Customer Orientation – A Guide to Your Customer.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein. Think of every successful business you know: Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix. What do they have in common? A great product or service. Outstanding brand value. Large market share. But most of all, these businesses have mastered the art of customer orientation.
The business world’s biggest names got where they are today by capturing the pulse of what their customers wanted in their offerings. Then they fashioned solutions with carefully-curated customer experiences that fulfill those needs. Apple, for instance, anticipates customer needs and comes up with innovative products that take the market by storm. Netflix provides curated watch lists and smart suggestions.
In short, the best businesses know that success is only possible when true customer orientation drives their strategy.
What is Customer Orientation?
Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon, has a unique practice. He insists that every critical company meeting has one empty chair in the room, reserved for “the most important person.” The open seat is for the customer. It is a constant reminder that customers are central to every critical business decision. The empty chair philosophy is an excellent embodiment of customer orientation.
“Customer orientation is an approach to business that recognizes that customers are the business. Unless you can successfully anticipate and meet customer requirements, you cannot create anything of value.”
A customer-oriented business is not just about providing impeccable customer service. It is about putting the needs of the customer at the heart of every business decision. From the minutiae of product or service design to helping customers after sales, unsurpassed customer satisfaction is the goal. Businesses that map customers’ needs to their purposes, rather than the other way round, are most likely to succeed.
Five Characteristics of a Customer-Oriented Business
If it isn’t already clear, a customer-oriented organization has one core idea: creating value for its customers. When this ethos underlines business operations, long-lasting customer relationships will automatically follow. Usually, a business that has a robust customer orientation approach will have the following characteristics:
The Customer Will Be First Priority
No matter what the strategic goal is, a customer-oriented organization will prioritize its customers’ needs. This is because a customer-centric business recognizes that putting customer needs first is a sure way to realize every other business goal. For instance, a Deloitte study finds that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than organizations that do not give customer expectations precedence.
Customer-Thinking Will Be Embedded at Every Level of Business
While it is essential for frontline employees like salespersons and customer service executives to prioritize customer experience, customer orientation needs to exist at all organizational levels. A customer-centric business drives this philosophy from the very top. Leadership initiatives start by analyzing customer trends, market orientation, and competitive analysis before setting business goals.
Empathy Will Be Free-Flowing
Empathy will be evident in customer-service-orientation. Even if there is no quick fix to specific challenges a customer may face, a business that values its customers will be reassuring, understanding, and do its best to alleviate customer concerns. For instance, an empathetic language like thanking customers for their patience or apologizing for delays can in itself go a long way in making customers feel valued.
Interactions Will Always Be Consistent
Today’s customers engage with companies across multiple channels. Research from Forrester has found that 95% of consumers tend to toggle among three or more channels for a single customer service interaction. As customers interact across channels, consistency in interaction, and information becomes key. Accenture reports that 65% of customers are frustrated with inconsistent omnichannel experiences from retailers. Companies dedicated to customer satisfaction will strive to build an omnichannel customer communication strategy that will deliver consistent experiences across the customer life cycle.
Customer Experience Will Be Easy and Painless
One way to spot a customer-oriented business is that it works towards reducing customer pain points. Be it faster website loading, self-serve options, or quick first response time for service requests. The business will continuously be geared towards a frictionless customer experience.
Why is Customer Orientation Important?
The implications of customer orientation for business runs deeper than just creating a satisfactory experience for customers. It gives direction to your organization as a whole. When top leaders and employees know that everything is geared towards the common goal of maximizing customer satisfaction, the workflow becomes streamlined and efficient.
Customer orientation is also a smart cost-saving and growth strategy. According to one Forrester research, acquiring new customers can be five times as costly as retaining existing customers. And as already outlined before, customer-centric companies are more profitable. This is because focusing on customer needs leads to a loyal client base. Satisfied and loyal customers are also more likely to recommend your business to others. Word-of-mouth marketing is not only practical but also lighter on a company’s bottom line.
In the current competitive market milieu, companies can no longer compete on price alone. 76% of customers in a survey expect businesses to understand their needs and pay more for a better experience. A customer-oriented company can wipe out competition purely by providing a superior experience.
To put it briefly, customer orientation in a business provides:
- A clear focus for both leaders and employees for higher productivity.
- A loyal and long-lasting customer base
- Higher profitability and growth
- An inexpensive marketing alternative
- A competitive edge
- An inbound customer-oriented strategy is a win for businesses in every way possible.
Five Ways for Your Business to Implement Customer Orientation
Successfully implementing customer orientation in business requires careful strategizing involving top leadership and frontline employees alike. Here are five ways to get started with putting your customers first:
Develop a Detailed Customer Persona
Instead of catering to a broad market, narrowing down on a specific kind of user can help your business serve them much better. Creating detailed customer personas helps you understand customer wants, interests, and pain points. When you collect all relevant information about your target users, such as a demographic brief, behavioral practices and attitudes, motivations, needs, and goals, you can use it to create more meaningful solutions.
