Lessons From Customer Centric Companies

Collecting customer feedback is the obvious first step in providing optimal customer experiences. But it’s only the first step. Nothing is accomplished unless that feedback drives some kind of action. Too often feedback is collected, aggregated into a database of responses, analyzed over time, reports are generated, and eventually a presentation is made recommending changes.

By then the customers who provided the feedback have determined that nothing is being done with their input and they’ve possibly moved on to another vendor. Truly customer-centric organizations recognize that customers are individuals and not interested in being treated as part of an aggregated whole. Customers need to be viewed as individuals, not numbers. For some companies, that’s a priority, as proven by Forbes’ annual list of the Most Customer-Centric Companies. companies. 

Customer-centric companies are laser-focused on their customers. Instead of being driven by shareholders or revenue, these companies put customers at the center of every decision they make. They are customer-focused over being product-focused. That centricity is evident in great service and a cohesive customer experience.

Blake Morgan, Forbes Senior Contributor

In considering what makes these companies so successful at being customer-centric, a few patterns become clear. Looking at these patterns can be useful in helping other companies to strengthen their customer relationships.

Lesson 1: Get Employees Onboard

Financial services company USAA, which is #2 on Forbes’ list for 2019, encourages employees to learn about customers so they can offer the best possible advice and product recommendations. It’s paid off because USAA’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) is four times the average banking score. USAA helps employees understand customers’ perspectives, according to the article How USAA Bakes Customer Experience Innovation Into Its Company Culture. This help includes:

  • Offering an accessibility lab, where employees can consider how services might need to be adapted for people with disabilities. Take check scanning, for instance. In the accessibility lab, USAA employees developed voice-enabled remote capture technology so people who are visually impaired can hear what’s on the check as their phone scans it.
  • Training employees during onboarding on military life since USAA’s customers are military members and their families. This training includes preparing and eating MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) and light drilling with a retired drill sergeant. The employee newsletter provides updates on military life.

Employees are also able to share their ideas on how to better the customer experience. Every year, employees submit about 10,000 ideas; 897 submitted ideas have received U.S. patents, according to the article on USAA customer culture. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the company’s support of employee innovation resulted in the development of an online portal with before and after aerial photos so that USAA members could view the damage to their homes before they could see it in person.

To truly embrace customer-centricity, the CEO, senior executives, and marketing team must agree to focus on improving the customer experience. The Chief Marketing Officer and other senior executives can inspire others in the organization by establishing customer centricity as the norm and developing employee programs to support it.
In addition, I recommend choosing an employee who can act as your company’s customer champion. This person doesn’t have to be a senior executive but must be someone with the power to influence others and hold them accountable. And they should be eager to act as a champion of customer centricity and committed to supporting the company’s customer service goals. 

Lesson 2: Personalize Customer Service

In 2019, Hilton earned an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score of 80, which was the highest score and one shared by just one other hotelier. While an impressive score, Hilton chooses to treat customers as individuals rather than as just an aggregate number. 

One example of this is the Hilton Connected Room, which enables Hilton Honors members to stream their favorite entertainment, set their preferences for TV channels and room temperature, and control the TV, lights, and thermostat via an app they download on their mobile device, according to a brochure on Hilton Connected Room. 

Guests have similar control that they have at home, and it makes for a seamless experience. This gives us a huge advantage over our competitors in the market.

General Manager of a Canopy by Hilton

Personalizing customer service requires a solid understanding of individual customer needs and requirements. A good way to inject the customer into everyday thinking is to start marketing meetings with the customer at the top of the agenda. Employees can do this by:

  • Sharing what they’ve learned from a recent conversation with a customer
  • Having someone own talking to sales or support to share something new they’ve learned about the customer
  • Borrowing Amazon’s approach of asking these questions about new ideas: Who are the customers impacted by this idea? Why would this idea delight them? Reviewing a new or updated metric on customers, such as NPS 

Lesson 3: Take Action On Customer Feedback

Workday, a financial management and human capital management software vendor, has a 98% customer satisfaction score and attributes it to the fact its customer success program doesn’t settle for ‘average’ relationships, according to the Workday blog post Customer Success Means Average Is Never Good Enough. The company encourages customers to help influence product development by becoming an early adopter or testing new releases before they’re widely available. 

We believe customers are more satisfied when they can contribute, and we are more effective when we can deliver new features, fixes, and capabilities based on your feedback.

Chief Customer Officer Emily McEvilly

While the latest customer feedback is a good subject for meetings, that shouldn’t be the first time the feedback is being discussed. The right order is to first respond to a customer’s issue by assigning it to an employee to resolve – within 24 hours if possible – and then share the feedback to everyone in the organization. Customer feedback should be transparent and accessible. Both good news and bad news should be freely shared.

After handling the issue, you should analyze the feedback to see how it came up and discuss how to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. This will result in a richer understanding of your customers and generate more trust from customers.

Take Steps Toward Customer-Centricity

Being a customer-centric organization requires getting everyone on board from the top-down, creating personalized customer experiences, and collecting and responding to customer feedback. Follow the example set by these customer-centric companies and your marketing team and organization will move closer toward your customer and increase the likelihood of acquiring and keeping more of them. 

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