A while back, Professor Joel Evans of Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business wrote an article about “Customer Centricity” for Promo Magazine (now part of Chief Marketer.)

The essence of that still rings true today — even more so given the level of competition faced. Here is that article (with only slight edits).

We are now in an era where the marketplace is so cluttered that it is more difficult than ever for any one firm to stand out from the competition—or even be recognized. As a result, a customer-centric approach is imperative.

Most firms promote as fact that they are customer-centric. Many even believe they are. But, one of the most abused terms in business is customer-centric. Here are three true examples to illustrate the point: (1) A leading department store branch is busy. In the women’s apparel section, the checkout line is long. In the shoe department (which is not leased), no one is waiting on line. The sales clerk refuses to ring up any apparel sales. The department store prides itself on outstanding customer service. (2) A customer buys a $100 gift card from a leading consumer electronics chain. The gift recipient spends $90 at the chain and asks for the balance to be remitted in cash. The request is refused. The chain prides itself on outstanding customer service. (3) A local bookstore promotes a policy to “beat any prices.” The policy is good for only three days after a purchase. The bookstore prides itself on outstanding customer service.

There are several things that firms of any type or size can do to truly be customer-centric. Here are 10 ways to facilitate the process:

ONE — Be your own customer. Interact with salespeople. Visit all your facilities. “Think like a customer.”

TWO. Be proactive. Use mystery shoppers to engage your employees in various types of situations. Do customer surveys. Adjust practices as necessary.

THREE — Encourage employee empowerment. A number of firms have cut back on employee flexibility in “bending the rules” for fear of hurting profitability. Yet, research shows that customers are more loyal when they feel the company listens to them.

FOUR — Small gestures can be big. Take a look at “Simple Truths of Service” and see how.

FIVE — Be as honest and informative as humanly possible. Don’t run a full-page ad with the word “SALE” if not all the items in the ad are actually on sale.

SIX — Every firm should offer a meaningful loyalty program. There’s no better way to be customer-centric than to reward continued patronage.

SEVEN — Match your sales staff requirements to your positioning. It is okay for Walmart to have a limited number of sales workers on the floor because of its low-price, self-service approach. Likewise, it is proper for Best Buy to have a lot of staff on the floor since it promotes more personal service.

EIGHT — Use customer-friendly signage. I once addressed a group of supermarket executives and made what I thought was a rather non-provocative suggestion: Have a large sign at the entrance depicting the full layout of the items in the store. My reasoning: With more men starting to shop in supermarkets, better signage was needed. The intense negative reaction to this suggestion was stunning. The supermarket executives thought this would cut down on impulse shopping. My response: If shoppers feel more comfortable and knowledgeable, there will be more impulse shopping—not less, I lost that battle. Supermarkets (and many others), for the most part, still do not have enough customer-friendly signage,

NINE — Run special-themed promotions throughout the year that are NOT price-oriented. Too often, firms view promotions only as “sales,” and run them frequently. However, promotions do not have to just focus on price. (Such tactics typically encourage customers to wait for the inevitable sale and not buy on full price). Examples of good promotions: Contests don’t only have to coincide with special events, such as the Super Bowl. Similar activities can be done at other times. Be creative!

TEN — Encourage employees to be more customer-centric. All those who personally interact with customers should have name tags—from the sales staff to senior executives. Every person who answers the phone (or makes calls) should state his or her name. Employee photos should be prominently placed. Recognition of good employee performance should be posted. One nice thing that I always observe is when a company has a parking space designated “employee of the month.” This is a signal that the company cares about people.


16 Replies to “10 Tips on How Companies Can Be More Customer-Centric”

  1. I recall a reality show named “Undercover Boss”. In this show, CEOs will disguise themselves and come to their company or physical stores as a new employee at the front-line to face to their customers directly. In this way, they will find disadvantages of their policy and management so that they can try to fix these bugs.

  2. Well, the core of Customer relationship management (CRM) is customer care. Customers want to be treated honesty and responsible. These ten tips are very useful, especially this tip: encourage employees to be more customer-centric. Then they can assist in customer retention and drive sales growth. Nowadays, the competition is more severe, so it is of great importance to improve the company’s customer relationships.

