As a home business owner, you’re competing in a noisy, crowded marketplace. Customers have choices in who they do business with, and they’re doing research and reading reviews to help make the choice of where to spend their money. To compete, savvy home business owners need to let their customers lead in the sales process, known in business jargon as being ‘customer-centric’.
What Does it Mean to be Customer-Centric?
At its core, customer-centric means the customer drives the products and services, processes for delivery, and future development in the business. These companies focus less on their goods and selling them, and more on meeting the needs of the customer, encouraging feedback and collaboration with the customer, and providing greater value to help the customer meet their goals.
One example of customer-centric is Amazon’s ability to recommend products suited to the individual shopper based on their past purchases.
Another example is a company that updates its products to make them easier and/or better to use based on customer feedback.
What are the Benefits of Being Customer-Centric?
- Builds trust and rapport with your customers.
- Increased repeat sales from customers who feel valued, which can save money. It costs more to obtain a new customer than it does to retain one.
- Increased referrals from happy customers
- Ability to improve products and services, as well as the processes by which they’re delivered based on customer feedback.
- Identify areas for growth and expansion for more profits.
What are the Challenges to Being a Customer-Centric Business?
The challenges to moving toward customer-centric businesses practices are the time and often money it takes to implement and carry them out. To be responsive to each individual customer’s needs requires policies and tools, and time to engage and listen to customers. However, the investment in time and money can elevate your reputation and boost sales significantly, making the effort worth considering.
How to Become a Customer-Centric Business
Important practices you need to develop to be customer-centric are to:
- Move away from thinking of the “average” customer or a one-size-fits-all attitude.
- View customer-centric as more than just good customer service, but more of a partnership with your customer.
- Truly buy into the idea that your customer comes first, and have a willingness to let them lead.
- Let customer needs and feedback guide the products and services you offer, as well as how they’re offered and supported.
- Focus on building relationships with customers.
How to Develop a Customer-Centric Business
- Understand your customers and design your products and the system you sell them in around them.
- Train your virtual assistant and other people you work with who interact with your customers to be customer-centric as well.
- Routinely survey your customers to keep on top of how well your business is serving their needs. For example, you might send out a survey after a sale asking how the buying process worked for them. You can survey them three months later, asking how the product is working for them and what you can do to improve the results.
- Be accessible and responsive to your customers. Make it easy for them to get in touch, and then respond quickly. Personalize interactions, instead of sending out generic auto-created responses.
- Customize your content, not just your products, to your customers needs. For example, many people use only a mobile device or tablet when online, so you need to make sure your content is easily readable on those devices. Customized content can also mean having both a written guide and a video tutorial on how to best use your products.
- Talk to your customer directly, not in a group. For example, when you send an email, not only should it be personalized, but also, it should be written as if you’re talking to that one person. Don’t say, “Thank you all for joining my list.” Say, “Thank you Joe, for joining my list.”
- Keep track of where your client is in the buying cycle. You don’t want to send reminders about your big sale to customers who have already bought.
In order to be customer centric, you’ll need to have tools and systems in place to help you gather and track data and segment your customers. Some of these tools include:
- A shopping cart system that helps you track your customer’s buying habits. As a bonus, you have something like Amazon that will bundle related product or recommend related products.
- A customer relation management (CRM) system that tracks information, sales, and actions of your buyers. This can allow you to sell related products later, and avoid promoting products the customer has already bought.
- Email list segmentation not just into interests, but also, into the stages of the sale. For example, someone may enter the list as a lead, but then be moved to a customer list once they make a purchase. You might even segment the list based on what they bought, if you have a lot of things you’re selling.
- A method for seeking feedback regarding the buying process as well as the products you offer.
- Time to review feedback, as well as to engage with your customers, whether it's on the phone, by email, or through social media.
If you deliver exactly what the customers say they want in a way that is easy, chances are good they’ll buy it. And if you follow up seeking feedback, and are responsive when they need help, odds are that they’ll not only buy again, but he’ll tell others about your business as well. At the heart of it, this is what customer-centricity is all about.