A customer-focused company implements strategies that put the customer first within their sales, marketing, services, and product development. But when every company embraces the same approach, the competitive landscape eventually equalizes, and a customer-focused strategy is no longer a differentiator.
To exceed expectations and outperform your competition, you need to become customer-obsessed.
Unfortunately, you can’t wake up one morning and decide that you want to be customer-obsessed. Exceeding expectations must become part of your company’s DNA, which means that every employee has to be part of the same customer-first mindset.
To build customer-obsession into your culture, start by considering the four core habits that customer-obsessed companies have in common.
1. Leadership sets the example and follows through
Company culture always begins at the top with dedicated leadership. If you want your company to become customer-obsessed, your CEO and the rest of the C-suite should be customer champions and model the mindset for the rest of the company.
Here are a few ideas to help leaders get started:
- Craft your mission statement to focus on the customer. Mission statements guide the company’s decisions, values, and business objectives. When a mission statement fails to embrace the customer, your organization will have a hard time building a customer-obsessed culture.
- Reinforce your mission through your actions. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, created a corporate culture around the customer, and he finds creative ways of reinforcing it. When he holds a meeting, he leaves a seat empty to represent the customer, reminding his team who the most important person is in that meeting.
- Reward employees for putting the customer first. Leaders reinforce their commitment to the customer by recognizing employees who go above and beyond. Some companies let their employees nominate colleagues who did something special, while other companies like AMEX give employees financial bonuses based on customer feedback.
2. Understanding customer needs is a top priority
The best way to build your culture around serving the customer is to help every employee understand who your customers are and how they can help exceed expectations.
When each team member has a clear understanding of the customer, the entire company benefits. Here are a few ways to get everyone involved:
- All-hands support is a popular initiative among SaaS companies where employees spend one day per month working in customer support. In addition to hearing directly from customers, these employees learn more about their own product and how it helps customers.
- Spending the day with your customer might be logistically difficult, but if you can — do it! Face-to-face meetings with clients usually provide an opportunity to hear things that might not come up in a quick phone call or an email exchange. Be prepared to hear unexpected praise and perhaps some constructive criticism, which will be invaluable information for improving your product and customer experience.
- Sharing customer stories is a fun and engaging way to help your team members share the wisdom they’ve gained about exceeding customer expectations, product information that’s crucial to customer satisfaction, or a customer interaction that stood out that week.
3. Listening to customer feedback drives continuous improvement
Companies that put their customers first know that improving experience leads to stronger loyalty and more opportunities for growth. They proactively seek out customer feedback and are quick to fix any problems or requests for improvements. Their competitive edge depends on treating customers as individuals and providing an amazing experience.
If you want to be dialled into what your customers are saying, you need to monitor social chatter. If you discover a potential problem, don’t sit on it–resolve it immediately. Here is a perfect example of a leader taking immediate action based on customer feedback and making it actionable. In just six days, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took a customer complaint from a tweet and made a company-wide policy change.
Following this, Tesla made a new policy with this statement on their site:
“We designed the Supercharger network to enable a seamless, enjoyable road trip experience. Therefore, we understand that it can be frustrating to arrive at a station only to discover fully charged Tesla cars occupying all the spots. To create a better experience for all owners, we’re introducing a fleet-wide idle fee that aims to increase Supercharger availability.”
Tesla then followed up and developed a new app that would alert owners that their car’s charge was nearly complete, and the customers would incur costs if they remained connected too long. Tesla listened to their customers and made an immediate change.
4. They prioritize customer satisfaction metrics
Your key performance metrics let your employees know what they should care about. When a company puts the customer above everything else, their most important metrics encompass customer satisfaction and track the customer’s relationship with the company.
While the same metrics may not work for every company, here a few to consider as you evaluate your own company and the quality of your customer experience:
- Customer loyalty. The most popular tool for monitoring loyalty is the Net Promoter Score, which measures the likelihood of your customers to refer your brand to someone else. This is the best indicator that you are creating a loyal customer base.
- Customer retention. If your retention is high, your customers are happy, which means your customer-first strategy is performing well.
- Customer contacts per units sold. When a high number of customers are contacting you for help, something is wrong with their experience. Exceeding customer expectations starts with knowing their needs before they have to contact you. Customer-obsessed companies monitor this metric closely to ensure it’s always decreasing.
Customer satisfaction metrics are valuable indicators that you are building strong relationships with your customers, but more importantly, prioritizing these metrics lets everyone know that the customer comes first.
Turn Customers into Raving Fans
Almost every company strives to be customer-focused, but exceptional companies that enjoy consistent growth are customer-obsessed.
Building customer obsession into your company culture is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with committed leadership that sets the tone and models the right behavior. When everyone at your company keeps the customer at the heart of everything they do, you’ll turn your customers into raving fans who believe in, advocate for, and keep coming back to your business.