Your Guide to Becoming Customer-Obsessed

Being customer-obsessed means more than just providing superior customer service. Customer-obsessed companies create a culture that puts customers first in all strategic business decisions.

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Achieving high customer service standards starts with an obsession for your customers. Getting to know them on a personal level and understanding what solutions they need at home or work is the first step. Using that information and other customer data to drive company-wide decisions increases retention and delivers long-term value to customers.

Overview: What is customer obsession?

The dictionary defines obsession as "an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind."

Companies that are customer-obsessed never stop thinking about how they better understand their customers. More than that, those businesses use that knowledge and data to provide products and services that solve a problem for the shopper.

3 characteristics of customer-obsessed companies

Customers have endless choices for shopping — so many choices it causes fatigue. Companies that are customer-obsessed can distinguish themselves from their competitors in their customers' eyes.

Here are three ways companies can create a customer-obsessed culture.

1. Customer-led

Customer-obsessed companies make strategic decisions based on customer feedback and customer personas.

Use these methods to listen to customers:

  • One-on-one feedback
  • Customer service surveys
  • Social media
  • Data collected from online engagement

2. Quality over quantity

Revenue drives goals and enables businesses to continue on growth trajectories. However, losing sight of quality to increase sales volume is not always the answer.

Juggling too many orders can affect quality in several ways.

  • Slower order fulfillment
  • Decreased product quality
  • Poor customer service response

These scenarios can frustrate and disappoint customers. In turn, dissatisfied customers vent to front-line service workers. Those employees become demoralized and treat other customers with lackluster enthusiasm, creating a vicious cycle.

3. Internal alignment

Every employee plays a role in supporting a customer service culture that converts shoppers into loyal brand ambassadors. Company leaders who understand how employees impact the customer experience recognize the value workers contribute to customer retention strategies.

Customer-obsessed companies use these approaches with their staff.

  • Train and support customer service staff
  • Recognize the efforts of the front-line workers
  • Empower customer service staff to decide on refunds and returns

How to implement a customer-obsessed culture in your business

Implementing a customer-obsessed culture is a key component of customer acquisition and customer retention strategies.

These five approaches will help you create a customer-first culture.

1. Ask your customer for feedback

A customer-obsessed culture deeply understands the lifestyle, motivations, and interests of its buyers. People buy products and services to solve a problem, so intimately understanding customer needs is the first step to becoming customer-obsessed.

Understanding customers on a personal level enables businesses to create better relationships. Customer service software can gather and help analyze a customer’s purchase motivations. Once collected and reviewed, this information should be incorporated into every aspect of the customer experience.

Ask for feedback because all responses — positive or negative — will help you better know the customer.

2. Show, don’t tell

Shoppers aren’t fooled by empty promises. They want to “see” a company make good on its commitment. Respond to questions and concerns promptly. Use live chats, help desks, or dedicated email accounts, but don’t make customers wait for a response.

3. Pay attention to the little things

Getting an order right simply isn’t enough to be considered customer-obsessed. Paying attention to the little things like a team member’s accomplishments inside, and outside, the workplace is key for employee satisfaction, which translates into customer satisfaction.

Celebrating an employee’s exemplary customer service is another way to highlight the tiny details that add up to make a big impact. Recognize an employee’s efforts to go above and beyond to help a customer, for example serving a customer five minutes before closing.

4. The right people, in the right place

Good to Great author Jim Collins emphasizes the importance of getting “the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus,” to help a business achieve greatness.

Not every person is cut out for customer interactions. Those individuals may have valuable skills in other areas of the business, or they might not be a fit at all. Hiring people who are customer-focused is the essential first step. The second is ensuring the leadership team recognizes the impact front-line workers have on the customer experience.

5. Recognize employees

Customer service staff are the face of your company. They can make or break a customer experience and affect brand loyalty among customers. Recognizing an employee’s efforts makes them feel appreciated. More importantly, when you showcase a job well done, you set an example for all employees to follow.

Employee recognition can take many forms. These are three ideas you can try.

  • Acknowledgement in all-staff meetings
  • Special notation in the company directory
  • A customer service award distributed monthly, quarterly, or yearly

Examples of customer-obsessed companies

How will you know you’re customer-obsessed? When your customers develop a cultlike following and can’t stop talking about your brand.

Here are three companies that have implemented an internal structure that empowers employees to nurture customer confidence and customer satisfaction by putting shoppers first.

1. Wegmans

The regional grocery store based in Rochester, New York, has the Top Corporate Reputation Ranking, unseating Amazon from its throne, according to a Harris Poll. Grand openings for new stores create long lines of eager customers who will wait hours for entry. Anyone who moves out of the Wegmans’ geography laments not having one.

How has Wegmans developed such a loyal following? They are obsessed with the entire customer experience. From ensuring exceptional quality in fruits and vegetables — perishable items that other stores let go past prime — to made-to-order food, dining areas, and digital coupons, they make sure customers are hooked from the moment they walk through the door.

2. Chick-fil-A

The customer experience is what ranks fast-food Chick-fil-A 11th on a list of the Top 100 most visible brands identified in a 2020 Harris Poll. The fast-food chain’s Director of Digital Customer Experience Kevin Purcer told a crowd at a networking event that dependability, politeness, and a way to connect resonates with customers. Purcer commended employees who volunteered to learn sign language to make hearing-impaired customers feel welcomed.

3. Amazon

Amazon is envied for its legendary explosion into a trillion-dollar company. Amazon Prime shipping and streaming services, easy refunds, and returns have created an unprecedented buzz.

Customers may not realize that what’s behind those beloved services is a set of Amazon Core Principles that recognizes that every action from its goals to new projects, programs, and innovations starts with the customer in mind. The company includes its definition of customer-obsession on its website.

Worth the investment

Shifting a culture to one that is driven solely by customer needs and wants takes time and resources. Over the long run, it can be one of the most impactful ways to improve customer service and support long-term sustainability.

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