A customer-centric company puts the customer instead of the product at the center of its business strategy. Nearly every company says they want to be customer-centric, but what does that mean? How can an enterprise develop a strategy and culture that drives profits, creates repeat customers, and generates brand loyalty?

First, it’s important to know precisely what a customer-centric company is and isn’t. Being customer-centric is about customer satisfaction, yes, but a truly customer-centric organization goes further by aiming for a loyal customer base that provides repeat business and ultimately generates increased profits. From the customer’s perspective, a customer-centric company provides a positive experience both before and after a purchase.

Elements of A Customer-Centric Business

Many companies conflate customer service and satisfaction with customer centricity, but the three represent different things. Customer service refers to what a company does when a buyer runs into a problem. Helping that buyer solve the problem in a way that promotes goodwill constitutes effective customer service. Customer satisfaction, according to Hubspot, “is a metric used to quantify the degree to which a customer is happy with a product, service, or experience.” This metric usually ranges from “highly dissatisfied” to “highly satisfied.”

Customer centricity incorporates both customer satisfaction and customer service, but it’s more than the sum of those two. A customer-centric organization places the customer at the hub of everything it does.

When a business wants to become customer-centric, it needs to rethink its strategy. Start with listening. Observe the customers, read their emails, and pour over the data in the surveys. Then, create a model that puts all that information to build services and product capabilities to support those customers’ perceived needs. A customer-centric strategy begins with customer-focused leaders who can design a full experience for their buyers. They must fashion organizational structures and staff them with people who can deliver the services and capabilities their customers expect.

From there, customer focus trickles down to frontline staff who manage day-to-day, face-to-face interactions with customers. Then, bring on the technology and performance metrics needed to evaluate performance against customer expectations. Those frontline staff get measured against metrics that directly relate to customer centricity, and finally that feedback is used to improve overall corporate performance.

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7 Things Customer-Centric Companies Do

1. Listen to customer feedback and act on it.

Perhaps America’s most recognized brand, McDonald’s continually reinvigorates itself by listening to and applying customer feedback. That’s how the brand came up with fresh ideas such as its self-ordering kiosks and table service.

2. Create a beloved loyalty program.

Effective customer loyalty programs deliver rewards that recipients want along with a connection to a like-minded community. Hilton’s rewards program, called Hilton Honors, for example, allows members to pool points for complimentary stays, free breakfasts, and space-available upgrades.

3. Personalize the consumer experience.

Increasingly, customers expect to be known by name and need. Stitch Fix has taken on this challenge in remarkable ways. Subscribers to Stitch Fix get a personal stylist who selects a box of clothes uniquely tailored for them based on their sizes, style preferences, and upcoming events.

4. Institute a generous return policy.

A customer-centric experience includes support after the purchase, up to and including taking the item back. Costco, a leader in great customer-centric policy, will accept nearly returned item no matter how long ago it was purchased. Electronics are the one exception, and even in that department, Costco gives customers 90 days to return.

5. Engages customers with technology.

Dollar Shave Club uses Facebook and YouTube to deliver fun, valuable information to prospective consumers, and it uses Amazon to deliver its product.

6. Creates intuitive products.

For developers, “intuitive” may feel like an overused buzzword. But for users, getting a product that responds to your intuition is ideal. Workplace communication tool company Slack, for example, delivered such an intuitive yet powerful product that FastCompany designated it one of the “most innovative companies.” Everything about Slack is easy, simple, and responsive. It all makes sense even if you’ve never used it before.

7. Inspires and delights customers.

Customer-centric companies never forget that their customers are human beings, and people love to be inspired and delighted. Zappos famously wows its customers with a creative flair. The shoe company’s customer service team is trained to listen for points of connection and respond.

As culture evolves and buyer expectations intensify, expect to see personalization, emotional loyalty, and customer centricity dominate the conversation about business. To learn more on this topic and other emerging trends in business, consider earning your bachelor’s degree online with Malone University.

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Advance your career in a flexible online format designed with the working student in mind. At Malone, you’ll learn from qualified instructors who possess real-world experience in their fields. Our program features a low student-to-faculty ratio, and a warm, welcoming community that fosters personal and professional growth.