Recruit Empathetic People
It is easier to hire the right kind of people for your business than to train them from scratch. While it is possible to groom them to fit better into your company, specific characteristics are inherent. For instance, if you hire an empath to be a frontline employee in your company, such as a salesperson or a customer service executive, they will intuitively help customers. To be customer-focused from the get-go, pay careful attention to the team you are building every employee you hire, ensuring they are an excellent cultural fit from the beginning.
Provide Employees with the Right Tools and Training
The tools and training you provide your employees also need to foster healthy customer relationships and experiences. For instance, having a single-channel customer service can be frustrating for customers. No matter how polite or well-intentioned your agent may be on the phone, a customer who prefers live chat services is likely to be dissatisfied with phone service. A business that wants to serve its customers well will ensure that its employees have all the tools necessary to provide an impeccable experience.
Engage Your Customers Proactively
If there is one thing that businesses need to be prepared for, their preferences and preferences are dynamic. They are continually changing. Customer orientation is about keeping up with these changes. A company committed to utmost customer satisfaction will engage its customers proactively to understand this changing curve. Be it feedback surveys or tracking website hits, analyze chats, and engage with customers to keep track of their evolving needs.
Pay Attention to People Within the Company
When customer-focused, it is easy to neglect the people responsible for delivering the customer experience: your employees. Happy employees will lead to satisfied customers. Treat your people well and set an example within the company of how you want your customers to be treated.
Tips for Frontline Employees Engaging with Customers
While customer orientation needs to be the bloodline of a company dedicated to customer satisfaction, frontline employees interact with customers and drive this philosophy forward. Here are some ways for client-facing employees to contribute to the customer journey better:
- Be invested in your customer’s journey. Whether you are in sales, marketing, or customer service, ask insightful questions that will help you understand your customer’s needs, pain points, and experience.
- Don’t be afraid to work with others. The best way to get a holistic understanding of customers and serve them better is to combine forces. For instance, to achieve sales orientation, talking to the customer service team can sensitize you to their grievances. Even product and design teams can learn a thing or two through cross-department collaborations.
- Use omnichannel experiences to gather a deeper understanding of customer wants and personas. Live chat is a great tool to engage with customers in real-time and be sympathetic to their issues. Social media is another excellent channel to gather customer feedback.
- Re-evaluate customer experience every time your product or service grows. For instance, reach out to loyal customers to understand how a new feature is adding value. Being customer-oriented can itself drive growth and help you find new ways to improve your product.
Companies-Oriented Companies Who Walk the Talk
Some companies have successfully embedded customer orientation into their business journey. If you need some inspiration to get you started, here are three companies who walk the talk when it comes to customer focus:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.” – Steve Jobs
Apple is, no doubt, the epitome of customer orientation. The tech behemoth innovates products that solve customer problems they didn’t even know they had in the first place. However, what Apple does best is to create a consistent experience ecosystem – customers can bank on a seamless experience. From the website to the app store, users have a seamless experience navigating and getting the products they want. That consistency is what keeps users hooked.
While Airbnb may have been off to a shaky start, it has grown into a billion-dollar space rental marketplace that is now a household name. If consistency is Apple’s key, personalized experiences and trust is Airbnb’s USP. The company understands that travel is a highly-personalized experience, and referrals go a long way in the industry. Capitalizing on this idea, Airbnb uses a combination of ratings, testimonials, and referrals to provide customers a range of inclusive and safe choices for stay.
“For most guests, however, the defining moments of the ‘Airbnb experience’ happen in the real world — when they are traveling to their listing, being greeted by their host, settling into the listing, and exploring the destination. These are the moments that make or break the Airbnb experience, no matter how great we make our website.” – Lisa Qian, Data Scientist at Airbnb.
Spotify drives customer experience through emotional connections. Music is already a great connector, but the streaming service has taken the experience to a hyper-personalized level. Be it apt recommendations, free on-demand playlists, or the latest Spotify Wrapped 2020, where users get a compilation of their most-listened-to songs and artists during the year, Spotify has innovated the listening experience. The company is also quick to respond to customer grievances with nifty responses across channels. Every aspect of the business shows that Spotify cares, just as their Twitter handle claims!
Customer Orientation is Now a Requirement
A great customer experience is no longer a “nice-to-have,” but it is necessary for business success. With the right vision, plan, and tools, your business can gradually gear itself to be customer-centric, if it isn’t already.
Freshchat can help your frontline employees get started on the right foot with customers, wowing them with every interaction. Reach out to us to find out more.
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