligent self-learning service portal.