As the customer-centric approach has gained steam, business owners the world over have been intrigued by the purported benefits. But the big question hovers for many—does this approach really work? Well, the answer depends on how you think corporations like Amazon, REI and Hilton are doing.
Customer-centric—what it sounds like, and then some
The adage used to be that the customer is always right, but compared to a customer-centric approach, that adage is downright old fashioned. In this era of easy online research, readily accessible reviews and social media, it isn’t enough for companies to simply react to customer concerns and complaints.
Instead of reactive, the customer-centric approach is entirely proactive. It puts the customer at the center of a company’s entire existence, anticipating what the customer will want and need in terms of products as well as service, and making the delivery of those the highest priority.
This customer oriented approach marks a shift from a product oriented approach. It’s a business philosophy that requires holistic organizational planning and impacts everything from hiring processes to product development to customer service. A truly customer-centric model requires a long-term commitment. It isn’t something a company can try, or use once in a while. Either a company lives and breathes the customer experience, or it doesn’t.
It isn’t quick or easy for a business to switch to a customer-centric approach. When done well, however, the payoff to a successful customer-centric model is huge. As leading customer experience management firm Nanorep illustrates, some of the biggest corporations in the world are proving the effectiveness of the customer-centric model.
It’s not quite a jungle out there
While the online marketplace in general may seem like it’s full of scrappy websites clawing at each other to try and gain ground in sales search engine rankings, there are several corporations that loom large above the fray, secure in their position as absolute giants. Perhaps none more so than Amazon.
Amazon states on its LinkedIn page that it strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. To that end, Amazon rewards employees that provide exemplary customer experience, develop products (including the ground-breaking Kindle) based on anticipated customer desires and carefully test customer reactions to site design and features. CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly even leaves an empty chair in meetings to represent the customer, reminding everyone in attendance of their purpose as a company.
And how have these efforts paid off? In 2016 Amazon was the world’s most valuable retail brand with a brand value of an estimated $99 billion.
Serious about recreation
REI built its reputation as a leading sporting goods retailer and outdoor recreation services corporation thanks largely to its status as a consumers’ cooperative which gives members major benefits including patronage dividends and voting shares. REI is therefore a business that almost literally has its customers at its center.
As a business dedicated to the outdoors, REI decided in 2015 to practice what it preaches, closing stores on Black Friday and even halting online orders, giving employees a paid day off and urging people to get outside. This despite the fact that Black Friday was formerly one of REI’s top ten retail sales days. It’s a gamble that’s paid off in the kind of loyalty that can only stem from customers feeling as though they are truly understood by their store.
Exemplary room service
When you think of hotel chains, Hilton Worldwide is likely within the first three that pop into your head if it isn’t, in fact, the first. Going by international presence and number of rooms, Hilton is the largest hotel chain in the world, and its customer-centric model is a major part of what keeps it on top.
Hilton works to increase long-term customer loyalty by continuously catering to the customer. In order to do this, the chain uses a variety of customer experience management solutions to gather insights and data from nearly every source available including direct guest feedback, online review sites and social media.
Adopting a customer-centric model isn’t a shortcut to becoming Amazon, unfortunately. It isn’t a shortcut to anything, actually. But when taken seriously and done right, the shift to a customer-centric model results in a business having an improved reputation, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, increased customer lifetime value and invaluable word of mouth marketing that leads to an influx of organic sales. You don’t have to be Amazon big to reap those very real benefits.