Let’s face it. Brands have lost some degree of their perceived position as a result of social technologies that allow the target audience to strongly affect brand reputation. More than anything else, social media is the motivation for companies to change and truly be customer centric. The true substances of companies are unveiled. People see the difference between what companies say and what they do. And at the same time, there is an abundance of companies claiming to be customer centric while only giving it lip service.
To start, a customer centric company must have complete empathy for the target audience. This means that you need to understand everything about your audience … what motivates them, interests them, turns them off, and causes them to take action. And once you understand this, you need to determine changes required in your company.
Let me give you a simple example. For a longtime, I worked for various technology companies as a traditional marketing executive. I found that most technology companies suffer from what I call “technology testosterone.” They all would claim, they are bigger, faster, stronger, more secure, and claim other technological superlatives. One company claimed they had the greatest SSL (secure-socket-layer) technology. And they probably did in fact have a great SSL technology. But the main target audience for this SSL offering was financial institutions that look to purchase payment card authorization solutions. You see, too much of the company focus was on “what they did” as opposed to “the solutions they offered their customers.” In a customer centric organization it is all about what you do for your customer as opposed to your offerings. Yes, this is a small variance of go-to-market positioning, but the nuances affect brand perception and success.
While brand positioning is important to becoming a customer centric business, it is only a start. Maybe the strongest example of a customer centric business is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’s declares that Amazon.com is “the most customer-centric company in the world.” Is this lip service? Consider all of the following points:
• Amazon determines their customers needs, and then works backwards to deliver solutions.
• In the beginning at Amazon executive meetings, there was often a chair left empty and unseated. This is symbolic of the ever-present customer. Now specially trained employees represent the customer, called “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” “When they frown, vice presidents tremble.”
• Bezos requires that mid-level meetings include one person serving solely as the customer advocate. This person has the power to veto actions that undermine customers’ interests.
• Amazon reorganizes often. The reorgs are always done so with a focus to better serve their customers.
• Bezos requires everyone on staff to be able to work in the call center.
• Bezos states, “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.””
• Bezos vetoes snarky ads that mock customers.
(Sources – How Great Leaders Communicate and Amazon Technology – Jeff Bezos Gets It)
The points above briefly highlight what it takes to be a true customer centric company. Amazon is a great example of a customer centric company. They walk the walk as opposed to talk the talk. The result, the most successful online retailer. I expect Bezos to take The Washington Post and revamp success solely driven by a keen focus on the audience. Don’t expect this to happen overnight. Bezos is willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time only to ultimately change the way business functions in the most successful way.
Social media is the current rationalization for evolution to becoming a customer centric company. I got involved in social media early on because I follow customer behavior to influence my marketing approach. I did not get bullish on social marketing because of hype. I follow the audience actions and act accordingly. Learn to follow your audience and fully act accordingly. Audience behavior is very important in the marketing of your brand, but that is not enough. You must allow customer opportunities, issues, and solutions to drive your company organization and actions. Traditional company organizations must change and inherent silos must be dismantled. True leaders will recognize these fundamental success criteria and change the DNA of their company. Are you ready?
Make It Happen,