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Customer Experience Management, Customer Retention

Customer Orientation: Putting The Customer First

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Customer-centric, customer orientation, customer obsessed: these buzzwords get thrown around frequently, but what do they really mean—and how can you implement these strategies at your own organization? 

In today’s world, customer orientation is becoming increasingly expected in customer service, but harder and harder for companies to actually achieve. While customers expect businesses to know and adapt to their needs, few businesses do in a way that is truly exceptional. 

As a result, businesses and organizations who can truly nail the customer orientation model give themselves major benefits and advantages in today’s marketplace. 

Customer Orientation Defined

Customer orientation refers to a business strategy that keeps all teams oriented around and focused on the customer. In a customer-oriented business, all business strategy, operations, decisions and teams are centered on the customers’ needs and goals. Rather than attempting to orient your customer base around your current business focuses and goals, you orient your organization around the customers’ goals, preferences and so on. 

As a result, customer orientation isn’t something that can be segmented off to the customer support or customer success team—rather, it’s something that requires a whole-company effort. In addition, rather than being a trending “add-on” or “buzzword” for your Q2 meetings, true customer orientation is something that is foundational to your business, a deep-seated strategy that underpins every decision. 

If your organization doesn’t have a customer-oriented culture right now doesn’t mean you can’t create one over time. In this article, we’ll lay out some of the benefits, companies who are doing customer-orientation right, and steps to successfully implementing a customer-orientation strategy. 

Benefits of Becoming a Customer Oriented Business

The bottom line? Customer-oriented organizations meet customers’ needs better, retain more customers and, ultimately, drive more revenue. Why? Because customers not only want to shop with and partner with brands who are oriented towards their needs (of course, who doesn’t?), customers are coming to expect it. Just take a look at the data on customer expectations: 

  • 66% of customers expect businesses to know what they personally want and need. 
  • 61% of customers say businesses treat them more like a number than individuals.
  • Customers value personalization (59%) even over speed (53%) in their customer service experiences.

After all, there’s a lot of competition on the marketplace. If you can’t give your customers what they want, there’s probably someone else who can. And with more than 80% of customers saying they’d switch brands after just a few bad experiences, there’s not much margin for error. 

Prioritizing customer orientation can give your organization a major leg up over your competition. Consider some of the benefits a customer-oriented philosophy can provide: 

Improved customer retention and loyalty. It’s easier—and cheaper—to retain existing customers than to gain new ones, yet many companies focus more on acquisition than retention. But with new customers costing six to seven times as much to acquire as it does to retain existing customers, retention should be a key priority. Customer orientation improves retention and loyalty, since customers are more likely to do business with organizations who they feel know and meet their needs. 

Increased product-market fit. Unsurprisingly, focusing more on your customer usually leads to a stronger product-market fit. By keeping your customer at the forefront of your decisions, you’re led to innovate and solve problems for your target audience, strengthening your place in the market and driving even higher retention in turn. 

As Jeff Bezos puts it, “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.” One of Amazon’s key customer-centric principles relates back to continuously innovating for the customer. “By getting ahead of your customers’ needs, you stay relevant in providing continuous value for them.” 

More referrals and lower CAC. Whether customers are satisfied or not, they turn to social media, online reviews and other word-of-mouth channels to share their opinions and experiences. In turn, these are trusted sources of information for other shoppers, with a whopping 92% of consumers saying they rely on “advice from friends and family” or online reviews to make purchasing decisions. Staying customer oriented makes for happier customers, who in turn will drive effective and widespread marketing for you, through word-of-mouth, social media and more. This in turn lowers your CAC by providing valuable, trusted marketing.  

Reduced costs and improved revenue. Finally, all of this drives revenue and improves your bottom line as well—with reduced CAC from customer referrals and improved retention, your marketing costs are lowered. In addition, loyal customers and referred customers both have higher LTVs. They spend more, make more frequent purchases and refer more people—which is all part of why a 5% increase in retention has been found to increase profits by as much as 25%. 

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Customer Orientation Done Right – Real World Examples

True customer orientation may still be rare, but there’s a number of organizations getting it right. What can other customer-oriented businesses—both large and small—teach us about developing a customer orientation strategy?


One of the giants of customer orientation, Apple has perfected the art of knowing what their customers want—sometimes even before the customers do!—and delivering it. They’re constantly innovating, iterating and delivering better products that delight their customers and keep people enduringly loyal to their brand. With around 90% of customers sticking with Apple when they upgrade smartphones, their customer loyalty is unparalleled. Part of the reason for this is their continuous innovation and design that always benefit the customer. For example, who knew the Walkman needed an upgrade until Apple came out with the iPod? By considering the customers’ needs and working to stay ahead of them (proactive approach), rather than respond to them (reactive approach), Apple maintains exceptional loyalty and retention.


