Customer-centric businesses focus all of their business activities, including sales, operations, and service, on meeting customer needs and growing the customer relationship from presale to post-sale. Everything customer-centric businesses do supports customer satisfaction, making understanding, and improving your customers’ journey essential if you want to make the customer central to your business.
A robust customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce Essentials can help you implement and track customer-centric business practices. Its activity tracking features remind you and your staff with activity alerts and reminders to deliver the best customer experience. To give it a try, sign up for a free trial.
1. Understand the Customer Journey
The first step to becoming a more customer-centric business is to understand what your customer truly experiences at each stage of their customer journey. The best way to do this is to place yourself into your customer’s shoes and experience the same journey as your customer when they do business with you.
A great customer experience is the sum of all interactions with your business. Therefore, you need to go through the entire customer experience from when a customer first recognizes they have a need to how they buy, receive, and use the product. You also need to review what happens when they need help and support, also known as ownership experience. Doing this allows you to identify opportunities for improvement or additional products.
To illustrate why this is a useful step better, let’s assume that I am a corporate buyer and I’ve just started my new job in a software business in New York. Part of my job requires me to buy parts for one of our products.
Shortly after I start my job, I go to my LinkedIn account and update my profile. A business that I’ve bought services from in the past recognizes I am starting a new job and send me a private Tweet or LinkedIn message to congratulate me. This can tell me they value me as an individual and not just a customer contact.
Over the next few days, I start to settle into my new role, and my priority is to review inventory and buy new parts for our flagship product. A business that has taken the time to understand the customer journey anticipates this and sends me a checklist of parts to consider purchasing and holding in inventory. This makes them stand out as it was just what I needed.
The next day, they call to see how I am settling in. I take the call and thank them for the checklist. This value-add service stands out because it’s thoughtful, personal, and useful too. My contact was careful to focus on how I’m settling into my new role and not to start pitching. We agree to have drinks in the next week as a time to catch up.
Over drinks, I share that I’m not happy with pricing my new company is getting from the vendor they use for parts. My previous vendor has put himself in a position to compete for new business by sending me a useful resource related to my current role and responsibilities. Customer-centric businesses understand their customer’s needs at each stage rather than just cold calling them in the hope that they have a need “at that moment.”
2. Define Your Customer’s Buying Cycle
Having understood your customer’s buying needs, the next step to becoming a more customer-centric business is to define your customer’s buying cycle. This will also help you optimize how you communicate with them throughout the sales process.
I would recommend that you do this as follows:
- Create a customer profile for your ideal customer.
- Share this with everyone in your sales, marketing, and account management team to stay focused on who the customer is and what they need.
- Do a focus group or survey to get feedback from your customers on what they expect from you when they need customer service.
- Add feedback to your customer profile and share it with service and support teams.
3. Create a Customer Journey Map
At this point, you’re ready to start creating the customer journey map. This is a visualization of your customer journey that will illustrate the process from initial consideration to purchase decision. To make this easier, you can use a customer journey mapping tool like UXPressia, which allows you to create your first customer journey map for free.
Here are a few things you can do to create a customer journey map:
- Map your customer journey, starting with the earliest recognition of a problem that might raise the need for your product. Then, plot each decision-making point or moment of truth (MOT) on your customer’s journey to buying your product.
- Go on to map the customer experience after they have bought your product. Within this, it is important to understand any pain-points that need to be resolved to delight your customers and benefit from customer referrals.
- Call or visit your best competitors for a greater understanding of your target audience. This will provide you with insight into aspects of service delivery that your competitors excel in, which you can use to help inform your own approach.
- Get each member of your team to become a customer of your business for a day so that they can experience what it feels like to be in the customer’s shoes.
Here’s an example of how your team can be a customer for a day:
The most exclusive hotel in Morocco, The Royal Mansour Marrakech, gives each of its staff a 24-hour experience of being a customer staying in its hotel when they start their job. This starts with a chauffeur-driven limousine ride from the airport to the hotel where they are greeted by the entire staff team and then waited on hand and foot. The owner of this exclusive hotel believes it’s the only way staff can understand the customer experience completely.
Your customer journey map can be changed over time as you build a more detailed understanding of your customer’s needs. You can add more stages to the journey or more details in each stage. Doing this will keep you in tune with your target audience and will provide insights that can help you improve both your customer experience and your product or service.
4. Use a CRM to Create & Deliver a Positive Customer Experience
Once you have defined your customer buying cycle and mapped out a positive customer journey, the next step in becoming a more customer-centric business is to add each stage of the buying cycle into a CRM tool like Salesforce Essentials. Using a CRM will guide you in carrying out the activities necessary to create a positive experience throughout the buying cycle.
Features of a CRM that help you create great customer experiences include pipeline stages where you can set-up activities and reminders that need to happen during certain stages of the buying cycle. Other important features include activity logs or timelines that help you understand customer interactions to date, which can help you lead more contextual conversations. These features allow you to have better customer relationships.
Also, if you are a solopreneur or single person business, it will help you to perform all of these roles yourself without getting confused or failing to deliver on the promises that you make to customers. A CRM allows you to lead positive customer journeys at scale proactively.
A small business CRM system is a great way to:
- Store customer profile information: A CRM lets you create detailed customer profiles as well as records of each touchpoint you have with customers. This helps you tailor your interactions based on who they are and how they’ve interacted with you in the past.
- Manage your sales pipeline: Once you have a clear understanding of your customer journey, you can use this to generate the stages for your sales pipeline within your CRM.
- Manage tasks efficiently: A good small business CRM makes it easy for you to set up tasks and activities.
A CRM system is a great tool for managing existing customer relationships as well as your deals. These relationships may continue to be managed by salespeople or by account managers if you like to keep your sales team focused on new business.
