The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ has been used so often it’s easy to forget the intent behind it. Many businesses are guilty of putting their own needs ahead of those of their customers, but the two philosophies shouldn’t be too far apart. What’s good for your target audience can also be good for business, so it’s worth aligning the two.
Customer orientation is the answer. Take this approach to your customer service and you’ll find you’ll outstrip the competition. Not only that, but your organization’s goals of more sales, increased customer satisfaction and improved loyalty will benefit too. While the customer may not always be right, they should always be first in your list of priorities.
What is customer orientation?
Customer orientation is an approach to business that focuses on assisting customers in achieving their goals, as opposed to adopting a sales oriented methodology. It should stretch further than just your customer service team and influence the actions of all departments.
It acknowledges the fact that modern customers have the resources at their fingertips to have researched products and are likely to know what they want. Helping them achieve these aims and understanding the process from their point of view enhances the customer experience to promote retention and advocacy in the long run.
Why is customer orientation important?
As well as understanding what you’re doing, you also need a really good sense of why you’re doing it. Our recent research report The State of Customer Experience in 2022/2023 found customer centricity, conversation AI and personalization would be the biggest trends in customer service over the next 12 months.
That’s because these themes are all part of the customer orientation strategy and lead to a better experience, retention, loyalty and advocacy. Customer feedback shows they want service that revolves around them and their needs, and they’re not afraid to shop around to get it. In fact, companies that are customer centric are 60% more profitable than businesses that neglect this approach.
Retaining customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, but a combination of both is best. Your existing customers are a valuable resource when they become ambassadors for your brand. This is measured through their Net Promoter Score, the metric that demonstrates how likely a customer is to recommend your business to others. Customer oriented companies are more likely to elicit high scores.
The 6 pillars of a customer-oriented strategy
Being customer centric requires a comprehensive strategy and must include multiple departments. It should be underpinned by these six pillars:
1. Understanding your customers and your market
Delivering customer success is impossible if you don’t know them or your industry. Careful research leading into customer profiles and personas can help you gain a clearer understanding of who your clients are, what they need and how your competitors are servicing them.
2. Placing the focus on your customers
Putting your customers at the center of all operations is paramount and can only be achieved if every department adopts the strategy. This requires a data system allowing information to be accessed consistently by all employees to deliver customer service that offers real solutions.
3. Analyze interactions
Customer touchpoints represent the potential to gather useful data on how they interact with your business. Monitor this behavior and smooth out any part of the process that interferes with the user experience. Track metrics to determine if this is going in the right direction.
4. Seek out partners with similar values
Being truly customer oriented means thinking about the wider picture, including any third parties involved in delivering your product or service. Instead of dismissing these areas as being outside of your control, be sure to partner up with businesses that echo your company’s core values.
5. Adopt new technologies
Customers can easily become frustrated by outdated technological infrastructure. Adopting new methods for paying, delivery or solving problems shows you’re an organization that’s keen to improve customer service wherever possible and keep up-to-date with market innovations.
6. Prioritize customer communication
Communication is at the heart of understanding customer needs and delivering on them. Clear processes that include automation, personalization and opportunities to talk to customer service personnel ensure no query is overlooked and customer complaints are dealt with efficiently.
3 outstanding examples of customer orientation
Look to some of the biggest brands in the world for examples of customer orientation done properly. Businesses of all sizes can learn from the multinationals and grow their reach by having a strong customer-oriented culture.
1. Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson’s approach to customer oriented service begins when it starts interviewing candidates for roles within the company. Prospective employees must demonstrate an understanding of the inner workings of its motorbikes in order to work at the organization. This makes them uniquely well placed to understand the pain points of customers, because they have first-hand experience of the product.
Apple has trained its employees not to view purchases as a simple transaction between the company and its customers. Instead, they engage in discovery conversations with those in their stores, looking to match the right device to their needs. This customized experience is outlined in the company’s training manual for new staff, which puts a lot of emphasis on the nuances of communication.
3. Ritz Carlton
The Ritz Carlton hotel is world-renowned for its customer service, which is based on the foundation of empowering its staff. Employees are encouraged to take a customer oriented approach without the need to consult managers each time. They add notes on everything from food and drinks preferences of their customers to birthdays and anniversaries into the internal CRM so that personalized service can be delivered consistently. What’s more, they’re given a $2,000 budget to resolve any issue that may arise.
Access the latest business knowledge in Marketing
Join the conversation...