The term ‘customer-centric’ is banded around an awful lot these days. It’s become synonymous with good business practice and crops up in numerous company reports and websites. But is too much lip-service paid to it and should we be worried by that?
The answer is ‘yes’. Alarm bells should go off if someone talks about customer-centric marketing, as that can suggest that a business is simply jumping on the bandwagon and creating an all-singing and all-dancing campaign, which at first glance seems to be focused on customers, but which is actually just a veneer and a callous sales tool.
Much More than just Good Customer Service
Being a ‘gloss’ is not what customer-centricity is about. Similarly, it is much more than just good customer service. Customer centricity is about purposely building an experience around the customer, based on feedback from customers, to drive continuous improvement. It’s a philosophy that should evolve day in and day out. It’s not just an attitude of mind, but a mode of behaviour. It’s about having total understanding of the customer and being completely committed to satisfying their needs.
A customer-centric organisation delivers the customer experience through an empowered front-line of employees, which is why Aspray puts so much effort into training its loss assessors in every little detail that can make a difference. Customer needs are anticipated, rather than coming as surprises, and the customer should be truly delighted by the overall experience they are treated to, from day one to project sign-off.
Customer-centricity is all about joined-up thinking and should be a strategy wholly aligned to business goals and KPIs, so that everything within the organisation works better. Its delivery is seamless from the customer’s point of view, and it has real depth and meaning, way beyond jargon and advertising slogans.
There are Different Ways to Look at it
You could see it as an end-to-end programme that delivers service excellence, via a culture that is embedded within the organisation. You could view it as the lever that controls the process by which customers move from being buyers to advocates. You may regard it as a tool that increases customer retention and loyalty. You might feel that it’s best summed up as taking total responsibility and ownership of the customer. Taking it a stage further, it could be perceived as being the process through which you make a connection with the customer at an emotional level, rather than just a transactional one.
Some view the creation of a customer-centric organisation as only being achievable from the start of a company’s life; something that can assist someone establishing a start-up business, or a franchise. However, if you turn things around, is it not better to understand the real-time delivery gap that exists when you serve a customer, in other words the gap between your service delivery and their expectations, because then you’re not theorising about how things might be, prior to actually getting out into the market? You can only close the gap, and align your service with the customer’s expectations, once you’ve gone live and picked up on all the little nuances. Believing that you’ve set up a customer-centric business, and that’s how things will stay, is a very dangerous attitude to take. Customer needs change constantly and they always need to stay on your radar.
Here at Aspray, our loss assessors and property claims specialists have great empathy with those who have suffered flood, fire, vehicle impact, water escape, or malicious damage to their home or commercial property, but we recognise that empathy is not customer-centricity. Customer-centricity is a two-way dialogue, in which we need to continually listen to what customers tell us and act on their feedback.
For this reason, our feedback forms are like gold dust to us, as they are the basis of our ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ approach. It is this feedback that shapes our service and continually improves it. It is the basis of extremely high customer satisfaction, but, as importantly, of loyalty, of the impulse that our customers have to recommend us and of their desire to return to Aspray, should their property suffer another impact.
Baing Customer-Centric Makes Business Sense
Being customer-centric makes great business sense, with Deloitte & Touche finding that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable, which is fantastic news for franchisees starting a franchise business with Aspray. However, what is more valuable is the reward that it gives us, every time a customer offers their sincere thanks, writes a positive review of our loss assessing and property claims service, or reaches out, at an emotional level, to convey how much easier we have made life during their property claim.
Looking at it like this, for Aspray, customer-centricity is actually what gets us out of bed every morning, and out on site often at unsociable hours. It’s the route to the ultimate job satisfaction and the reason we love what we do.