12/12/15 - 4 steps to developing customer centric values
27/11/15 - 7 steps to establish a customer centric culture
18/10/15 - The customer centric product press release
18/09/15 - Customer centric product development (Part 2)
18/08/15 - Customer centric product development (Part 1)
23/07/15 - 8 ways to deliver customer centric services
27/06/15 - 9 ways to deliver customer centric sales
27/05/15 - 5 ways to deliver customer centric operations
23/04/15 - 10 ways to deliver customer centric support
17/03/15 - 10 ways to become a customer centric business
22/02/15 - What is a customer centric business?
30/01/15 - 10 Business benefits of cloud POS
News, updates, business and technology articles presented in this section are in accordance with Astute's disclosure and disclaimer policies.
4 steps to developing customer centric values
In this article Astute describes how to identify the business goals and values required to establish a customer centric culture.
Step 1. Define meaningful business goals
You have decided to operate a business where the focus is providing solutions and value to your customers.
Create a set of goals for the business that reflect this focus and are expressed in the clearest, and ideally fewest, words. Examples include:
- We do everything we can to make the customer successful
- We make life easier for our customers
- Our customers are our partners; their success is our success
- We put the customer at the centre of everything we do
- Benefit to the customer is what we consistently deliver
2. Define values that support and reinforce your business goals.
Create values that cover how customers, employees, and suppliers should be treated at all times. Examples include:
- We always act with honesty and honor without compromising the truth
- We are transparent and open when dealing with our customers and suppliers
- We protect the confidentiality and privacy of every customer
- All employees are empowered to take initiative and provide services that meet and exceed customer expectations
- We are understanding, tolerant and accepting that errors can occur in the delivery of services to our customers. When errors occur we will ensure they are resolved to the satisfaction of the customer
Step 3. Publish and advertise the business goals and values
Use a range of print and electronic media to ensure business goals and values are "in-front" of every employee as often as possible. Example:
- Publish goals and values on the business intranet, wiki, social media and web pages
- Print goals and values on posters and charts and strategically place around the business premise(s)
- Print goals and values on business issued stationary (business cards, diaries etc)
- Print goals and values on business issued clothing (shirts, hats, jackets etc)
Step 4. Regularly reinforce your commitment to the goals and values
Devote five minutes every morning (or once a week) to focus on a goal or value at briefings or stand-ups.
Regularly recognise and reward employees who have met and delivered to these goals and values, whether through feedback and improvements, to customer service including handling and resolving errors.
Astute's consultancy services are used to develop and deliver the values used to define and grow a customer centric culture. Simply contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation to discuss how a the customer centric approach will benefit your business.
7 steps to establish a customer centric culture
In this article we describe how to establish and grow the social and environmental behaviours, criteria and employee expectations required to develop a customer centric business culture in seven steps.
Step 1. Culture starts at the top and is represented throughout the business
The customer centric approach must be endorsed, supported and driven by the business owners and the leadership team. To achieve this:
- Define a vision. Be clear on what customer centricity looks like for your organisation, employees and customers.
- Define where you are in terms of customer centric maturity, what you are aiming for, how it will look and feel, and how you know the goals have been achieved.
- Define and operate a set of consistent and simple to understand customer-centric values that are used to inform and guide business decisions and operations.
- Regularly communicate, engage and reinforce the customer centric vision, values, progress and outcomes to employees.
Step 2. Design and operate a customer centric business structure
Create, operate and refine an organisational structure that, at its core, is customer centric and communicates a customer focus.
Make sure all of the positions in the structure have a clear customer focused mandate and accountabilities.
The figure below is an example of a customer centric business structure.
