How can we make our organizations truly customer-centric?

Michelle MacCarthy Profile picture for user Michelle MacCarthy January 17, 2022
Customer Success isn’t just the name of a department – it’s a top-down, company-wide philosophy and responsibility to deliver an exceptional customer experience. But that’s easier said than done. Michelle MacCarthy of Unit4 shares practical steps to fulfil the customer-centric promise.

Individual customer service care, customer-centric and success with magnifying glass for focus concept © Jirsak - Shutterstock
(© Jirsak - Shutterstock)

I’m very lucky to work for a company whose whole ethos is to elevate people’s experience. As the Head of Customer Success, my role here is charged with evolving our customer experience strategy in order to ensure our customers realize value.

Most companies these days claim to have their customers at the heart of everything they do. They talk the talk of customer centricity. But what are the practicalities of turning that intention into reality – how to walk the walk?

1) Engage with customers

If your company doesn’t seek customer feedback, or act on it, you will struggle to create a high-quality service experience for customers.

If there’s a gap between what you’re selling and what your customers are seeking, it’s probably because you’re guessing what they want rather than actually researching it.

One approach is to set up a Customer Community where customers can exchange views and questions with each other and the company. This gives the company excellent insight into anything that can be optimized for the customer.

2) Appoint a Chief Customer Officer

Up until recently, customer centricity wasn’t the job of any one person in particular: Sales, Marketing and Customer Service and Support all had an interest in it, but it wasn’t their core responsibility.

Setting up a formal Customer Success function centralizes responsibility for managing customer experience and this helps to ensure that customer listening, employee motivation and follow-through all receive proper attention.

Organizations that are serious about customer centricity will have a Customer Success practice at a minimum – with those most committed equipping their Chief Customer Officer with the authority and clout to really put the customer first. 

3) Align departments around the customer journey

You need to set up a formal Customer Success function in the company to act as a catalyst, but that’s just the start.

Different functions in your business have different priorities – Sales are measured on their targets; Product on delivering a roadmap; Marketing by generating pipeline. So how do you get them all aligned behind the customer?

Customer Journey Maps are the springboard for this. They show how each function touches the customer along the lifecycle and whether that touchpoint needs to be improved to help the customer succeed.

One of the Customer Success function’s first tasks should be to map the customer’s journey and understand the role each department plays in delivering a great customer experience. This is done through a series of internal Customer Journey Workshops conducted in an inclusive and constructive style.

The journey map is essential to ensuring individuals understand their role, that knowledge is transferred, and that repeatable and consistent global processes and operations are in place to be able to scale effectively.

4) Prioritize and measure progress

You may end up with lots of good ideas about how to improve the customer experience and not know where to start. It’s the job of the Voice of the Customer Council to prioritize those initiatives which will have the greatest payoff for the customer. 

You need insight into the scale and severity of any pain points your customers may be experiencing, where relationships are being expanded and what key priorities, goals and objectives customers are pathing toward. Customer success software like Gainsight can help here. It can help the organization to action the right engagement at the right time with customers, to elevate the health of the customer, and to ensure insights turn to action.

In addition to regular formal Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, it’s important to continuously ask your customers what’s going well for them and what they’d like you to improve through regular reviews and feedback sessions. These not only give you data to act on but makes customers feel heard and cared for.

5) Look after your people

If your company doesn’t have a people-first culture, and your employees don’t feel well taken care of, they won’t be motivated to drive better engagement with your customers.

You need to make customer success important among your employees. You do this through training and enablement programs, knowledge sharing communications, by bringing customer feedback into the organization and making it relevant to all functions, and by embedding customer success metrics into your recognition and rewards structures.

You also need a sense of empowerment among employees – a culture that makes them feel safe to speak out. We have a motto: “See something, say something, do something.” Everyone knows they are empowered to amplify the voice of the customer and challenge their colleagues to do the right thing.

This is a top-down, company wide-priority. And this past year, we’ve seen the real impact this can have on customer satisfaction and sentiment. 

It’s in everyone’s interest to put the customer first

Customer centricity isn’t a trend, it’s a key principle of modern business and it’s becoming more important. We’re all working out how to evolve. What would you add to this action list?

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