5. Improve Each Decision Point Throughout the Journey
In every buying cycle or customer journey, there are MOTs or points of decision. This is when your customer agrees to presale assessment or decides to sign a contract. Once you have established your customer buying cycle stages and adopted a CRM system, the next step to becoming a more customer-centric business is to improve your customer’s experience at each moment they’ve made a decision or took action with your business.
Keep in mind that these decision points may mean one thing for you as a business or salesperson and another for your customer. For example, a key point of decision for a mortgage salesperson is getting the customer to sign the loan documents. This is great from your perspective. However, for your customer, it is a pain point.
For the customer, a more pleasant point of decision or MOT comes when they take possession of the keys for their new home. If the salesperson builds on this positive experience by sending a token of congratulations with a bottle of sparkling wine sitting on the kitchen table when they first enter their new home, this customer is more likely to appreciate the relationship and offer referrals when asked.
Most of us have purchased a car at some point in our lives, so let me use that as an example. Similar to buying a home, buying a car can have stressful decision-making points for the customer which you as a salesperson or business may experience differently. For a car dealer, there are typically seven MOT or decision-making points:
- A great welcome: The customer welcome is key to the perception of the dealer from whom they consider buying a car. If the welcome is warm and light, this becomes the first MOT where they decide to do business with you.
- “Help me choose”: The customer is looking for help. They don’t want to be sold to at this stage; rather, they want to be listened to.
- A fair purchase: The customer wants to know they got a great deal on their new car. This could be a fair purchase price, a great deal on financing, or fair trade-in value.
- The honeymoon: The biggest MOT is when the car is handed over. The deal is already signed, but the salesperson has to recognize that for their customer, this is the biggest MOT.
- When things go wrong: Things can sometimes go wrong. The customer knows this and is usually very forgiving as long as the dealer goes out of their way to make things right when they do.
- Service: Making is easy and convenient for the customer to service their car and maintain the same quality of experience they received during the sales process is key to repeat business and referrals.
MOTs are not always positive and can be experienced differently by you as a sales professional or business owner. They can be pain points from the customer’s perspective. For instance, if the post-sale service is less impressive than the customer experiences during the sales process, this can undo all of the hard work of generating the sale. Customer-centric businesses understand this and focus all of their activities on the customer.
6. Enable Sales With Information, Content & Tools
Understanding your typical prospects’ behavior and MOTs puts you in an excellent position to address their needs at each stage of their journey. It also enables you to implement the final step of becoming a more customer-centric business. This step involves making yourself useful to your customer at times when they might not have thought to ask for your help.
Sales may be too busy selling to develop the content that they require, but once the needs are understood, then marketing will be able to put content and tools in place to help enable sales to earn the right to close future deals through investing in building consistently good quality relationships.
For instance, if you sell business loans, then it makes sense to provide your customers with a loan calculator that allows them to compare the cost of your loan against your key competitors. You also might want to provide them with a home finances budget template to make it easy for them to work out whether they can afford to take out the loan.
7. Measure the Success of Your Customer-centricity Strategy
There are a number of ways to measure the success of implementing a customer-centricity strategy as part of your business practices. The main thing you want to do is to compare sales and customer attitudes before and after you’ve made changes. You’ll want to find out if your customers are happier than before and are they making more purchases than they were previously.
Below are a few ways to measure success:
- Surveys: Before implementing your new business practices, send surveys to your customers asking what they think about your product, service, or communication. About 60 to 90 days after implementation, conduct another survey, and compare the results.
- Focus groups: Similar to surveys, conduct focus groups both before and after implementing your new practices and look for a change in attitude or perception around key business areas.
- Pipeline stage measurements: If possible, compare conversion rates and drop off rates during each of your pipeline stages before and after you’ve made changes.
- Become a mystery shopper: Conduct mystery shops to ensure your staff is adhering to new customer-centric behaviors and policies.
Pros & Cons of Customer-centric Businesses
Like most business strategies, customer-centricity requires upfront planning and consistent execution to remain effective. Even worse, if done incorrectly, it can harm a brand more than it helps. As a result, it may not be best for all businesses.
Here are some pros and cons you should consider when deciding to adopt it for your business.
Customer-centric Business Pros
- Increased sales: There is usually an increase in sales after more customer-centric business practices have been put into practice. When customers and prospects needs are met, they are more likely to buy.
- Identifying increased sales opportunities: When there’s more focus on customers, their needs and opportunities for additional sales become more apparent.
- Increased loyalty: As customers’ needs are being met, their loyalty tends to increase.
Customer-centric Business Cons
- Expensive to research & implement: Becoming a customer-centric business can be expensive, often requiring upgrades in software and costs for research and tracking.
- Time & effort to change: It takes time and effort to completely change into a customer-centric business. Training and incentive programs are usually necessary to ensure changes take effect in the long run.
- Buy-in & fallout from management: Creating major changes requires getting buy-in from business owners or senior managers. Not only does this take time, but it also takes convincing people who don’t think it will pay off or who reluctantly agree.
- Buy-in & fallout from customer-facing employees: Customer-facing employees may not be sold on a new way of doing things. It could be a challenge and could take time to get them to embrace new customer-centric initiatives.
Bottom Line―Creating a Customer-centric Business
Business-to-business (B2B) customers are focused on relationships and business outcomes rather than products and services. Because of this, it is important to foster positive relationships throughout the sales cycle. It is also important to focus all business activities on customer needs.
CRM software like Salesforce Essentials makes it easy to build sales cycles that focus on customer needs throughout. Features like activity management ensure you fulfill promises and complete essential activities. Sign up for a Salesforce Essentials free trial today.