“Start with the customer and work backwards.” This principle is one among several that has launched Amazon towards their “mission of being Earth’s most customer-centric company.” From the beginning, Amazon has been vocal about their customer obsession, which has fueled their growth. They’re a great example of baking customer orientation into your entire business strategy, and leading from the top. Florian Baumgartner, one of Amazon’s Director of Consumables, defines customer orientation at Amazon this way: “At Amazon all of our actions, goals, projects, programs, and inventions begin and end with the customer in mind. We call this “working backwards”, a fundamental part of our innovation process. We start with customers and what they want and let that define and guide our efforts.” Once Amazon has identified a core, constant need in consumer behavior—e.g. desiring low prices or faster delivery—they work relentlessly to make it possible. In doing so, they not only meet customer expectations, but actually work to shape the customer’s expectations going forward. Take shipping as an example. In 2015, Amazon’s average shipping speed was around 6 days—a figure that feels almost impossibly slow now. In 2022, the average delivery time for Amazon purchases was just 1.9 days, reflective of Amazon’s famous two-day and same-day shipping. In order to achieve this, Amazon had to develop a number of innovations, including route optimization technology, expanded warehouse networks, centralized fulfillment centers and more, all to meet this customer need. While not every company can—or should—replicate Amazon’s exact model, the principle holds that they remain oriented around customer needs. In turn, they play a role in shaping consumer expectations—and then capturing large shares of the market by being the only ones who can fulfill those expectations they created.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is a smaller example—while still a national brand, it’s nowhere near the size of Apple or Amazon, yet it commands a high level of customer loyalty. Despite not offering any kind of loyalty rewards, membership program, or special sales or discounts, as most other grocery and consumer brands do, Trader Joe’s enjoys a highly loyal base. How? They’ve nailed the in-person aspect of customer service and orientation. At their stores, they empower employees to deliver great experiences, placing customer needs first. Want to sample any item in the store? Just ask an employee and they’ll break open a box to give you a taste (seriously!). Grocery shopping with kids can be difficult, which is why you’ll find Trader Joe’s offering free stickers (for kids and adults, if you ask nicely), a stuffed toy hidden around the store kids can search for, and other family-friendly tactics. They also take customer feedback seriously, having adjusted everything from packaging to store hours, products they carry and more based on customer feedback. By providing outlets for—and implementing—customer feedback, Trader Joe’s has managed to create a unique shopping experience catered to customer desires that keeps people coming back for more.

How To Implement a Customer Orientation Strategy

Of course, all of this is easier said than done—which is why not every company has Apple-level loyalty and retention rates. However, for brands who are ready to develop a culture of customer orientation, these 6 tactics are a great way to build and implement a customer-centric foundation.

Know your customer

Any customer-centric organization begins with really knowing and understanding their customers. Begin by understanding their wants, needs, preferences, goals and fears—and then work to predict them. Apple did this well by understanding what their customers wanted and then predicting what they would want next, and creating it. In addition, your knowledge of the customer should extend past your brand personas and into individual customer journeys and goals. As we discussed above, the more personalized, the better—and personalization begins with knowing your customers. The better you understand what your customers want, the better you’ll be able to help them achieve their goals.

Find the right team

Customer orientation should start at the top, but it shouldn’t stop there. A truly customer oriented strategy requires your entire team to be on board, especially customer service and success teams. When building your customer service team, look for people-oriented, relational and empathetic agents that can deliver customer-first experiences at every touchpoint. This is one of our key strategies and strengths at Global Response—we use a customer-obsessed strategy that ensures our agents become brand specialists and customer experts for our partner’s brands. This human-first, customer-centric approach pays dividends when it comes to exceptional customer service.

Track key metrics

As you implement your customer orientation strategy, it’s essential to be measuring and tracking key metrics across customer service and customer experience. For example, measuring CSAT, NPS, CES and so on over time will give you insight into how customers are experiencing your brand and how you can improve. Each step of your experience and buying journey should be customer-centric. As such, you can also use key customer experience metrics to understand how different touchpoints align with your goal of customer orientation. For example, customers may be very satisfied after talking to an agent on the phone, but may have difficult experiences with your web chat. In that case, you know exactly how to improve to make your experience more effortless for your customers.

Empower your team

We’ve all heard the news stories of brands or organizations who went above and beyond for their customers, from delivering steaks at the airport or ten hour customer service calls. While these grand acts make the news, the actions that make the most difference are typically smaller actions, triggered by individual employees. As such, your organization should ensure your customer service agents, internal team and any customer-facing staff are empowered to surprise and delight customers as the situation calls for. With support from the top, employees are empowered to go above and beyond, and the result is happier employees and delighted customers.

Always be making things easier for your customers

A customer orientation means you’re working to reduce customer effort at every touchpoint. To do so, you have to think about each decision from a customer perspective. Rather than considering how a certain decision will impact your sales or improve your marketing, think about it from the customer’s perspective. Does it add value? Does it make their task more effortless? Does it help them achieve their goals? Ultimately, brands who are truly customer oriented will go out of their way to serve and delight their customers. To help implement this, organizations can measure and track Customer Effort Score (CES). CES provides a customer-reported measure of their effort required to get help or get a concern resolved, allowing you to understand where you are and aren’t succeeding in developing effortless customer experiences.

Collect ongoing feedback

Finally, always be in touch with your customers. The best customer-centric brands provide plenty of opportunities for feedback and take customer feedback into account when it comes to business strategy, product updates and all kinds of decisions. A Quality Assurance (QA) process can help automate this part of the customer service process, ensuring that you have ongoing feedback loops from customers, agents, team leads and managers. Good QA processes also ensure that feedback is being analyzed and scheduled for implementation, allowing your team to take action on customer needs and desires. For teams who are ready to create a customer-oriented strategy, Global Response is here to provide the support you need to make it possible. From data analysis to high-level strategy to outsourced operations and customer service that delivers exceptional experiences every time, Global Response is your partner in customer experience. Reach out to a Global Response expert today to see how we can help you achieve your goals.

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