Step 3. Appoint a Chief Customer Satisfaction Officer (CCSO)
The CSSO is responsible for providing a single vision across all methods of customer contact and promoting the customer's agenda. The CCSO reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and:
- Has a clear, customer centred vision
- Makes every decision aligned to the vision
- Tailors products and services to what customers want
- Meets customer expectations with every interaction
- Is committed to customer success
- Designs processes and policies from the customer's perspective
- Ensures employee focus is on finding solutions to customer problems; not focusing on processes or products
- Measures and rewards customer centric competencies and performance
- Employs and promotes people who support customer centricity
- Ensures suppliers and partners model and support the business customer centric behaviours
Step 4. Appoint a Voice of the Customer (VoC)
The VoC is an "independent" role (from the CSSO) responsible for keeping customers engaged with the business, collecting feedback and identifying trends. The VoC provides this information to the CCSO who then applies it to the products, services and operations of the business. Key responsibilities in the role include:
- Engaging with customers on regular basis
- Measuring, identifying and reporting what matters to customer
- Communicating customer feedback and trends to the CSSO and every employee
- Creating, delivering and operating customer experience and feedback initiatives
- Encouraging customer innovation
Step5. Recruit to cultural fit
Customer centric cultures only work when every individual in the organisation gets behind the vision and actively participates in its evolution; this means interviewing and selecting individuals who will represent the business and the vision.
This approach to recruitment must be applied to every role in the organisation - not just the customer facing roles.
Step 6. Align the functional areas to support the culture
Review and align each of the functional areas of the business to support the customer customer centric vision, values CCSO and VoC roles. Consider and apply the customer centric best practices recommended by Astute in each of the following functional areas:
- Products (part 1, part 2 and the product press release) and Services
Step 7. Listen, learn review and act
Operating a customer centric business culture means that the business, as it is understands and is closely aligned to its customers needs, must be prepared to adapt and change in response to changing customer needs.
The assessment of customer needs should be regularly (e.g. quarterly) reviewed and reported to business owners.
The decision to change and the management of the change is the responsibility of CEO, VoC and CCSO.
The customer centric product press release
Creating and distributing a product press release to potential customers, prior to building and releasing the product, is a an approach Astute recommended when applying a customer centric approach.
In this month's article Astute presents the content and structure of a product press release.
A product press release is centered around the customer problem, how your product solves these problems and how other (competitor) solutions and products fail to solve the problem.
When developing the product press release:
- Keep it simple, short and the content focused on the customer problem and customer benefits.
- A single A4 page for the release, 3-4 sentences for most paragraphs
- Use customer and industry terms and language in your product messaging
- Accompany the press release with a link or reference to a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page; a page that answers all of the other business or execution questions not covered in the release.
- Distribute the press release to new and existing customers; actively seek and use feedback to improve the content of the release. It is cheaper to change the press release than to change the product.
Structure the product press release as follows:
- A heading that includes the name the product. The product should be named so target customers can easily relate with (and understand) the offering.
- A single sentence description of the market the product is delivering to and the associated benefit to customers who use the product.
- A summary of the product features and benefits. Include indicative product pricing.
- Any special offers or discounts the customer is entitled to if they take up the offer / product
Assume the reader will not read anything past point 4 in the product release so make the above content attractive, relevant and interesting.
- A sentence describing the problem solved by the product.
- A sentence describing how the product elegantly solves the problem.
- A quote from a spokes person in your company (e.g. a commitment to product / customer service excellence).
- A sentence explaining how easy it is to get started with the product (i.e. where to go, who to contact, etc).
- A quote from a hypothetical customer that describes their experience with and how they benefited from the use of your product.
- A sentence to wrap up the release including a hyperlink to a customer call to action.
Astute's consultancy services are used to develop and deliver products using the customer centric approach, including the use of product press releases. Simply contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation to discuss how a the customer centric approach will benefit your business.
Customer centric product development (Part 2)
In part 2 of our article on customer centric product development we continue to use knowledge about your customers to develop, deliver and fine tune your products:
- Develop and evolve customer based experiences
(stories) that showcase how your product delivers to your customer
expectations and addresses their fears. Use these stories:
- To review and evolve the features of your product
- To share these stories with potential customers
- To check and test the product design and delivery
- As content for you product branding and marketing
- Product price point. Use the customer, market and competitor research to determine the target pricing model for your product. Consider aspects like:
- Your costs to build and deliver the product
- Competitors charging structure
- Your profit margins and revenue targets
- Options for bundling or splitting out cost components
- Announce the finished product. Yes - before the
product is built - use the information and feedback collected about
to create and distribute a press release to potential and existing
customers. The press release:
- Is centered around the customer problem
- Defines how your product solves these problems
- How other (competitor) solutions and products fail to solve the problem
- Build and deploy the product using the press release. This keeps product development and build team focused on building and delivering features that provide customer benefits; benefits that have been promised to customers in the press release. Structure the development and plan multiple releases so that selected customers can be invited to preview and provide feedback on the developing product.
