By: Omar Abdul-Hafiz
In the world of business, products have always been the central element for generating revenue. Given that, the general trend was mainly on building a business model based on delivering products or services at the highest possible level of quality. According to this view, customer management only constituted a means toward securing more sales without much regard for actually achieving customer satisfaction.
This model, however, has proven to be quite unsustainable as customers became more aware of what they really want. That’s why a new model was desperately needed that is based on providing a positive experience for your customers. An experience that begins before the point of sale, at the point of sale, and continues even after the sale. And this model is known as a customer-centric strategy.
Customers are your main asset
It is generally known nowadays that customers' awareness of their needs and what products best satisfy them is on the rise. This, in turn, makes them much harder to please and convince. This is why in order for your customer service strategy to outshine that of your competitors, you need to be aware that your customers are your core asset, and thus require your utmost attention.
But where does product quality stand?
Just as customers are becoming more the central element of any successful customer management plan, products are gradually shifting toward the periphery as the second most important element. Of course, this is not to say that product quality is becoming any less essential than it used to be. On the contrary, product quality should be thought of as a critical factor, among other equally critical factors, in a healthy, successful and sustainable customer-focused strategy.
In short, products should be treated as a means towards achieving and sustaining customer satisfaction, and a very essential one at that, but not a goal in and of itself.
The customer-centric business mindset
By “customer-centric business mindset”, we mean the mode of thinking with which you can arrive at a unique customer-centric strategy that best suits the nature of your business as well as that of your target customer spectrum. This can be done by trying to place yourself in your target customer’s shoes.
Create a customer persona, for instance. While customer personas are essential for developing your marketing strategy, they can also prove quite useful for planning your customer relationships. Understanding your customer’s social backgrounds, living or shopping habits, pain points (etc.) helps you figure out the best way to serve them even after they have bought your product or service.
The customer-centric business infrastructure
In order to truly tap into your maximum potential of capitalizing on that great plan that you have just crafted, you are going to need a customer management system infrastructure that can best serve your mission. Below are a few pivotal points that you need to carefully consider upon choosing the customer management system most suitable to your needs.
Effective CRM Approach
“CRM” is not only the piece of software that handles your customers’ affairs but rather the business approach you use to manage your customer relations. A successful CRM plan thus helps you focus on achieving maximum customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. It needs to be based on your corporate strategy and aims to fulfil corporate goals and objectives. Another key factor in managing your customer relationships is finding the right CRM software systems.
An effective CRM approach needs the right tools to be implemented. CRM software systems provide capabilities that concern salesforce automation, marketing campaigns, as well as customer support. Using an operational CRM system enables you to capture, track and manage your sales leads; manage your marketing campaigns and provide superior customer service based on specified SLAs (Service-Level Agreements) with your customers.
Customer Interaction Management
For a customer management strategy to be successful and sustainable, it needs to be designed and implemented in a way that makes the customer feel that their voice is being heard and treated with great attention. Your customers should be able to reach out to you any time of day when they need help or would like to provide feedback to improve your service. Therefore, you need to offer them a wide array of integrated channels, i.e. omnichannel, through which they can communicate with you easily and conveniently.
The advancement of the World Wide Web, social media and smartphone applications has made it a lot easier for customers to reach out to their product or service providers. Consequently, this ease of communication places more burden upon businesses to keep pace and maintain an active presence on as much of these communication channels as possible. (This was covered in more detail here.)
Some of the main features to consider in this regard are as follows:
Self-service Digital front-office
The digital front-office is an umbrella that includes several related tools that could be used in order to keep immediate, real-time contact with the customer. This can include Call-centers, social media platforms (more on that in a bit), live-chat.
Self-service Digital front-office
Self-service Digital front-office
Aside from the digital front-office, it’s important to empower your customers to serve themselves, wherever possible or applicable, without always having to contact you. Some of the things that customer self-service can be quite useful for include: Viewing or updating their personal information, buying or ordering a certain product or service, viewing the status of a pending order, and so on.
To implement customer self-service, you are going to need two main tools: web portals, and smartphone apps.
- Websites: Your website is your most basic medium of communication with your customers. It needs to be secure, responsive, easy-to-use and aesthetically appealing.
- Smartphone apps: For maximum customer engagement, you need to make your services easily accessible anywhere, any time. Smartphone apps are exactly what you need in order to achieve that.
- Customer Portals: Customer portals are feature-rich web interfaces where users can access and perform a wide variety of activities. They are highly effective in enhancing customers’ self-service.
- e-Commerce platforms: e-Commerce platforms provide customers with a convenient experience from browsing your product catalogue and all the way to proceed to check for making the purchase.
Stellar User eXperience (UX)
None of the above features can be completely effective without a carefully designed User eXperience (UX). The UX should thus be crafted so as to ensure maximum ease-of-use and a general look-and-feel that is pleasing to your customer’s eyes.
Feedback makes perfect!
Being customer-centric entails being actively attentive to your customer’s comments, notes, suggestions and pains. And to do that, you will need to make sure of three things:
First, provide your customers with a wide of range of channels through which they can directly reach out to you. These could be a combination of email, phone, social media, and/or through the portal, company website as well as the smartphone app.
Second, you should have a team dedicated to being proactive and responsive to the customers’ comments and feedback. This team should then have full flexibility to communicate and resolve customers’ concerns with the relevant departments within your company.
Third, find effective ways to utilise the valuable feedback you have gained from your customers to further improve and perfect your overall customer-focused strategy.