What is Customer Obsession?
Before pointing out the connection between customer obsession and sustainable business growth, let’s agree on the terminology. In lots of articles and blog posts you probably notice that customer obsession, customer-obsessed company culture, customer focus, customer-centric strategy are catchwords used over and over again ad nauseum. Is it over-rated? Actually, it would be a good idea not to focus on trending words but the underlying concept. Customer obsession is the ability to slip on your customers’ skin, step into their shoes easily, and see things through their eyes right away without hesitation. You prioritize customers’ expectations in every decision and step you take. Customer-obsessed organizational culture works like a reflex mechanism in the body: it is so natural that thinking like a customer reflects integrally on your work and diffuses in your experience. So, customer obsession is not over-rated but rather over-used. It is very rare to reach that level of focus. Genuinely, it is off-putting and compelling at the same time.
How Customer Obsession Becomes a Growth Tag?
To absorb today’s reality, let’s quickly look back at history. Every stage of development triggered the next one and has brought us to the present fact: customer obsession is a vital component of growth. First, there was the “Age of Manufacturing” from 1900 to 1960, which saw the balance of economic power sit largely with heavy industry. This power then shifted to the “Age of Distribution” from 1960 to 1990, where retailers and distributors gained greater control of the market. After that, the world went digital during the “Information Age” from 1990 to 2010. The balance of information and product accessibility started to shift as an initial advantage to consumers as competition and convenience increased in tandem with the emergence of the Internet. With those developments, the “Age of Customer” has been with us from 2010 to the present.
In the Customer Age, the past couple of years have seen all the rules for customer experience and methods for strengthening brand ties to customers turned upside down. Now, the balance of power has further shifted to consumers mainly due to their increased ability and opportunity to quickly and efficiently compare products and prices. This phenomenon has contracted the sales cycle for most products and services. Identifying, understanding, and engaging consumers in an appropriate way has become more challenging for brands, i.e. the era of promoting your brand via online or offline channels is coming to an end while we have seen both usage of interactive media and consumers’ increased reliance on user-generated content multiply. Almost half of customers (48%) claim that user-generated content is a great way to discover new products. Don’t we all scan through the ratings and comments on a product before making a purchasing decision? Is a TV commercial or a product review more influential in that respect? So, let’s return to our original question: how has customer obsession become a growth tag for companies? The answer is simple, but difficult to handle. Customers have a louder voice, and companies are the audience. Until the age of customer, businesses had complete control over manufacturing, distribution, and advertising of their products, which affected profitability significantly. Now they need to adapt to today’s reality as customers who had previously purchased such services or products have resources at their disposal that they can use to direct other consumers’ attention and brand perception. This brings us to the fact that companies must be more attentive when listening to customers, then act promptly and wisely to assure sustainable growth.
Reacting to New Reality
Recent changes in the age of customer have heightened the complexity of how they engage with brands. This has also served as a major force in shaping consumer behaviors, decisions and trends, often beyond their own preferences. It is progressively more difficult for brands to align their experiences with consumers due to the limitations they face and how these limitations change over time, with evolving complexity, often without notice. This unprecedented level of channel switching and brand loyalty disruption has led business leaders to believe that a taste of customer perspective won’t be enough to propel business growth. In this volatile context, it is becoming increasingly vital for brands to understand evolving customer journey trends. The only way to make decisions, set strategy and drive innovation that influences, motivates, and impresses them is to adopt data-driven intelligence as a business management fundamental. The companies succeeding in this new age are those that put pressure on themselves to perform at the highest level for their customers, while also leveraging technology and big data investments to drive operational improvement.
Route to Turn into a Customer-Obsessed Company
In 2013, Forrester Research published two studies on technology management and competitive strategy for “The Age of the Customer.” The two reports, “Technology Management in The Age of The Customer” and “Competitive Strategy in The Age of The Customer,” are primarily focused on how information technology can best leverage the new customer reality to not only keep systems current, but also to remain agile in the face of ever-evolving technologies and customer expectations.
Embedding customer experience into each decision-making process is the essence of this transformation. There are two fundamentals for successful transition: changing company culture and adopting technology. In this route to turn into a customer-obsessed company, the CX function needs to become a pillar of an organization. They should act as ambassadors helping to refine transformation efforts inside out and represent the voice of their counterparts and customers to the CX. Moreover, letting AI-Human collaboration shape CX management accelerates this evolution. Using AI-based CX management systems should be an integral part of the whole process.
In this way, making organizational decisions based on actual customer data rather than solely following intuition or observation is what catalyzes alignment across different departments. Eventually, this way of working starts to reform company culture in a more proactive customer-focused direction.
Next month, we will publish our latest e-book “How to Unlock Customer-centric Growth with AI-based CX Management Systems.”