- Launch, monitor and stay in touch. Invite customers
to help shape the product by:
- Staying involved through the development, build, launch and updates
- Providing early access to product; including future releases
- Forming and participating in "working groups" to collect, share and use customer experiences to help guide the development and evolution of the product
- Go back to step 1. Revisit every aspect of your product, from your customers perspective, on a regular basis; keeping you and customers in touch as the product evolves and grows.
Astute's consultancy services are used by businesses develop and deliver products and benefits using the customer centric approach. Simply contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation to discuss how a the customer centric approach will benefit your business.
Customer centric product development (Part 1)
Nine in ten new products disappear within two years as they have not been recognised by the market as solving a problem or addressing a need.
Customer centric product development ensures that the customer needs, challenges and problems are collected, verified and used to inform (and guide) the creation and delivery of products. In this article Astute presents 5 of the 11 steps to develop and deliver customer centric products:
- Define the idea behind the product. Catalogue the features, benefits and needs solved by the idea you want to productise using an outside-in approach; focus on an exploration of customer goals, motivations, problems and benefits.
- Determine the product customer and market segment. Market segment can be based at an organisation level (sector, size, location and buying patterns) or an individual's level (age, gender, lifestyle, region, buying behaviour and attitudes). Group segments by customer needs rather than by the number of potential customers.
- Identify, locate and monitor your competitors. Look for trends or common features of your competitors offerings; compare to the features offered by your product. Review their product features and messaging and develop your own "why customers would pick my product over my competitors" scenarios. Use these competitor scenarios to support your product messaging.
- Confirm everything. Approach representatives from the customer and market segment to confirm the relevance and accuracy of the goals, motivations, problems and benefits your product is to provide. Use interviews, feedback forms and surveys to confirm your expectations (and uncover customer needs) on the product idea with these representatives. Establish and maintain long term relationships with these representatives. Actively access news feeds, social media, logs and forums used by your customer segment to stay abreast of your customers goals, motivations, wants and needs.
- Qualify, understand and address your customer's fears;
fears that make customers reluctant to purchase your
products. Identify and address those fears by asking:
- What are the fears?
- What are the factors that influence the fear? Is it risk, socio economic factors, currency or global financial?
- What are the consequences (organisational, monetary, etc.) of these fears?
- If these fears were resolved, who would benefit and how would they benefit?
- How can the economic value of solving these fears be quantified?
In part 2 of this article Astute will demonstrate how you use this knowledge about your customers to develop, deliver and fine tune your products.
8 ways to deliver customer centric services
Continuing on from our focus on customer centric practises, In this month's article we discuss 8 ways to deliver customer centric services.
- Engage and consult your customers. Use surveys, social media, in-person and over phone channels to ask your customers what services they want from your business. Ensure your customers perspectives are heard and incorporated into your service planning, resourcing and delivery.
- Design and operate your services from the customer's perspective; services that your add value and/or solve a problem for your customers. Walking a mile in your customers' shoes is the fastest way to gain insight into their perspective and how they experience your organization first hand.
- Simplify customer interactions. Focus on making customer interactions to the service simple, personal and easy (for the customer) to access and use.
- Provide multiple channel support for the customerClearly identify, define and provide support or all the channels (e.g. web site, social media, phone etc) used by your customers to access and use the services.
- Communicate. Clearly define and communicate (e.g. web site or social media content) what your services are and, when applied, how these services provide value and benefit to your customers.
- Develop and publish service level agreements. Specify and publish simple, easy to understand and relevant service level agreements. Define and apply the measures and checks used ensure you are meeting the SLA. Publish and share your SLA measurements with your customers.
- Train your staff. Train and re-train your customer service staff on every aspect of your service so customers are provided a consistent and uniform view of the value and benefits provided by your service.
