I see it happen all the time. Companies think they are being customer-centric, but the actual experience they offer their customers doesn’t back that up. Sure, the companies offer statistics saying 95% of their customers are happy with their service, but we all know the qualifications in the fine print would make this an empty boast. When it comes down to it, the reality is that most companies wish they were customer-centric, but they can’t stop thinking about themselves.
For an example, let’s take websites, and let’s pick on a couple local airline companies. These companies boast about the ease of buying tickets from their websites. But look closer at the process. Go to one of the websites. Key in your destination, select the dates, and start the search for a flight. Then, pretend you don’t like the results the search came back with, so hit the back button to try your search again, but with different dates. Oops, the system doesn’t remember your original choices, so you have to start again from scratch and key in all your information.
Now, from the company’s perspective, this might not be a big deal. The company’s perspective is, “Look at the big picture, we put up a website where you can buy your tickets, you should be pretty happy about that”. But from the customer’s perspective, the company only came 80% of the way. It made the customer come the remaining 20%. From the customer’s perspective, if the company were truly customer-centric, it would come all 100% of the way.
Going all the way for your customers requires a change in mindset. It requires taking the energy your company spends bragging about how customer-centric it is, and redirecting that energy into actually being customer-centric. Because the fact of the matter is, the degree to which you THINK you are focusing on your customers is probably 10 times greater than the degree to which you actually ARE focusing on your customers.
To really focus on providing a great customer experience, you don’t have to be particularly creative or innovative. Usually you can just look around and see what others in your industry are doing, and you can try using their tools yourself, from a customer’s perspective. For example, if the airlines looked at expedia.com, they would find plenty of ideas to help them improve their own sites. They would see a system that had been built from the bottom-up with a superb customer experience in mind.
Let’s look at another web-related aspect of customer-centricity, collecting customer data. Years ago, many companies realized they could sell more if they asked for less information from their customers. Yet today, if you go to the Koc or Ulusoy passenger bus websites and try to buy a ticket online, you’ll find it is still impossible unless you register as a member of the site. Koc and Ulusoy are putting their needs to collect marketing information above their customers’ needs to buy tickets. If their online reservation systems were truly customer-centric, customers could buy tickets without handing over unnecessary personal information.
Customers reward companies that are genuinely thinking about them. They reward them by handing over their hard-earned money, and coming back often. So if you provide an experience your customers like, don’t worry, you won’t have to collect much of their personal information, because they will come back naturally. And if you make life difficult for them, it won’t matter how much data you collect, because they aren’t going to want to receive your unsolicited spam emails anyway.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you are as customer-centric as you think you are. In fact, the moment you hear yourself say you are customer-centric, you should be afraid, because if you were really customer-centric, you wouldn’t be spending energy talking about it, you would be spending energy being it. Only your customers can be truly, 100% focused on themselves. The best you can do is assume you are not customer-centric enough, and then figure out how you can do a better job of it tomorrow than you are today.