Create a Customer-Centric Culture

Brands with loyal fans focus on the people before the products. Operating from a customer-centric approach supports long-term relationships, which ultimately drive revenue.

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Ask me about my favorite brand, and I can respond without giving it a second thought. It's Wegmans, a family-run supermarket chain. Sadly, the closest location is more than 90 miles away, yet I talk about the market incessantly. Anytime a road trip takes me in the vicinity of a Wegmans store, I stop.


Why all the fuss about a grocery store?

The company has a customer obsession, and the leadership makes every decision with the customer in mind. From the vibrant fresh fruit displays to the bulk candy bins and old-fashioned homemade subs, all experiences are designed for the customer.

The company also prioritizes its employees, and buy-in at all levels shows up in every customer interaction. This customer-centric strategy has earned the company the highest reputation on the 2019 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient Study. In some polls, Wegmans even outranks Amazon and Trader Joe’s when it comes to customer loyalty.

Your customers might like your business, but do they gush about your brand any chance they get? Here’s how you can transition from simply being a preferred place to shop to one with a devoted fan club.


Overview: What does it mean to be customer-centric?

Customer-centric businesses make decisions based on the customer. Policies and procedures are built around the client first rather than company needs.

Adopting a customer-centric approach requires more than exemplary customer service; it takes a company-wide culture commitment.


3 benefits of implementing a customer-centric strategy

A customer-centric approach is no quick fix to improve customer service. It’s a philosophy that guides every business decision from the executive suite to the customer care staff. Staying client-centric is a long-term commitment that requires time and energy. These three benefits show why it’s worth the effort.

Identify growth opportunities

Many customers, even the most loyal ones, have a wish list. They may love your product or service, but they think a small tweak could enhance it. Customer-centric brands listen to customer needs and explore options for fulfilling those desires.

Consider this example: Let’s say you sell home painting supplies, and your customers wish they could get some advice on choosing color schemes. If enough buyers express the same interest, that could become a new service that generates income.

Surveys are one way to ask customers for input. Following online reviews and social media posts can also reveal important insights. By putting the customer first, you’ll organically find opportunities to increase revenue.

Improve efficiency

Time is money. The more efficient a process, the more profit is made. Customers can share critical information about “glitches” that detract from your brand. By responding with a customer-first approach, you solve the individual’s problem and address an issue that likely frustrates all of your customers.

Work smarter, not harder

On average, a mere 5% customer retention increase multiplies into a 25% profit increase. Prioritizing the customer experience ensures customer satisfaction, which cuts churn rates.

Glossier, a beauty brand, has brought its customer service and marketing teams together. Both collect and consider customer feedback. The experiences and recommendations they receive are used to guide decisions on everything from new processes to new products.


How to make your business customer-centric

Customer-centric strategies aren’t a new concept. For years business leaders have talked about putting the customer first. But only 14% of marketers say that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11% believe their customers would agree with that characterization.

You’re not alone if you’re struggling to adopt a more customer-centric approach. These five steps can get you started.

1. Employee satisfaction

Zappos has built a fiercely loyal customer base through its customer service standards. As many as 75% of purchases made on the site are from repeat customers. Nearly 44% of new customers try the site because of word-of-mouth advertising.

What’s the company’s secret? Zappos has identified key values that define its culture, and every employee shares the same purpose and mission.

Yet not every job candidate is going to embrace or believe in an organization’s core values. It’s crucial to have an interview process and trial period that carefully screens applications for fit.

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh offered new employees who wanted to quit $2,000 after two weeks of training. He knew if they weren’t committed to the company’s core values, they wouldn’t bring the right energy to customer interactions.

Celebrating ongoing employee commitment to the customer is equally important. Recognize efforts for a job well done and acknowledge performance under pressure.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Lowe’s spent millions to give employees pay raises, bonuses, and extended leave. Generating goodwill among employees spills over into customer interactions.

2. Data collection

Understanding customer needs and wants is at the core of customer-obsessed brands. These companies use data to create personalized experiences.

For example, prescription glasses retailer Warby Parker uses customer service software to save customers the hassle of repeatedly entering their information. The data collected through its point-of-sale system follow shoppers into one-on-one conversations with a sales associate.

Technology makes it easier than ever to collect data. Whether it comes directly from customers or internal staff, the information provides a view into customer behaviors and preferences, which, in turn, becomes the basis for strategic decisions.

3. Customer segmentation

Customers can be categorized in many ways. They might be a family or a single individual. Their age, educational or professional experience may put them in another group. How customers are viewed impacts how they interact with your product or service.

Be sure to share audience insights across all levels of your business and include departments not typically associated with customer service. Freely sharing information about the customer sets the example of a company-wide priority of considering their needs and behaviors.

4. Relationships before profits

It’s energizing to watch sales accumulate toward monthly and year-end goals. However, customer-centric businesses don’t let finances take center stage. Customer-obsessed brands remember that it’s the person, not the product or service, driving the outcome. Hosting a customer appreciation day is one way to show customers they are valued as a person rather than just a sales transaction.

5. Customer-focused leadership

To truly deliver a customer-centric approach, company executives must be on board and make it a priority. Leaders must be able to understand what a customer-first approach means to a company and how each staff person will be held accountable for contributing to the effort.

Actions speak louder than words, so communicate actions and results that can be linked to customer input. When employees see management making decisions based on audience feedback, it’s motivation for them to keep serving the customer.


The right thing to do

Client-centric companies generate 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors. However, profits are the icing on the cake rather than the core mission. These businesses put customers first because it’s the right thing to do.

Being customer-obsessed is a company culture. All employees from the top executives to the frontline workers and every person in between are laser-focused on creating incredible customer experiences.

There’s more than one way to embrace a customer-centric strategy. It may mean implementing new technology, asking for feedback, and relationship building.

It's not easy to shift an entire company culture. Remembering to keep people at the center of every decision can go a long way toward becoming customer-centric.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.