Most brands would agree that putting the customer first is an important element of strategy, but what does it mean to be truly customer-centric? The term has gained currency in recent years as organisations have sought to increase their competitiveness and ensure customer loyalty, but definitions give us an insight into the role played by marketers in this strategy.
Unpacking the term
Business Dictionary defines customer-centric as ‘creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale,’ and suggests that ‘a customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.’
Investopedia prefers the word ‘client-centric’, pointing out in its definition that much more than being customer focused, client or customer-centric organisations ‘ensure that the customer is at the centre of a business's philosophy, operations or ideas.’ Investopedia continues ‘these businesses believe that their clients are the only reason that they exist and use every means at their disposal to keep the client happy and satisfied.’
This is a tall order for many organisations, and one which does not come easily for all. Ensuring that the customer is at the heart of every strategy decision, that this is intrinsically built into company culture, and importantly that this ethos is communicated back to the customer through marketing, is important if a business is to become truly customer-centric.
Two ways marketers can contribute to building a customer-centric strategy
1) Integrated approaches across platforms
One way which marketers can help build customer-centricity is to reach customers at different touchpoints and across multiple platforms. This is the approach undertaken by Disney in recent months, who have integrated their ad sales, promotions and marketing solutions divisions under one umbrella to offer ‘brand partners a broader audience’ and be ‘much more focused’ on audiences’ needs.’
Disney’s chief marketing officer Anna Hill told Marketing Week that ‘we need to challenge ourselves to offer the most relevant and broadest proposition’ to audiences in order to maintain competitiveness.’ In the wake of the continued challenges posed by fast-paced digital, Hill argued that ‘while TV is still a stalwart for my marketing plans, we need to make sure […] that we have platforms that are digitally-led. We want to offer strong TV and digital solutions at the same time.’
This is essential for customers who continue to engage with brands across multiple platforms, often simultaneously, and demand that brands are accessible to them wherever and whenever they require. By ensuring that they can interact at all these touchpoints, knowing that there is one team behind their marketing offering, Disney’s approach is a sound one for organisations looking to become customer-centric.
2) Create customer-centric content
Part of becoming a customer-centric brand is creating the marketing content which translates this message back to the customer. No matter how hard you work behind the scenes to build customer-centricity, if the customers themselves do not know that they are being put first, the value inherent in the strategy will be weakened.
Business2Community argues that when it comes to content, ‘there’s a major difference between having a customer-centric mindset versus a customer-centric content strategy.’ It is suggested that those brands who succeed in creating customer-centric content not only have a good understanding of who their customers are, but ‘know exactly how to apply that information to content in a way that makes it possible to build connections and relationships.’
Business2Community suggests a number of ways that brands can ensure their message is communicated effectively to customers. Among these is opening strong channels of interaction between the brand and the customer in order to generate those all-important insights and ensure that you are constantly in touch with their needs. This should also be extended to challenges customers face, as content which solves questions and problems is a great way to position your brand as focusing on the issues that matter to the customer.
Through integration and strong communication channels with customers, brands can begin to build customer-centricity into the heart of their organisational culture. The role of marketers is key in translating this message back into messages for the customer, and ensuring that the hard work invested behind the scenes is fully capitalised upon through awareness and engagement.