- Ask for and reward feedback. Actively request customer feedback; reward their efforts by providing discounts and credits. Monitor all yuor service channels (email, social media etc) for feedback and problems and respond consistently. Empower staff to change and enhance service processes and practices based on this feedback.
9 ways to deliver customer centric sales
In this month's article, following on in our customer centric themes, Astute presents 9 ways to deliver customer centric sales.
- Know exactly what is happening in your customer's industry. According to a Forrester Buyer Insight study, buyers find a meeting valuable when the salesperson clearly shows they understand my business issues and can clearly articulate to me how to solve them.
- Have conversations instead of making presentations. Always position your product or offering in terms of what the customer wants and how your product solves their problem. The more you can use "you" and "your" instead of "our" and "we", the better off you'll be in your communications with customers.
- Ask relevant questions instead of offering opinions. Help customers uncover their needs through probing questions. When you can draw out what the customer actually needs instead of just a stated want, you can better serve them and tailor your selling and offering accordingly.
- Focus on solutions and not only relationships. Identify and address customers underlying concerns and fears; demonstrating how your product or services addresses those concerns.
- Describe product usage instead of product features. Get creative, create dynamic content that presents a story or experience that prospects can both identify and interact with. Avoid pitching long lists of statistics and numbers.
- Empowering buyers instead of trying to
"sell" to them. The content of your business web site and
social media channels should provide potential customers with
- How your offer differs from your competitors.
- Who else has used your offering and how it has provided benefits to them.
- How much does it cost, how is it licensed and how can they contact you!
- Close on the customer's time line - not yours. Listening to the customer understand their "purchase" journey; the steps or processes they need to progress before buying your product. Avoid applying pressure on the sale, instead focus on ensuring the customer has all the information needed (including questions answered and concerns allayed) so they can complete their purchase journey.
- Keep in contact. Follow-up with the customer and make sure that everything has been delivered as promised and to to the customers satisfaction.
- Participate in customer communities and forums. A customer is your most important asset and can become an advocate for your products and services. Communities such as Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn provide a means for you, your customers and other businesses to engage, meets discuss problems and solutions.
5 ways to deliver customer centric operations
This month we present 5 ways for a business to deliver customer centric operations. Typically this the most challenging change for a business to adopt; especially if the business is used to operating using a traditional product and services model.
- Review and change your operating model from "we
sell to whoever will buy; also pleasing customers in the
process" to a customer centric model. To achieve this:
- Talk to your customers; ask for their advice on changes to the operations and act all feedback.
- Create and foster customer advocates; employees who understand the customer environment and are consulted for a customer perspective when operational decisions are made.
- Review operational processes. Retain process required to meet your business statutory obligations or address risk; streamline or remove those that " do not provide benefit to our customers".
- Create organisational accountability and ownership for these new processes - empower staff to identify and apply process improvements.
- Focus on customer relationships not transactions.
This is one of the toughest things to accept when adopting a
customer centric business model; grow the relationships with your
customer so when a problem or need occurs they remember you have a
product and/or service that will solve it. Achieve this by:
- Attracting and retaining staff that reinforces your customer-centric model.
- Encourage interaction with your customers; be available to them across a number of channels (phone, online, social media etc).
- Be patient and show restraint. Not all interactions are going to result in a sale. Regular contact with (and a commitment to assist) your customers will put your business in front of mind when the customer identifies a need (and a sale) or when the customer is asked by someone else for a referral. The last thing your business needs is that your genuine approach to help customers is perceived as a rouse to grow sales.
- Customer segmentation not product development. Customer segmentation allows a company to target specific groups of customers effectively and allocate product, marketing and sales resources to best effect. Reviewing your customer segments may also identify new markets or opportunities for your products and services. Segmenting your customers can help you to identify a niche market a specific, well-defined area of your market that may be overlooked by competitors.
- Portfolio of customers not portfolio of products. This involves developing depth and breadth of customer relationships. The goal is to manage the company's limited resources to meet the customers' demands while still operating efficiently; focusing on delivering products and services to meet demand. Understanding the customer portfolio also helps businesses manage the trade-offs between focusing efforts on gaining new customers versus cultivating closer relationships with existing customers; allowing the business to determine which approach has the best impact on sales and revenue.
