A lot of brands talk about being customer obsessed, but how do you make it more than just lip service?
After all, a true customer obsession can be an important strategy to deliver exceptional benefits and competitive advantages for your brand.
How? Customer obsessed brands experience:
- improved retention and customer loyalty
- reduced customer acquisition costs through higher brand awareness and affinity
- greater number of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing (which leads to more valuable customers)
- higher customer lifetime values
- improved revenue and profits
At all stages of the funnel, from awareness to post-purchase, customers who have spectacular experiences spend more, stay more loyal to your brand, and refer more customers—creating value and becoming more valuable themselves. All of these spectacular experiences often come from an initial obsession with the customer’s needs and desires.
In this article, we’ll outline exactly what customer obsession is, how to implement it at your company, and offer some examples of companies doing customer obsession well so that you have what you need to improve your customer focus and start reaping the benefits—for you and for your customers.
What is Customer Obsession?
What exactly is customer obsession?
Customer obsession describes a business strategy that is intensely focused on the customer, their experience and their perspective. Customer obsessed companies keep the customer’s satisfaction as their number one priority and focus obsessively on adding value to the customer experience.
Customer obsessed companies typically:
- focus more on existing customers and meeting their needs than acquiring new ones
- continually create exceptional customer experiences
- seek to innovate and design for customer needs
- regularly collect and implement customer feedback
Customer obsession goes beyond good customer service or a focus on customer experiences, and gets at the heart of your business strategy. It’s a strategy where absolutely everything comes back to your customer and their needs.
While this is a strong stance for companies to take—and certainly not right for every company—there are a number of brands who have taken a customer obsessed stance and seen powerful business results.
Customer Obsession In Action: Real World Examples
What does customer obsession look like in real brands? Consider these three examples:
Disney is one of the most obvious examples: the massive corporation has had customer obsession at its core since the days Walt Disney was in charge—in fact, he was one of the main reasons why Disney has developed (and retained) such a strong customer focus.
One of Disney’s unique strategies was to ensure that customer obsession permeated through every layer and department of his internal staff. For example, he encouraged employees from every department—from sales to development, entry-level staff to VPs—to visit the parks regularly and “test-run” the visitor experience. Employees were then tasked with finding ways to improve the experience—and turning those ideas for improvements into reality.
In addition, Disney obsessively listened to and anticipated customer needs and feedback. This drove him to continuously improve and innovate in the parks to create unforgettable experiences that would keep people coming back. And they do keep people coming back—Disney has an almost 70% return rate for first-time visitors!
While Starbucks hasn’t always been a customer-centric company, its pivot toward customer obsession in recent years provides a great example for other companies to follow.
In the past, Starbucks was fairly product-focused, creating better and fancier drink and menu offerings and using new, exciting products to get customers back in the door. However, in recent years, Starbucks has shifted towards a more customer-focused attitude. How so? Just look at their app and loyalty program.
With the app, customers are placed at the center of the Starbucks experience: the app remembers their orders (no matter where in the world you’re ordering from!), recommends new products they’d enjoy, delivers rewards based on past purchases, allows them to schedule drinks for pickup (bypassing long lines) and offers other benefits and rewards as well. By creating an app and loyalty program that delivers a unique experience to each customer, customers feel seen as individuals and known even by a global brand.
As you can see, Starbucks didn’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to improve customer loyalty and customer-centricity. They simply needed to re-orient the wheel around their customers.
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Finally, a look at customer-obsessed companies would hardly be complete without mentioning Amazon. They claim that they have a “mission of being Earth’s most customer-centric company,” and their initiatives have certainly backed that up.
One of Amazon’s customer obsession strategies that has worked powerfully for them is an obsessive focus on identifying and solving customer needs. They describe their strategy as “starting with the customer and working backwards.” In fact, it’s one of their core business values. What Amazon has accurately understood is that when you begin with the customer and solve for their needs—both current and future—customers will appreciate your brand and stay loyal to your offerings.
After all, if you’re meeting their needs and offering exceptional experiences, why would they feel the need to shop elsewhere?
This customer obsession has led Amazon to consistently identify core, constant needs in consumer behavior—such as valuing the lowest prices or desiring faster shipping—and then innovating until they’ve met and exceeded those expectations. They have even taken it one step further to identifying future consumer needs based on historical data—allowing them to develop innovative solutions for customers before any of their competitors can catch up.
How To Make Your Organization Customer Obsessed
Understanding what customer obsession is is one thing, actually becoming an organization oriented around customer obsession is quite another. These five strategies will help you implement a customer-obsessed strategy across your entire organization.
Lead from the top
Amazon, as mentioned above, is a great example of leading with customer obsession from the top. Jeff Bezos is an outspoken proponent of Amazon’s customer obsessed mentality. “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he’s said.
