The most important part of your business? Your customers.
Although it sounds obvious, it’s a reality all too many businesses tend to forget from time to time. Amidst the daily focuses of product, sales, marketing and business strategy, the customer’s needs and experiences can get lost.
However, recent research shows that companies who have excellent customer service and customer experiences—in short, have a customer focus—are more profitable than competitors, inspiring brand loyalty and driving retention and sales. As a result, brands that want to grow their organization and customer base should consider taking on a customer-focused strategy. We’ll outline how—as well as highlight some companies who are already getting it right—in this article.
What Is Customer Focus?
Customer focus is a business strategy aiming to center the customer’s needs, preferences and desires when making business decisions. Businesses who use a customer-focused strategy consider how each business, product or service decision will ultimately impact and help the customer. It’s customer-centric, rather than profit-centric, prioritizing brand loyalty and trust over the bottom line.
Of course, putting your customers first is often a profitable way to build your business, as prioritizing relationships with your customers allows you to improve customer satisfaction, increase loyalty and in turn create more valuable customers.
Customer focus can include a variety of both big-picture strategy and detail-oriented tactics. For example, customer focus can include things like:
- doing customer research and surveys
- using customer feedback to inform future product or service decisions
- creating personalized customer experiences
- improving customer service and support
- developing an omnichannel approach
- building relationships with customers
- implementing loyalty, rewards or referral programs for loyal customers
and more! The bottom line is, whatever decision your company is considering, to put the customer’s needs at the heart of it. How will this decision impact the customer? Will it help them, harm them or be a neutral factor? What decisions can your organization make that will most help the customer?
Considering these questions and the tactics above are the first step in creating a culture of customer focus throughout your organization.
Why is Customer Focus So Important?
Although customer focus strategies put the customer at the center of all your business decisions, it’s a winning strategy for everyone involved: good for your business, good for your bottom line, and good for your customers.
After all, customers who get what they want and find your brand more engaging become more loyal to your brand. Their loyalty reduces churn (saving your business money on acquisition costs) and can even make them more forgiving of your brand’s mistakes.
Of course, this is good for your bottom line as well: happy customers spend more money, stay with your company longer and refer more people to your brand. Finally, customer focus is good for your business in general—as you focus on customer needs, preferences and concerns, you’ll be able to provide better services and develop a stronger product-market fit. Not only will this increase satisfaction among current customers, but you’ll also become more valuable to future customers too.
By focusing on the long-term customer needs over short-term rewards, you’ll be able to ensure your business stays relevant to customers and profitable. Take a look at the data:
- According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies who lack customer focus.
- 74% of customers say they are more willing to forgive companies for a mistake if they received excellent service.
- 60% of business leaders say providing quality service improves customer retention.
As a result, neglecting customer focus puts your brand in a precarious position. Not only do you risk customer satisfaction and loyalty decreasing, you also increase your customer churn. If you make decisions without the customer in mind, more and more current customers will find themselves frustrated by your product or services, and move on to another company who puts their needs first.
As you move toward a customer-focused mindset, it’s important to make sure you regularly measure feedback from your customers on their experiences. Data shows that while 87% of companies feel they’re already providing great customer service and experiences, only 11% of customers agree. As a result, it’s important to check in with your customers directly and use their feedback to keep improving.
4 Examples of Customer Focus Done Right
Although the gap between customer expectations and what most companies currently deliver is wide, there are a number of companies getting it right.
Between providing excellent customer service, listening to customers, building strong communities and customer relationships and developing a strong product-market fit based on customer feedback, these companies are nailing it. Take a look at what they’re doing to spark some ideas for your own customer experiences.
The popular sock company, Bombas, is known for their customer service and standout customer experiences. Besides their community-focused brand—donating a pair of socks to those in need for every pair purchased!—Bombas provides top-notch service and care to their customers.
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Although the socks are not cheap (a standard 3-pack runs about $50), they have a loyal following. For example, in the post-holidays, this customer reached out to Bombas to initiate a return. Their response is below:
Rather than burdening the customer with the process of packaging up the items, printing a return slip, dropping it off at a post office and so on, they simply asked him to pass the socks along and provided him with a full refund. Now that’s making life easy for the customer!
Netflix knows a thing or two about product-market fit. If you’ll remember, they started out as a DVD-by-mail service. For a monthly fee, subscribers could rent unlimited DVDs by mail. Their goal? Make it easier for consumers to access content. After several years, Netflix’s DVD rental business was still growing, but they had an idea to make accessing movies even easier for consumers: direct streaming.
Rather than having to wait to receive the DVDs by mail, users could watch the movies they wanted instantly and on-demand. Although at the time streaming technology didn’t exist, Netflix invested huge amounts of money and time in creating a streaming service, upsetting their own business model and operations to provide a more customer-focused solution. The result? Well, you know the end of the story.
It’s hard to think of incredible customer focus and customer experiences and not think of Disney. The famous parks have an incredible 70% return rate for first-time visitors. So, how does Disney deliver experiences that build such loyalty? The key is an almost fanatic obsession with the customer and their experience.
Disney does this by both listening to customer feedback and improving as well as proactively anticipating customer needs and responding or designing their experience accordingly. For example, Disney noticed that many young children would wait in line to experience a ride, only to find out at the front that they weren’t quite tall enough. This was a major disappointment for children and a big complaint from parents as well.
As a result, Disney implemented a policy where staff members could provide kids with a pass to skip to the front of the line for the next ride they went on when this happened—transforming their disappointing experience into a magical one.
