10 tips for being a Customer Centric Company

What is at the centre of your universe?

I while back I was catching up with a friend, lets call him John, over a quiet beer after work.

John was working on a contract for a client to help them install a new CRM system their original project had stalled, they had asked him to come in and assist.

After doing some of the preliminary requirements work he discovered the problem.  It came down to Matters. A “Matter” is a legal project like processing a house purchase or (in some cases) suing someone.

A couple of years earlier the firm had installed a new practice management package but during the installation they had customised the package to focus on the legal “Matters” rather than on the actual clients that the Matters related to. 

This may appear to be a small issue on the surface, but it resulted in some rather strange flow on effects where the Matters were billed separately to each other and in many cases to completely different accounts for the same client.  Trying to gain any form of customer reporting was challenging to say the least.

Clearly something was amiss here so my friend arranged a meeting with the CEO to get this issue resolved.

In the boardroom later that day my friend ran the current situation and its implications past the CEO, fully expecting to be given the ok to begin addressing the root problem.

“John there does appear to be a problem here” The CEO respond once John had finished his report.   “I believe that you just clearly don’t understand our situation”

John looked perplexed.

“You see John, the system as it stands accurately reflects this business”

Pause…

“We are a Matters Centric firm.”

It took me a while for my brain to unwind the implications of this comment.

When a firm is “Matters Centric” or “Project Centric” or “Product Centric” they have relegated the customer to a secondary level of importance, this is a sure sign that when the needs of the customer change the firm will be looking the other way.

This firm had seen a year on year drop in billings growth and then this year the firm had lost a couple of major accounts.  In one case the client just stopped sending work to the firm and they didn’t notice for 6 months, which had resulted in the firm looking to add on a CRM system in the first place.

 

The Tips

To build a sustainable, profitable business the customer must be the centre of your corporate universe. 

Here are a few ideas to help you realign your stars.

1.     High Level buy in is a must; this is a CEO and Board level conversation.  Even if the firm doesn’t have a mission statement or corporate vision written down or on the wall it doesn’t take long for everyone within a firm to know what is important. Without demonstrable support and encouragement from the firms’ leaders Customer Centric becomes a sunk cause.

2.     Customer Centric is not a departmental role; Customer Centric needs to be company wide.  In the old days customers were “owned” by the sales department but I don’t think this has been true for at least the last 15 years.  Think through the customer journey, what are the current touch points, what can you make better and what is missing?

3.     Focus on the relationship.  The relationship is built on a platform of understanding and successful transactions.  Without transactions you just don’t have a customer you have a lead at best but a purely transactional relationship will easily be commodities and then you are looking at a race to the bottom for price and profits.

4.     Get out of your office & get into theirs.  Some industries are more aligned to this than others (lawyers tend not to make house calls) but the simple act of walking through a clients’ building, warehouse or storefront gives you huge opportunities to interact, discuss, and connect to the client

5.     Look for more ways of getting customer feedback and act on it.  This doesn’t mean customer surveys although that may be a component of the package.  At almost every opportunity look for ways of capturing the satisfaction and relevance of the firm to the customer.  Another annoying web pop up on your website may not give you the depth of understanding that having your CEO call a handful of clients each week to follow up on a warranty claim, project status or first sale.

6.     Understand where you fit into the customers’ world.  It maybe hard to admit but for many customers your firm is not the centre of their world, alternatively the actions of your firm may have substantial ramifications on their business.

7.     Understand and support the customers’ aspirations.  What is your customer working toward and how can you help them get there?  Customers are not buying your products and services in a vacuum, they are playing to their own end game and you better you can understand what that is the more appealing you can become as a partner.

8.     Create a single source of the truth.  Your customers’ touch point history will be in your POS / billing system, ERP, warranty database, website records, email / marketing lists, project plans, customer service calls, whatever they are their will be more that you think.  Get all of that data into a single place and create meaningful views that staff and possibly customers can gain insight from.  This doesn’t mean you need a single monolithic system for all interactions but the power of linking those systems together can’t be over emphasised.

9.     Mine your existing data to ask better questions.  If you have existing clients you will have captured more data that you are really aware of.  Customers may not themselves be aware of the ways they are interacting with you.  Business Intelligence is not a product (this is a topic for another post) it is lens through which you can better understand the customer.

10.  Don’t look for a Bolt on solution.  There is no Silver Bullet here, a CRM software package, reporting package or CEM survey wont make you customer centric but those tools used correctly may help you on that journey.

 

In summary, being Customer Centric is a mind-set that determines the actions of your company and it must come from the core. 

Customer Centric is about being relevant to your customer now and having the understanding to make changes where needed to continue being relevant in the years to come.