- Customer loyalty not market share. Retaining
customers is less expensive than acquiring new ones. Not only do
loyal customers ensure sales, but they are also more likely to
purchase ancillary, high-margin supplemental products and services.
Loyal customers reduce costs associated with consumer education and
marketing, especially when they become evangelist for your business.
Approaches to develop and grow customer loyalty include:
- Use a loyalty program where people can refer friends through Facebook, email and other channels and be rewarded with redeemable credits or prizes.
- Use analytical software that can track groups of customers based on their type of purchases, frequency of visits and dollar spends.
- Use (email) targeted offers or promotions.
10 ways to deliver customer centric support
In our March 2015 article Astute presented 10 ways for a business to become customer centric - following on from this theme and in this month's article we present 10 ways to deliver customer centric service.
- Always be transparent and honest with your customers. This must be a vision or mission statement supported through all the practices and operations of the business - including employee induction, training and re-training. Notify all customers of incidents or outages that have impacted your services - especially when the incident has been resolved and "normal" operations have resumed.
- Be contactable. Make it easy for your customers to contact you digitally (e.g. via the website, email, social media, live chat etc) or directly (via telephone).
- Personalise all customer contact. (e.g. via email, social media, blogs and you business web site). Be extremely thorough in explaining to the customer what they can expect, what time frame you are offering, what price, and what level of contact.
- Streamline and deliver efficient customer support.
Always view the interaction from the custom perspective. Remove
barriers that make customer support inefficient and frustrating.
Some of the most common barriers to streamlined customer support
- Staff are not provided access to all the information required to provide support.
- Staff are not "empowered" to make decisions to efficiently help the customer. Develop staff guidelines and the mind-set that if what the customer is asking for is not illegal, immoral, does not cost the company money (although sometimes that's still OK) or harm the company's reputation then it should be considered .
- There is no measure of how well customer support is being provided; as a result it is difficult to assess, tune and improve support services.
- Communicate. Use personalised email or social media or the web site (or all of them). Keep the communication going especially when there are hold-ups or problems.
- Be responsive. Respond promptly to enquiries or support calls; set and agree time-frames with your customer then keep your customer updated on progress. Make sure the customer is satisfied (with the service or enquiry) and agrees that support has been completed to their satisfaction.
- Monitor, measure and modify. Improve the effectiveness (and customer value) of the support service. Ask for and accept feedback (especially negative); use this feedback to identify areas of improvement in the support service.
- Identify and solve problems before they happen. Proactively work in conjunction with your customers to minimise disruptions to both their operations and your service.
- Recognise customer support as a skill. Employ people who fit the culture and have personalities that align with the company's core values, mission and vision. Train and train. Invest time and money into soft skills training such as customer service and relationship building.
- Recognise and reward. Customer centric organisations know the importance of their employees and take a "people first" approach to support. They develop their people at a level that keeps them engaged and enthusiastic about taking care of the company's customers.
10 ways to become a customer centric business
In our February 2015 article Astute defined that in a customer centric business everything the business does is about the customer; including the business structure and operations as presented below.
In this months article we present 10 ways to become a customer centric business.
- Understand a day in the life of your customer. Draft a story or series of scenarios about your customer; understand the challenges and problems that they face and how your products and services are meant to support them. Share your story with your customers and ask for feedback. Adjust and update your story as required.
- Review your business products and services against the stories and scenarios you have developed and shared with your customers. Address any gaps in the business products and services; tune and/or dispose of product and services as required.
- Review and update your organisation and operations to ensure you are delivering to your customer story. Ask for customer feedback. Re-engineer processes and practices to make them customer friendly; train, empower and support staff to deliver a customer centric culture.
- Foster a culture in your business where the focus is fixing the customer problems to the satisfaction of the customer - not blaming other staff or processes.
- Make it easy for your customers to find and
communicate with you. Review and update your business online
presence (web sites, social media etc) to make it easy for the
customer to find:
- Information about your business.
- How and where to find and contact you.
- How to ask questions about your products and services.
- How to order, including how to track the order and delivery dates.
- How to find and get post sales support.