If you’ve spent any time traveling—or talking to people who do—you’ll notice that Southwest Airlines has a sizable following, a rarity for airlines. Why? The answer comes back to exceptional customer service.
While Southwest Airlines goes out of their way to treat each passenger with a human touch, making traveling delightful, they’ve also implemented a number of customer-focused initiatives over the years that set them apart from other airlines. For example, Southwest allows you to check two bags for free—while many other airlines charge $25, $35 or even $50 per checked bag.
In addition, they offer lots of flexibility—even in the days before the pandemic, when this was almost unheard of in the travel industry. Southwest allows free changes, even last-minute ones, and canceling your flight for travel credit is as easy as a few button clicks on their website. They’re also known for being lenient with their own policies to help a customer. Rather than focusing on their own processes and profits, Southwest prioritizes the ease and needs of the customer at almost every turn, gaining them loyal travelers in a way that few other airlines can rival.
“We hire rock stars, ask them to be themselves, and then support them in everything they do to take care of our customers,” says Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. “This leaves customers wanting to come back for more. Then our customer loyalty grows the business and rewards our shareholders.”
It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Creating Your Customer Focus Strategy
Of course, understanding how other brands are winning at customer focus can only take you so far. At some point, you have to dive in and create a customer focus strategy for your own brand. Thankfully, doing so is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are five key initiatives you can activate to create a customer focused strategy at your organization:
- Listen to customer feedback
- Learn what your customers want
- Determine the right metrics to track
- Get everyone on board
- Find a customer-centric partner for support
Listen to your customers!
Step 1: listen to your customers! This is the best and easiest way to gather customer preferences, desires, needs and concerns to solve. Better yet, there are so many ways to gather customer feedback, both directly and indirectly. For example, you can:
- send out NPS and CSAT surveys at regular intervals
- set up customer focus groups to get feedback on existing or developing products
- read and reply to customer reviews online
- solicit engagement and feedback from customers on social media channels
- review customer service calls and emails for common complaints, questions or needs
The most important thing is that you regularly gather data, review it, and then implement changes based on the feedback. Even better if you can let customers know when changes have been implemented, and based on what feedback—when customers know that their feedback is regularly taken into account and actioned, they’re not only more likely to provide feedback, but they’re also likely to feel more loyal to your brand.
In addition, make sure you find ways to get your whole company connected to the customer, not just the customer service team. Share feedback widely, discuss it in regular company meetings, and ensure everyone on your team has access to customer feedback.
Learn what your customers want
How can you provide a customer-obsessed experience without knowing what it is your customers actually want? One way to do this is by listening to your customers and soliciting feedback, of course. Ideally, though, you’ll know your customer so well that you’ll be able to actually predict what it is they want before they even know it or express it, as in the case of Netflix.
In order to do this, you have to know your customers “at the most granular level,” as Harvard Business Review puts it, “creating a comprehensive picture of each customer’s needs—past, present, and future.” This goes beyond basic customer personas. Instead, you’ll have a detailed and comprehensive understanding of customer goals, needs, desires, preferences, likes and dislikes, and so on.
Collecting customer data is a great way to understand your customer and build out this comprehensive picture—as they say, actions speak louder than words. What your customers do, click on, purchase, and how they interact with your brand and company channels can provide valuable insights into their needs, preferences and goals.
Ultimately, you can use all of these insights to develop your customer-focus strategy, for everything from product development to service decisions and organizational structure.
Determine the right metrics to track
Speaking of customer data, it’s important to gather the right data and track the right metrics. In addition to explicit feedback, you should be gathering quantitative feedback on customer experiences through customer support metrics. This data can give you a picture of your current state of customer experiences as well as inform what you need to improve on, and how.
For example, some of the most important customer service metrics to track include:
- CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)
- NPS (Net Promoter Score)
- Churn rate
- Average hold time or handle time
- Average wait time in queue
Analyzing your current experience, as well as determining goals for improvement, is a necessary step in creating a customer focus strategy.
Get everyone on board
Customer focus shouldn’t be siloed to just your service or support teams. The best organizations are ones that are customer focused through and through.
Think back to Disney as an example—it’s not just the cast and crew members that are in the parks each day, trained to stay in character and deliver magical experiences. Walt Disney was a huge proponent of ensuring that everyone—from the newest, most junior employees to the VPs and C-Suite executives—”walked the walk” in the parks. He would regularly conduct checks of the park himself, in disguise, as well as send his managers and upper-level staff to experience the park and bring back observations for improvement.
It’s an example that many organizations could take a cue from. Ensure that all of your teams—marketing, support, product, sales, and so on—are in touch with the customer, aware of customer needs and desires, reviewing customer feedback and incorporating it into their daily processes. By creating a customer-focused culture throughout all levels of your team, you can make customer service easier and more effective.
Find a customer-centric partner
Finally, for many companies, finding a customer-centric partner to support them and their goals can supercharge your efforts toward growth. Whether you already know your customer and have concrete data and feedback from them to implement or at the very early stages of this process, partnering with a customer-obsessed provider like Global Response can help you create and implement customer focus strategies.
Global Response is a team of customer-obsessed brand experts—we’re here to deliver customer experiences that will set your brand apart as an industry leader. Whether you need omnichannel customer service support or expert strategy and implementation, our team can help you get the support you need. When you’re ready to implement a customer-focus strategy and see measured improvement around your customer experience, reach out to an expert from Global Response.