Since I started my career, 38 years ago, on the shop floor of my late Father’s retail optical chain in Glasgow, I have been deeply passionate about customer service, customer experience and putting customers at the heart of all I do. I’ve lived and breathed it in every role I’ve had since including running the multichannel operations for Harrods, Burberry, Pentland Brands and Ted Baker.
I’ve walked the talk. From being the first to implement live chat in fashion, as I knew it would provide consumers with the reassurance, they needed about what they were buying to ratings and reviews and my instinct that user generated content and feedback would resonate more with customers than anything the brand said. To implementing specified date delivery to open opportunities for customers buying gifts to the current day where I run Customer Service Action a platform that empowers consumers to share insight with brands in a structured way that helps them to continually improve their levels of service.
The reason why I wrote my book, the Power of Customer Experience, was that I had never seen anything else that describes how you achieve true end-to-end customer centricity across a business. Therefore, I created the framework for this with all the key building blocks and processes required to transform a business.
The Mini MBA is an extension of the book where people can learn all about the framework and more importantly, how to turn it into a plan of action. How to walk the talk, by creating and implementing a plan to transform their business, no matter what sector or shape or size it is, into one that is truly customer centric.
I passionately believe that being customer centric is the only truly effective strategy that can guarantee business success over the short, medium, and long term.
Here are my top 6 reasons for creating a customer centric roadmap:
- A focus on the cost to serve will drive a race to the bottom: Somewhat surprisingly, most businesses don’t measure customer lifetime value, they focus instead on the ‘cost to serve.’ The cause and effect of this being that businesses under-invest in people, systems/technology and the processes required to deliver the experience that customers seek. This in turn leads to an increase in customer churn, a downturn in sales, profitability and market share and can very easily lead to the demise of a business. The reverse of this is that businesses that measure customer lifetime value and put customers at the heart of all they do are more profitable. That’s because they do all they can to give customers reasons to keep coming back. Whether that’s through consistently good customer experience and customer service or by personalising their communication and engagement with customers.
- Every failed consumer-facing business over the past 25 years demonstrated a lack of customer centricity: The consumer-facing businesses that have sadly gone out of business have done so because of their lack of customer centricity. Whether that was no longer having the products or services that customers wanted to buy. Not understanding who customers are in the first place. Not recognising the change in consumer behaviour and under-investing in digital channels. Not delivering the convenience they demanded or investing all their marketing dollars in customer acquisition with almost zero focus on customer retention. Or, not looking after their own people in the first place. These businesses were old school and failed to recognise that customers hold the balance of power. The proliferation of choice offered by the Internet has meant that consumers don’t need to accept second best or sub-standard levels of service.
- Put your own people first and they will go the extra mile…every time: The first building block on my customer centricity roadmap is to focus on your own people. Businesses that are sustainably successful recognise that their people are their competitive advantage. Therefore, they create a culture of opportunity, collaboration, empowerment, learning and development and with a genuine purpose to do good. They never penalise failure moreover they celebrate it as an opportunity to test and learn and to improve what they do and how they do it. Their people are trusted to make decisions for customers, which delivers better experiences for them and a stronger commercial outcome. It also creates an environment where staff love to work.
- If customers don’t trust you they won’t keep buying from you: Customer centric businesses understand that being socially responsible, caring for the environment and all of its stakeholders is hugely important to its customers and has to be lived and breathed and not just a tick box exercise. Consumers are moving towards conscious consumption and every consumer-facing business needs to think through what this means for them and their customer’s expectations of their behaviour.
Consumers will increasingly look to engage with brands that are diverse and inclusive businesses. To be diverse means to have people at all levels of the business who represent the communities we operate in and the customers we serve. After all, if the people making strategic decisions about the direction of travel of the business are too far removed from the customer base, how can they be expected to make the best commercial decisions? A great example is that there are 14m disabled consumers in the UK. Most of whom, their needs are extremely poorly met. Imagine have someone on the board who could be a voice for disabled customers and what the potential commercial benefit of that might be.
- Commercially successful consumer businesses have an inept ability to turn customers into fans: If a company’s starting point is not how to turn customers into fans, then I know immediately it is not focussed on customer lifetime value and will therefore be more concerned about the cost to serve. Which in turn will lead to dissatisfied customers, an increase in customer churn and potentially a business that become unviable in the longer term.
On the contrary, businesses who have turned customers into fans have done so as they recognise that this is what drives the frequency of purchase and customer lifetime value. Customer centric businesses understand how to deepen both the emotional and rational attachment to the brand. The former they achieve with a clear purpose, values and culture, the latter by great product, customer service and experience.
Whether you’re in the business of selling DIY products like Home Depot in North America, selling electrical appliances like AO.com, cutting keys and re-heeling shoes like Timpson, or selling outdoor clothing and accessories like Patagonia, these businesses, and others like them are commercially successful year after year after year, because they are truly customer centric. That is their most important differentiator.
- Successful businesses measure the inputs: They understand that traditional operational metrics such as footfall, traffic, conversion rates and average order values are important to know, but don’t deliver insight that can help you to improve your performance. These are merely outputs. The inputs are far more important. These include customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter scores (NPS), product availability, first time resolution of customer service issues and so on. What we really need to understand is why are our operational KPIs up or down? Only the right inputs can help to answer that and for you to take corrective actions.
As demonstrated in my book, The Power of Customer Experience, there is a direct correlation between brands who are customer centric and their commercial performance over a sustained period of time, compared to those which are not.
My Mini MBA in customer centricity is absolutely packed full of case studies of the brands who walk the talk and are therefore commercially successful because of their relentless focus on customer centricity.
Whether you’re in a middle management role looking to take the next step in your career, are already in senior management and want a plan for transitioning the business you work for or are a founder and entrepreneur looking to take the business to the next level. This is the course for you. It will also appeal to anyone looking to have more ownership of the customer experience in their careers.
About the Author
Martin has been working in the consumer-facing sector for 38 years, founding and chairing e-commerce consultancy Practicology, and heading up multichannel operations for brands such as Burberry, Ted Baker and Harrods. Martin is known globally as a champion of customer experience, and being at the heart of end-to-end customer-centric transformation in the industry.