There’s a time for everything. The 1900s through 1960s were known as the Age of Manufacturing. The 1990s through 2000s were called the Age of Information. For this decade and the next several, businesses will be adapting to the Age of the Customer, a new business cycle where the power has shifted to the people and personalized customer engagement will mean everything when it comes to continued success.
Forrester Research marks the beginning of the Age of the Customer around 2010, and over the last five years, we’ve seen numerous brands acting on this age, putting the customer first in all that they do. Think Zappos: “We decided that we wanted our brand to not be about shoes, but about delivering the very best customer experience,” said Tony Hsieh. “That’s our brand and I’m pretty confident we can sell any item with that as our foundation.”
Or take Amazon.com and CEO Jeff Bezos as an example: “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
While many brands talk the talk when it comes to customer-centricity, it’s those that walk the talk and are truly “customer-obsessed” that are seeing above-average results. According to Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention alone can increase profits by 25% to 95%.
So what do customer-obsessed companies do differently than most? Here are 10 top differentiators:
1. They focus on customer satisfaction and retention over customer acquisition. In a 2014 Econsultancy survey of corporate marketers, 40% said customer acquisition was their strongest focus, while just 15% said retaining current customers was their top goal (45% rated both of equal importance). Customer-obsessed companies don’t obsess over wanting more; they appreciate and take care of what they’ve got, letting the brand advocates drive new customer acquisition.
2. They align brand strategy with the customer experience. Customer-obsessed companies don’t just talk the talk on being focused on their customers; they walk the walk. A poll of Forrester’s Customer Experience Council reveals that just 18% align customer experience with the brand strategy, a necessity in creating consistent positive customer/brand interactions and messaging.
3. They are nimble and connected. Customer-obsessed companies break down siloes and create seamless service experiences and customer experiences across the standard and emerging channels their customers are using every day. The Walker Customers 2020 Report notes, “the customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience. Immediate resolution will not be fast enough as customers will expect companies to proactively address their current and future needs.”
4. They use multiple sources of customer data to respond in personalized ways and predict next actions. Customer-obsessed companies create a relationship of trust. They use data to get to know and show that they know each customer, and then they go beyond this to predict and suggest best next actions and purchases. According to the 2014 American Express Customer Service Barometer, 89% of consumers surveyed say that personalization (89%) is key to an excellent customer service experience.
5. They use customer intelligence to gain insight at scale that leads to better products over time. Customer-obsessed companies don’t just listen to and solicit feedback; they act upon it and other customer information to develop the products, services and brand their customers desire.
6. They don’t just talk about the customer experience; they invest heavily in it. Notes David Cooperstein in the Forrester report, Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer, “a customer-obsessed enterprise focuses its strategy, its energy and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”
7. They recognize that the customer journey is unique and almost never a straight line. Customer-obsessed companies don’t just deliver on cross-channel service and support; they invest in creating a 360-degree view of the customer that reports on the customer’s journey and feedback across channels. Then they use this to improve the customer’s experience in the future.
8. They create a connection with the customer post-transaction. Customer-obsessed companies focus on customer engagement shortly and long after the sale. They communicate proactively and personally in an authentic way, with follow up on service and the customer’s overall experience.
9. They invest in content creation over advertising. Customer-obsessed companies develop and deliver helpful, shareable content rather than pushing promotions and advertising.
10. They are flexible to individual customer needs and empower their employees. Customer-obsessed companies realize that customer service and the customer experience is not one-size-fits all and align their processes and empower their staff to make sure that each customer interaction is personalized and satisfying. Said customer-obsessed Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson in an Entrepreneur magazine interview, “To achieve consistently terrific customer service, you must hire wonderful people who believe in your company’s goals, habitually do better than the norm and who will love their jobs; make sure that their ideas and opinions are heard and respected; then give them the freedom to help and solve problems for your customers.”
The Age of the Customer is upon us. Is your brand becoming customer-obsessed?
(For more details on the Age of the Customer and the defining traits of customer-obsessed brands, some suggested resource reports include Winning in the Age of the Customer and The Convergence of Brand, Customer Experience, and Marketing (Forrester).
Watch the Webinar: Aligning the Customer Experience
from Brand Promise through Post-Sales Service
In a recorded webinar, analyst Michael Krigsman discusses why companies need to become customer-focused, showing the weighting of promise, product, purchase and post-sales service when it comes to customer engagement, satisfaction and long-term brand loyalty.
Microsoft's Bill Patterson explores how the four Ps (promise, product, purchase and post-sales experience) come together and where customer service comes in. Bill and Michael provided examples of well-known brands that are laggards and leaders (those currently using productive, proactive post-sales service to amplify the brand promise, along with product and purchase success).
Quark Software Vice-President of IT and Customer Support, Mark Lawler, also joins the conversation to share how Quark is building its brand around and has doubled its Net Promoter Score through a strong investment in customer service and engagement.
Whether you’re representing a commercial brand, government agency, or growing public-facing organization, watch this free webinar at your convenience to find out where your organization currently stands in start-to-finish customer engagement and where all brands and organizations should be heading.