Financial Poise
Four customers evaluate their customer experience poor to excellent.

How to Grow Your Sales By Being More Customer-Centric

Customer-centric is a fancy phrase for a very basic concept. It means focusing on what your customers want and need. But for such a basic concept, it amazes me how many companies fail to understand their customers.

Sadly, I also know too many companies whose customer experience simply… well, sucks. Unsurprisingly, companies that frequently top the lists of worst customer service are TV/Internet providers, health plans, wireless carriers, utilities, and airlines. But without proper policies, practices, and people, your company could easily join their ranks.

Customer-Centric Brands Dominate Brand Recognition

Think of companies that offer a great customer experience. Some of the biggest, most recognizable names likely come to mind. The staying power of their brand, however, comes from their dedication to customer satisfaction.

Of course, products, services, and profits are all still paramount, but those things all occur through the lens of customer satisfaction first. That customer-centric approach translates to how those companies shape their product, conduct business, and approach their bottom line.

Think about Apple. Renowned for their technology, it was their commitment to designing a customer experience that fueled their initial growth. Jobs’ obsession with simplicity and its impact on the user played a central role in cementing Apple’s legacy as an innovative, customer-centric brand. As UX expert Joe Natoli wrote:

Apple’s success comes directly from making sure that every minute aspect of their products work together to provide an overall positive user experience. So much so that technical and functional considerations – like the iPod’s slow connection speed or lack of 3G support – take a back seat to the touchy-feely experience issues that most CEOs cut from the chopping block at first pass.

This cuts both ways for businesses trying to up their brand recognition. On the one hand, that visibility can improve sales. But that visibility only delivers returns if the experience customers have in interacting with your brand and offerings makes them the center of attention and affection.

Positive Customer Experiences Focus Bolster Brand Credibility

Small business owners and larger companies alike play what we’ll call the “credentials game.” We all do. No matter what marketing spin we generate, our reputation remains our most valuable currency.

When companies double down on improving the customer experience, they put reputation dollars in the bank. Yes, that framework leads to better products and service development. That improves a brand’s credibility. But even public affirmation of adopting such a framework has the potential to generate returns. It communicates to the customer that they come first in your company’s calculations.

Why does this matter? Explicitly putting the customer first appeals to emotions tied to ego and feelings of belonging. While (most) companies aren’t in the business of providing therapy, their success still hinges on the feelings of customers existing and new. Research consistently finds that emotion not reason drives consumer decision-making and habits. In other words, making people feel good makes it more likely your company will find profitable footing.

Customer-Centric Models Offer More Cost-Effective Expansion Options

Customers happy with their customer service experience are more likely to keep being customers. A whopping 94% of consumers say they will buy again from a brand following a positive customer service interaction.

Customer-centric operations also make it more likely that customers will add to your company’s organic growth through referrals. Consider:

Put simply: Happy customers refer other customers. Those customers demonstrate more loyalty than non-referral customers, generate more revenue, and refer more customers like themselves to your brand. Best of all? Word of mouth costs nothing!

Well, not nothing. It requires you to invest in cultivating the kinds of customer experiences that generate referrals in the first place. But the return on your efforts will be more than worth it.

It Pays to be Customer-Centric

Terms like customer-centric, user experience, customer experience, and more get tossed around so frequently that it’s easy to dismiss them as buzzwords. But when companies embrace these ideas and apply best practices, the resulting numbers put the significance of such terms in sharp contrast.

Increased customer retention, extended customer lifetime value, and improved referral metrics provide a compounding effect here. It adds up to happier customers bringing in other happy customers, all of whom will spend more over a longer period of time. And that adds up to real dollar signs.

How to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric

Saying a customer-centric business model delivers top-tier results might feel like one of those “easier said than done” situations. If you want to make that profitable pivot, there are a number of steps you can take.

Seek First to Understand

Stephen Covey got at least one thing right. The importance of paying attention to what your customers say cannot be understated. They literally provide you with a roadmap for product development, marketing, sales, and customer service… if you listen.

If you don’t feel like the feedback you receive is sufficient or valuable, seek out additional information. Follow up with customers regularly to ensure full satisfaction and gauge behavioral patterns within your customer base.

Another valuable tool for garnering feedback is your Net Promoter Score (NPS). On a scale of -100 to 100, an NPS measures customer satisfaction by subtracting brand detractors from loyal customers. Businesses typically calculate this score based on participation in a short online survey. Though not every prospect or customer will participate in an NPS survey, the input from those who do often proves tremendously valuable.

Practice Good Communication Skills

No one likes to feel like they’re being talked at instead of to. In the same way that the company as a whole should listen to its customer base, members of your team need to listen to individual customer feedback. This involves understanding pain points, confirming that understanding, expressing empathy, and proactively seeking solutions.

Sometimes solutions cannot be secured during the course of one phone call or email. In such cases, active and ongoing communication about the status of the solution must occur. Managed expectations make it easier to constrain emotional reactions, better protecting your brand equity through a sound customer experience.

Empower Your Team

Your team serves on the frontline in the battle for market share. Just as you wouldn’t send troops to war without arming them appropriately, you should never deploy your team without adequate resources.

Invest in effective training to build a consistent, measurable customer experience. Provide up-to-date metrics and relevant, useful marketing collateral. Recognize and reward exceptional service. When you demonstrate your commitment to improving the customer experience in the way you manage and strengthen your team, you get closer to achieving your goals. It shows all your talk about a customer-centric business is more than just lip service.

Ask and Yea Shall Receive

Despite all the available data emphasizing the importance of asking for referrals in growing a business, most people just… don’t. Research shows that 40% of salespeople rarely ask for a referral, while only 20% ask clients for referrals every time.

Make asking for referrals a non-negotiable part of your sales process. Instruct your team to ask for a referral directly toward the end of the call. The ask should be rooted in gratitude for their patronage. This provides a simple, pathos-driven way to drive referrals.

It also offers broad insights into your customer experience quality and brand equity. If regularly asking for referrals delivers more referral business, you know you’re doing something right. But if referral business stays stagnant, your customer experience efforts need some work.

Centered Customers are Valuable Customers

Customer satisfaction equals perception minus expectation. If your perceived value falls short of expectations, your customers will be dissatisfied and your bottom line will suffer. The customer experience directly impacts that calculus and shapes the outcome.

It doesn’t matter the size of your business or which audience segments you choose to target. When businesses focus on their customers’ wants and needs through a customer-centric approach, it is easier to establish relationships, build loyalty, and grow sales in both the short and long term.

Interested in learning more about how to supercharge your business? Check out our Startup/Small Business Webinar Series on demand. You can view the recordings at your leisure, and each comes with a slide deck for later reference. Topics include:

  • The Basics of Forming a Business
  • The Ins and Outs of Raising Capital
  • Essential Lessons for Founders

For more information about our on-demand webinar series, click here.

This is an updated version of an article from 2019. ©2023. DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM. This article is subject to the disclaimers found here.

About Scott Steer

Scott Steer is a New York-based marketing strategy/engagement/activation consultant focused on optimizing omni-channel marketing.

Read Full Bio »   •   View all articles by Scott Steer »

follow me on:

Article Comments