Is your business customer centered

Customer Centricity - Ten Methods for Greater Customer Centricity

Customer centricity means aligning your company holistically with the needs of your customers and at the same time safeguarding your economic interests.

In this article I offer you a short introduction to a modern understanding of customer orientation and introduce you to ten methods with which you can holistically assess the needs of your customers.

What does customer centricity mean?

The real boss is your customer.

Customer centricity is actually old hat. At least it was clear to Peter Drucker more than 60 years ago that a company basically only had one mission: to win customers, keep them and make them happy. But somehow this insight got lost in the turmoil of global mass markets.

If Peter Drucker was the secret father of customer centricity, then Steve Jobs was something like the movement's first rock star. Steve Jobs made customer centricity mainstream capable. The founder of Apple recognized over 30 years ago that technology is only a means to an end to delight customers.

You have to start with the customer in mind.

Steve Jobs

Customer focus and digitization

In the course of digitization, the customer's voice is getting louder again. The digital customer has the choice, can compare offers and spread bad experiences via social media and recommendation portals. That means that today customers are critical, well informed, expect simplicity, good service on all channels, short reaction times and fair prices with absolute transparency. This applies equally to B2C and B2B customers.

As if this emancipation of digital customers wasn't enough of a challenge, many companies are facing falling margins and have to watch their traditional business model reach the limits of growth. This means that in the course of their digital transformation, these companies are required to consistently align their organization and business model to the needs of digital customers and to inspire customers with new digital solutions.

What story do you tell your customer?

People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Customer centricity includes the operational, strategic and normative management of your company. Customer orientation begins with your internal processes and systems, goes through digital and real contact points to the existential question of what your company wants to stand for in digital markets.

The case brand Delsey shows how customer centricity is also consistently thought on the normative level of a company.

When companies deal with themselves

A good customer experience is the result of an appreciative customer experience across all contact points between your company and your customers. But if there are organizational procedures, complex processes or formalism between you and your customer, then this respectful relationship will be disrupted. Only if you succeed in eliminating these barriers and the customer knows what you stand for, then customer focus will also reach the customer in the form of a good customer experience.

Misunderstandings in the context of customer centricity

Customers don't get anything if business does not make money.

According to my observations, there are two misunderstandings in the context of customer centricity.

  1. Customer centricity doesn't mean ignoring your business interests.
  2. Flexibility and the associated customer focus has nothing to do with customer focus.

That means, customer centricity does not mean in strict obedience to do exactly what the customer is crying out for. Customer Centricity is the ability of your organization to anticipate the needs of your customers, to offer solutions and services that inspire and surprise customers. And that without harming your entrepreneurial and economic interests. Because without a functioning business model, your and your customers' joy are entertaining.

Customer centricity also means acting instead of simply reacting. So if you respond flexibly to your customers' inquiries and “make them possible”, then you may have a high level of service readiness or flexibility. This flexibility is undoubtedly a very positive characteristic, but by itself not a sufficient characteristic for a high level of customer focus.

Customer Centricity - 10 Tools to Understand Customers Better

Even if your name is not Steve Jobs, you too can easily implement customer centricity. The tools and process models presented here help you to understand your customers, but above all to establish a common language in your organization about the needs of your customers. On the basis of a common understanding of your digital customers, it is then possible to align your organization with the customer.

Personas - typical representatives of your target group

Personas (Latin: mask) are fictional descriptions of selected representatives of a target group. A persona represents the characteristics and usage behavior of an entire customer group. The creation of personas is elementary, especially at the beginning of a project. In this article you will learn what distinguishes a persona and how you create personas.

User stories - describe requirements from the user's point of view

User stories describe the expectations of a product or service from the user's point of view. They are easy to learn, offer you an honest reflection on whether it is really clear what the customer expects (and why he needs it) and are the basis for a common understanding in your team. You can use user stories in every phase of your project. They are something like the universal language in agile teams.

Jobs Theory - Why does the customer buy your product?

The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it's selling.

The Jobs-to-be-done Framework (or Jobs Theory) goes back to Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen. Christensen starts with the initial question of why the customer is buying a product. The Jobs Theory is a simple but very profound method to practice Customer Centricity. Here you can find examples and an explanation of the JTBD framework.

Customer Journey - Understand your customer's digital journey

For a good customer experience, it is important to understand which steps the customer takes in completing their tasks or buying your product. The visualization of this customer journey is known as customer journey mapping. In this post, I'll show you how to create your customer journey.

Lean Startup - Gather quick feedback from your customers

The Lean Startup method is based on the approach of materializing ideas with “minimally functional products” in a short time and further developing the product based on the feedback from your customers. The goal is to minimize the lead time in the “build, measure, learn” cycle. Here you can find out how to use the Lean Startup Method.

Design Thinking - Really Understanding the Problem

Design thinking is an iterative and customer-centered process in which you identify problems, develop ideas and test them together with the user. The special thing about the Design Thinking process is a strict separation between problem and solution. Design thinking is particularly useful in the early phases of your project when it comes to understanding which problems you actually want to solve for whom. Here you can find out more about the Design Thinking method and how you can implement Design Thinking in hackathons or design sprints as a team.

The Kano Model - Finding the “wow” factors of your performance

The Kano model gives you a frame of reference to measure the satisfaction of your customers in relation to your performance. The Kano model is based on the hypothesis that more functions do not necessarily lead to higher customer satisfaction. Instead, the Kano method assumes that every service can be broken down into basic, performance and enthusiasm features that influence customer satisfaction to different degrees. The Kano model is a valuable framework for planning the product roadmap or for your go-to-market strategy. In this post you will learn how to work with the Kano model.

Business Model Canvas - Understand your client's business model

The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is used to visualize business models. For companies that serve business customers, the BMC is a great tool to work out where and how exactly your company influences the value creation and the business model of your customer. In my opinion, this understanding is the highest form of customer focus in the B2B environment. In this post you will learn how to work with the Business Model Canvas.

Co-creation workshops, hackathons and innovation games with your customer

An essential characteristic of high customer centricity is the courage and willingness to involve the customer in your considerations. The form of cooperation is also called “co-creation”. And in so-called co-creation workshops or hackathons with your customers, you will learn more in a playful way about the needs of your customers, what “pains” they have today and what can dramatically simplify their lives.

Conclusion - customer focus as a prerequisite for sustainable customer relationships

The design of the customer experience offers your company a universal opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition in the long term. Customer centricity shapes your business model, your corporate culture and your organization and is an essential cornerstone of your corporate strategy.

The prerequisite for a positive design of the customer experience is a good understanding of your customers' needs. If you understand how your product complements or enriches the customer's life or work world, you have a great prerequisite for an outstanding customer experience.

Perhaps you have counted the methods and noticed that there are only 9 instead of 10. The missing tenth is perhaps the most important tool as well. Namely the personal conversation with your customer. If you ask a lot, listen carefully and observe closely, then the methods presented here are the key to translating your experience into successful products, good marketing and a customer-friendly organization. And when you talk about personas, user stories and the customer journey of your customers in the hallway, you know that customer focus has moved into your company.

Good luck with that.

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