  3. All things considered, the center of Customer relationship administration short for CRM is clientle mind. Clients need to be dealt with genuineness and capable. These ten tips are extremely valuable, particularly this tip: urge representatives to be more client driven. At that point they can help with client maintenance and drive deals development. These days, the opposition is more serious, so it is of incredible significance to enhance the organization’s client connections.

  4. Customers is the centre of the purchase process. Managers should think themselves as a customer when they make the decision. What the managers think is different from what customers think. Besides, I agree with the ides that “customers are more loyal when they feel the company listens to them”. I understand there are mistake in stores and somewhat inconvenient, but I appreciate it when the store improve the inconvenience, i am more willing to purchase in that store.

  5. “Small gestures can be big.” Johnny’s story gives marketers and salesperson an inspiration that the service should be from heart and be real. Marketers want to find out what is the customers’ real need. Customers sometimes are not just buying the products, they are also buying the feeling and the experience. Let customers feel good, let them like the buying feeling. Marketers need to think about the deeper meaning and add more value in the buying process.

  6. I agree that it is a hard time for companies to make themselves stand out, but these tips are an easy fix to get the recognition companies want. A personal favorite one I found was number 10, so many times I will have to ask an employee a question and never know their name or job title. The company will have a much friendlier environment if they used that tip. Next time I am shopping i will be looking for the stores that use these tips!

  7. It is not easy to maintain high satisfied customer service. However, it is critical to be successful. Personally, I would not go again if the service providers have bad attitudes. The interesting phenomenon that I noticed is that there are a lot of cashier desk but most of them are not served, even there are endless line to check out. Hope someone can explain why retailers are building this extra cashier desk they barely use.

  8. Personally, cannot agree more with these 10 tips mentioned in this blog, especially the third one “the customers are more loyal when they feel the company listen to them”. During managing my own online store, when confronting the customer dissatisfied situations, I always want to maintain a balance between “customer-centric” and “not hurting profitability”. I always imagine if I’m the customer, what do I want and what makes me feel better? The great function of empathy gave me the answer; I did solving many problems with the loss of profits, but surprisingly, it turns out these dissatisfied customers are truly more loyal than before and brought far more benefits and referrals than I imagine in a long term.

  9. Customer service is key for companies who are looking to grow a loyal consumer base. Tip # 3 and # 10 stand out the most to me because good customer service really starts with the employees. When employees are given the ability to bend the rules in order to accommodate customers and motivated to help as many people as possible, then the company will get positive feedback from customers. Motivated and knowledgable employees are the foundation to growing a loyal customer base.

  10. Even though these tips can be helpful to the majority of people that are customers, there are always those few that are outside of the box. The few that will give companies a hard time no matter how perfectly they do their jobs. I think because of these people, it is hard to ever get that 100% satisfaction from customers. There will always be those difficult people, who are the reasons why most of these tips are even invented. Following the tips or not, there will always be those certain unhappy people.

  11. These are excellent points and I believe social media can be used to a company’s advantage. Recently, I was on Facebook and came across several shaving companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. What was a stark similarity between both companies was how they approached customer service. On Facebook posts, the companies would respond immediately to people’s comments and questions, and they did it in complete, detailed ways. In this consumer centric business world, it is imperative for companies to use the web to their advantage and tools like Facebook comments or website chatting will further their “Consumer- Centricness.”

  12. Customer service is the most important thing in any business. With no customers, there is no business. After targeting a specific market and doing business with some people or companies in this market, it is keeping them is what is incredibly difficult. By exercising customer loyalty programs and always being friendly as well as honest, customers become loyal to that specific company. Competition is always going to be there, so the best way to keep them away is to have excellent customer service.

  13. “Great service comes from the heart.” Customer centricity should not be just a marketing technique. It should become every marketer’s real concern about their customers. Do something special for the customer to leave a precious memory to them—a memory that will make them come back. When we start truly caring about our customers, they will naturally reward us with their loyalty. From a bagger to a marketing manager, we all can make a difference.

  14. Customer service has to be one of the most vital thing to any company. Customers are of course what set the bar for most companies and can unfortunately also put them under. Customer service must be a valued part of any business and we see that most companies will have things like loyalty programs or store credit in order to keep customers coming back. These tactics are great for competition.

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