- Embrace failure and use to experience to improve your operations. Apply techniques like the "5 WHYs" to determine the root cause of the failure and then apply remedial action.
- Communicate, train and support your staff in the distribution of customer bonuses or "freebies". Don't use this interaction as an opportunity to sell more products or services; instead, use it as a sincere gesture of gratitude and appreciation to the customer.
- Foster a culture of continuous improvement in customer relationships and interactions; constant communication, training, and rewarding of staff for exceptional customer relationships and service. Always be open to improvements in your operations that will benefit your customers.
- Be genuine and helpful. Not all customer interactions will result in a sale; being helpful will put your business "front of mind" next time the customer has a problem or is ready to purchase.
- Understand the reasons as to why customers move on. Contact the customer and find out why; use the feedback to determine if remedial action is required and apply it. Keep a list of all the reasons and use the list to determine if there is a recurring complaint or issue.
What is a customer centric business?
When running a business, it's easy to get caught up and distracted in the day-to-day dramas of staffing issues, bill payments and trying to win new business.
What about the group that has helped start and is supporting your business? These are your customers! In this month's article Astute describes what it means to be a customer centric business and the benefits of this adopting this approach to your business.
In a customer centric business everything the business does is about the customer; business products and services are focused on the either solving the customers problems or enhancing the customers experiences. This focus is applied across all aspects of the business (marketing, sales, products, services, support and warranty).
This is radically different to a traditional business where the focus is delivering products and services and then trying to attract interest and customers.
So what happens when you becomes a customer centric business:
- When you truly understand what your customers are trying to achieve (or solve) you will be offering products and services that make a real difference to their business or their life. Your business has created trust and (over time) loyalty with your customers.
- In helping the customers achieve an outcome (or solve a problem) you turn your customers into advertisers and advocates for your business; whether they talk about you to a mate over a beer, at a networking event or even post a comment on Facebook.
- Being in regular contact with your customers allows you to identify early market trends and other environmental or economic factors. Information you can use to adjust your products and services and maintaining your competitiveness in the marketplace.
- Your internal business processes and practices are optimised to deliver quality and value to the customer.
- Developing and maintaining a working relationship with your customers means they will be more understanding and patient when the occasional thing goes wrong. This means you have a little more flexibility and time to resolve any issue and get things back on track.
It is easy to see the benefits of being a customer centric business and why businesses (and your competitors) are moving to adopt this approach tp business.
10 Business benefits of cloud POS
Cloud solutions provide cost-effective, reliable and secure online services that enable your business to operate and compete on local and international markets.
In this months article Astute lists the business benefits of cloud Point Of Sale (POS) services; these benefits include:
- Lower costs. Cloud POS typically have minimal or no up-front charges and monthly (service) fees; typically from around $50-$200 per month (either fixed or a pay per swipe / transaction charge).
- Instant upgrades and support. Monthly fees include instant upgrades to the service, which are done remotely without any down-time or management costs to your business. This is a significant productivity advantage over traditional systems.
- Hosting. Removes the need and cost to purchase and manage storage for business POS and sales data.
- Portability. Taking the checkout counter to your customers. A simple plug-in scanner, a hand-held device running the POS service becomes a mobile POS.
- On-the-spot purchasing. With mobile POS, your staff can approach customers anywhere in the store and help them make their buying decisions.
- Security. POS services are independently accredited to standards designed to protect credit card, customer and sales information (e.g. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard - PCI DSS).
- Simplified and improved inventory management. POS services rely on the correct and accurate inventory data; especially when selling products over the internet.
- Improved sales data and analytics. POS services can be configured to track product data including suppliers, parent relationships, substitutes, and sales rates for every item in your inventory.
- Remote monitoring and reporting. Business owners and managers do not have to be on premises to monitor the sales performance of the business.
- Understanding your customers. POS services integration with other cloud services (e.g. Customer Relationship Management - CRM) allow you to track and personalise your customer sales experience (e.g. your sales team can quickly call up a customers purchase history, preferences, interests and even birthdays).
Astute's business, information and technology consultancy service helps businesses select and setup cloud POS services. Simply contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation to use Cloud POS services in your business.