Putting the customer first is one of the core foundations of good marketing. Customer experience is the key battleground for marketers and is often where successful brands make a name for themselves. However, in the opinion of Andy Savva, it’s also about aligning your brand values and delivering them consistently to customers, which does not necessarily mean giving your customers exactly what they ask for. Andy explains.
I’m not encouraging you to give your customers something they don’t want, just don’t restrict yourself by what they’re asking for or diluting your messaging to provide something that is contrary to your brand message.
Confused? Here’s a fairly light-hearted example of what I mean:
A popular and successful greasy spoon cafe that provides cheap, quick and ‘hearty’ grub is considering changing a few things. The manager wants to offer something a little more refined, with healthier options. They also want to upgrade the decor to smarten it up a bit by buying new chairs, putting in some plasma screens and giving the toilets a refurb. While the plan isn’t to make it fine dining, these are changes that will cost money and could affect prices.
If the owner were to ask customers if they wanted smarter seats, a wider range of food and brand new toilets, they would probably say yes. However, would they be happy with a subsequent increase in the prices? Probably not, considering one of the main USPs of the place in the first place is that the food is cheap.
Being customer-centric means focusing on what your customers value most, and why they are your customers to start with. All business decisions should be made with the impact on the customer in mind.
You need to understand your customer in order to communicate efficiently with, and effectively understand, your customers. In order to be customer-centric, you need to have a robust picture of who your customers are so that you can start building your business around them. You need to know why each individual chooses to use your garage rather than someone else’s up the road and what is it they value about your garage. It should be this information that drives your business strategy and brand promise.
The four attributes of a customer-centric business:
■ Know your customers – understand their lifestyle, values and needs, and listen to them
■ Customer-centric business strategy – the business should be built around a deep understanding of your customers
■ Culture – employees live and breathe customer-centricity
■ Customer metrics – make sure your KPIs take into account customer interactions – you don’t want to be prioritising chasing numbers at the risk of not servicing your customers as well as you could be
How to make sure you’re customer-centric
■ Be accessible; make it easy for customers to connect by ensuring your website is mobile and search optimised
■ Make it obvious to customers how they can get in touch; use a range of options and let them choose which they prefer
■ Keep your language straightforward, friendly and jargon-free; remember, you’re talking to individuals with little vehicle knowledge
■ Be responsive; customers expect a quick response. Perhaps it’s the influence of social media and live chat, but today a certain standard and speed of reply is required
■ You should be responding to every query, regardless of channel, so don’t offer a channel if you don’t have the resources to monitor it
■ Be empathetic; empathy isn’t about fixing a problem or providing an answer, it’s about understanding why that problem is annoying, and sympathising. This comes out in language and tone
■ Be a team; companies that work in disparate groups find it difficult to work cohesively to respond to customers. Occasionally, some service or repair enquiries may go to a different person in the business, so unless you have a good internal communication structure, these answers won’t be easily accessible. Try some form of internal communication platform and get employees to positively engage with it
■ Sit your teams together; when you’re trying to run a cross-channel approach, it’s crucial that the different teams and channels are working cohesively
Culture comes from people
As is often the case, the most important factor is people. A successful customer-centric garage business consists of people being positively engaged with the culture of customer- centricity. Whether this is through training or continual encouragement, it’s up to the owner to make sure this premise exists. Passionate employees at every level of your business are crucial to being truly customer-centric.
This way you are treating customers with the same level of understanding and if you have a consistent tone, the brand experience is going to be much more co-ordinated and ultimately you’ll be more successful.