Know your customers, focus on them

S Swaminathan Satyashil Rangare | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 10, 2016

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In today’s world, even a chanawala or a bhajiwala is your customer but do you know about him, as an organisation?

Often, we hear companies associating their core business model with a “customer-centric” approach. Yes, it’s a term that has been used for ages, but how can businesses survive in this competitive scenario, is the question many multinational companies face today, especially with customers getting more and more discerning in their choices. And how do you define your customer, who is a key stakeholder in your company’s growth?

Call it ‘empathy’ but it is indeed a human trait that helps being customer-centric — and not losing focus of your core business. A market orientation focuses on understanding consumer needs and filling that gap in the market.

More than any other business function, it is marketing which deals with the customers. And that’s why, in this age of modern marketing, organisations should focus on creating customer value and satisfaction and this has to be the objective, thinking and practice of the marketing teams.

What winners do

The marketing function of an organisation should have twin objectives. First, attract new customers by promising superior value and second, keep current customers by delivering satisfaction.

According to the initial findings from the study, “Insights2020 – Driving Customer-Centric Growth,” a global marketing leadership initiative led by Millward Brown Vermeer in partnership with The AMA, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), ESOMAR, LinkedIn, Kantar and Korn Ferry, 83 per cent of revenue growth over-performers link everything the company does to its brand purpose, as opposed to only 31 per cent among revenue growth under-performers.

Among examples of successful organisations is Wal-Mart, which became the world’s largest retailer by delivering on its promise “Always low prices — always.” FedEx still dominates the US freight industry by continuously making good on its promise of fast, reliable delivery. In hospitality there is hotel brand Ritz Carlton that promises and delivers truly “memorable experiences” for its guests.

And, how can we forget Coca-Cola, which delivers on the “Always Coca-Cola” promise of being thirst-quenching, good with food, always cool and always a part of your life.

These and other successful companies know that if they take care of their customers, market share and profits will follow. The report mentions that 62 per cent of over-performers leverage insights and analytics to drive consistency across all customer touch-points, only 26 per cent of under-performers do.

Customer service vs focus

When one says an organisation should deliver customer satisfaction, that doesn’t mean improving your customer service. The organisation should be ‘customer-focused.’ There is a big difference between customer service and customer focus.

Customer service relates to the frontline conversation between an organisation and customers whereas customer focus relates to the alignment of the organisation’s vision, strategy, people, process and systems to deliver on identified customer needs. In 78 per cent of over-performing companies, customer-centricity is fully embraced by all functions, whereas this is only true in 12 per cent of the under-performing companies; and 66 per cent of all over-performers are working to link their disparate data sources, compared with only 33 per cent of under-performing companies doing so.

Generally, we define the customer as a purchaser or user of the organisation’s products and services. This is not wrong, but what about the other stakeholders? Are you treating them as your customers?

An organisation’s customer groups may include users, clients or participants, decision-makers (family members, carers, influencers, and opinion leaders), referrers or staff (internal customers).

While successful organisations identify and design services for their primary customers, they also don’t lose sight of the other key stakeholders who engage with them. It is of utmost importance that customer-focused organisations should have a clear objective, goals and strategy that have been formed by customer needs. If this simple foundation is made strong, every aspect of the organisation can be aligned to deliver on those goals.

So what do you need to do to become a customer-focused organisation and not lose sight of your customer?

First, understand who your customers are, and seek to generate deep insights into their needs and what drives that need.

Align your business strategy, systems and people to deliver on those needs.

Continue to engage with customers over time to inform continuous improvement efforts

The reality is that most companies focus on a high volume of customers and in doing so they lose sight of the high value which a customer has.

That’s a huge mistake, because while high-value customers might not be many from a consumer perspective, they will add to the bottom line of your organisation in the long run. And if you can get just a few more of these types of customers, they can have a huge impact.

But before becoming a customer-focused organisation you need to understand who your customers are. In today’s world, even a chanawala or a bhajiwala is your customer but, as an organisation, do you know about him?

Published on March 10, 2016
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