Next Wednesday is National Boss’s Day in the USA and in honour of the occasion Kathleen Brady of Brady & Associates wrote an article for the New York Daily News suggesting ways to please your Boss. Although not the topic of this post, the article incidentally makes great reading for anyone with a Boss (I think that’s all of us!)
It was P&G’s A.G. Lafley who first coined the phrase “The Consumer is Boss” about 12 years ago and since then marketing has been trying to please the consumer. It was also around this time that Consumer Packaged Goods companies then started referring to themselves as being consumer centric.
The Rise of the Customer
The below chart from Google Trends shows the search frequency of “customer” versus “consumer” since around that time. I don’t believe the changes you can see are due to a decreasing interest in consumers but are rather a reflection of the importance that all industries are placing on the people who buy their products and services. Whereas CPG may have started the trend, all industries now understand the importance of the people that spend their hard earned cash on them. Depending upon the industry you are in, those people might be called consumers, customers or clients and customers has become the name most often used to cover all three.
The Fall of Customer Centricity
Maz Iqbal’s recent post on the CustomerThink website entitled “The Paradox At The Heart of Customer-Centric Business” challenged the very nature of customer centricity. Whilst his ideas are certainly thought-provoking and perhaps controversial, I do agree that customer centricity alone will not grow a business. However, I personally believe that most organisations have spent most of their existence thinking more about all the other areas of the business and less about the people that actually make their businesses viable, their customers.
The Customer is now the Boss
Whilst this still continues to be the case in many organisations – unfortunately – and taking inspiration from Brady’s article, I thought I would share my own thoughts on what we can do to better please our Customers / Bosses.
#1. Make sure everything we do is ABCD: We shouldn’t be satisfied with our customers’ satisfaction! We need to go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty when trying to please them. We should surprise and delight them whenever we can, responding not only to their articulated needs, but also their unarticulated and even unimagined needs.
Look at Apple who regularly proposes technologies that their customers didn’t even know they needed and which surprisingly quickly become an essential part of their lives. They understand their customers so well that they even know what they (we) will want in the future.
#2. Understand what they need to know: According to a recent report by Adobe on what keeps marketers up at night, the number one issue is reaching their customers.
If we really understand our customers, we will know how to reach them, where and when they are ready to hear what we have to say. Whereas in the past companies knew their customers were more than likely to listen to or watch their advertising when it was aired, today’s technology enables customers to switch off all but the most relevant messages for them at any given time.
#3. Know how they measure performance: We may feel proud of our latest new product idea or added benefit, but if our customer doesn’t value it, then our efforts will be ignored at best or even rejected if we try to charge extra for them. Perception and reality can be far apart, and customer value can mean charging more or less than we had planned.
If you’d like to read more on setting pricing levels check out the post “HELP! Your customers don’t value you as much as you do!”
#4. Offer solutions: I learnt very early on in my professional career, thanks to a very wise and open-minded Boss (Yes that is indeed you Jean-Michel), to bring solutions not problems; the same goes for our customers. We shouldn’t communicate (only) on rational benefits; we are more likely to resonate when we speak about emotional and relational benefits. We need to show we understand their pain and offer them a solution; no-one can refuse such an offer.
If you’d like to read more on brand equity check out the post “How to Build Brand Reputation & Consumer Trust and then Track it“
#5. Be Transparent: In just the same way as a Boss needs to share his vision and objectives, we need to listen to our customers to ensure we understand how they are changing. This doesn’t mean more regular tracking or group discussions, but rather more visits to retail outlets and even customers’ homes to share their daily lives, trials and tribulations with them. That is the best way to really see things from their perspective and to see how our products and services fit into their lives.
#6. Mind our manners: As Lafley said, the Customer is Boss. This means that when a customer complains, we must start from the position that they are right, even if it is just their perception. How many times have you yourself heard customer care personnel trying to defend their organisation in order to prove to you that you are wrong? (As a fresh example, I just today got criticised by a supplier for complaining that my dishwasher still hadn’t been delivered six weeks after it was promised! I was told it was “because it’s school vacation and I have three technicians out”. Sorry that doesn’t explain the previous five weeks’ delay)
Do whatever you can to make your customers who connect with you feel happy they did so; make them feel you truly value their opinion and them taking the time to tell you about their experience.
And please, stop your pre-recorded messages that say “your call is important to us” when you leave the caller waiting for five, ten, twenty or even more minutes – and even worse when the message is repeated at frequent intervals! You have to DO not SAY customer centricity.
#7. Customer feedback is a gift: Every complaint is a free roadmap of how to improve your product or service. How much would you have to pay an external expert or consultant to help you in improving your offers? When a customer complains or suggests improvements, you’re getting this information for free, from people who really care and are not being paid to help you. That is as close to the truth you will ever get; use it.
These are my seven reasons why the Customer is King and how we need to act when we remember it. What others can you think of?
Need help in understanding and connecting with your own customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here