You can’t expect customer obsession to grow in your organization without leadership paving the way. So begin your customer obsession at the top—listen to feedback from customers and share it widely among the company and in company-wide updates. Get feedback from customer-facing employees on the biggest customer concerns. Encourage collaboration among teams to solve customer problems. And empower employees to take action when faced with a customer concern or problem.
Quality over quantity
Remember that customer obsession isn’t always instantly scalable. While there are examples of massive corporations, such as Amazon and Apple, delivering exceptional customer experiences on a large scale, their customer obsession is part of what led to that scale.
As such, companies who are seeking to become a customer obsessed organization should focus on their existing customers more than on acquiring new customers. Instead of attempting to drive the most traffic possible, hone in on making the experience as incredible as possible for your existing audience.
Not only will the quality of your service improve, creating brand loyalty for your customer base, but your CX quality will drive quantity as well.
Think long term over short term
Many customer experience strategies are long-term initiatives. While customers may not immediately convert, become brand loyal or increase their spending, over time, these initiatives do pay off in terms of loyalty, revenue and acquisition.
However, first, your brand must be willing to invest in your customers over the long-term, without necessarily seeing immediate gains.
In addition, you should invest in long-term strategies for customer experience in your company structure as well as company strategy. For example, consider investing in a customer success team as well as a customer support team. While customer support is a necessary function to answer customer questions and provide support for resolving concerns, customer success is a proactive way to solve customer problems, help customers meet their goals and delight customers.
Collect and implement customer feedback
One of the most essential ways to become customer obsessed is to collect—and implement!—customer feedback. Solicit and collect customer feedback at all stages of the customer journey. For example, you could collect CSAT data after inbound customer calls, send NPS surveys after products are delivered, ask for product reviews, have customer feedback surveys on your website, and so on.
By measuring customer experience and feedback at different touchpoints, you not only get a more well-rounded sense of the effort and experience of the entire customer journey, but you also will understand where and how to improve. You can also use more general feedback such as online reviews, social media comments, social listening tools and so on to get a better sense of how customers feel and are talking about your brand.
Through all of this, the most important key is to have a plan for actioning and implementing the feedback. How will you use it to improve? Customer obsession begins with understanding what the customer wants, but it pays dividends when you innovate and design based on what you’ve heard from your customers.
Don’t neglect your employees
Finally, focus on employee engagement. Customer obsession can take a negative turn when it’s pursued too simplistically, or without an understanding of what employees need to make it possible.
After all, your employees are one of the key pillars that uphold customer obsession and make the internal vision a reality for customers. As a result, when employees are unmotivated, disengaged, or frustrated with their roles, they won’t be able to provide the service you’re striving for.
In order to truly deliver customer obsessed strategies, leadership needs to provide employees with exceptional and ongoing training (not just a great onboarding process!), coaching and mentorship, career development pathways, strong teams, a clear vision for how their work fits into larger company goals, competitive salary, rewards and benefits, and so on.
Engaged employees produce better work and have reduced turnover, which allows your company to benefit from the increased experience within your team.
What Happens If You’re Not Customer Obsessed?
As customers more and more come to expect brands to consistently adapt to their preferences, anticipate their needs and solve for their problems, brands who are not customer obsessed will miss out on customers’ loyalty and affinity. Consider these disadvantages faced by brands who choose not to focus on their customers:
- Reduced customer retention and loyalty. Without customer obsession, customer retention and loyalty drops due to poor customer experiences, inconvenient offerings, and lack of personalization.
- Increased customer acquisition costs and reduced customer lifetime value. With higher customer churn rates, customer lifetime value is reduced and companies end up spending more on CAC as a result.
- Focus on profits over customer needs. While this is a common strategy that often leads to short-term success, it’s often less sustainable over the long-term than most companies realize. A clear focus on bottom-line profits is typically a disadvantage over the long term leading to less satisfied customers, reduced product-market fit, and more limited brand awareness.
- Reduced profits and revenue. With increased CAC, customers are more expensive to acquire, and then reduced customer retention means you have to acquire more of them. All of this is expensive—not to mention that loyal customers spend more and refer more customers, all of which positively impacts profit and revenues.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear to see the negative results that a lack of customer obsession can have on your business. While customer obsession isn’t going to happen overnight, beginning with small changes and tactical strategies now can pay off dividends in the long run.
Looking for a partner in customer experience that can help transform your brand into one that’s known for exceptional service and customer obsession? Our team of experts at Global Response are here to help. We have 40+ years of experience in delivering customer-obsessed, human-centered service that provides excellent customer experiences, no matter your industry or customer base.
Connect with an expert at Global Response today to see how our team can help you define and implement your customer obsession strategy.