Being customer-centric means focusing on providing a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, enhance customer loyalty and improve business growth. However, a customer-centric approach requires more than good customer service. Below are nine focus areas the best customer-centric organizations will home in on over the next few years to ensure their customers stick around for the long haul.
Data has been and will continue to be the biggest differentiator among top companies. But what’s really going to separate the wheat from the chaff is the ability for data-savvy brands to hit people with the right content at the right time. Technology is evolving in real time, and more companies are entering the AI/ML space, which means better tools are coming. If retargeting ads that follow after one web search seem fast, multiply that speed exponentially and add an improved ability to reach customers wherever they are (on mobile, in apps, etc.) and with personalization. Data needs to be a priority from today onward, and if it’s not, it’s time to rip that BAND-AID off now—you can’t wait any longer.
More data and better technology means targeting more segments with ease is becoming a reality. New paths to purchase. Deeper and more complete segmentation. Predictive customer journeys. While no one is there just yet, the holy grail of segmentation is that it becomes predictive. As improved tools help make 1:1 segmentation more cost effective, brands will identify new ways to leverage segmentation.
3. Influencer Campaigns
Influencer marketing is expected to be worth $13.8 billion this year, up from $9.7 billion in 2020, according to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Benchmark Report. This figure represents a significant increase from five years ago, when the industry was valued at only $1.7 billion. Influencer marketing is expected to grow exponentially in the next three years, and most brands will dip their toes in this space, if not dive in. But imagine taking it offline and creating experiences with influencer events like in-store meet-and-greets that take connections to a new level and exclusive interactions that expertly weld the bond between brand and customer. Experiences matter, and they will continue to create long-lasting memories that drive longer lifetime value from customer relationships.
4. Supply Chain Disruption
How will brands respond to customers who bought product but can’t get it? More importantly, how will customers respond to brands that can’t deliver product or service because of supply chain issues? Supply chain issues may persist for the next couple years, which will create unique wrinkles, and unique opportunities for brands who choose to view it as such. Our best advice? Don’t wait. If you know your brand is experiencing supply issues and jeopardizing your customer experience, get ahead of it with transparency and creativity.
In the coming years, there will be more automation for certain retail process that could solve bad employee-driven customer service but could also create unforeseen challenges. What happens when one of those menu boards breaks, and now there aren’t employees to backfill? What happens when someone gets super frustrated and leaves (or worse, intentionally breaks it out of frustration)? How will brands track those issues and make it right with that customer? Or are our companies or brands just going to churn customers at an alarming rate hoping there's more customers around the corner? That doesn’t seem like a very sustainable business model. Having plans in place to maintain a human connection in an automated world will help brands differentiate and retain the best parts of the customer experience.
6. War for Talent
The current war for talent (and war to recognize talent) will fundamentally change how people work, which will directly impact customer service and customer experience. As people are assaulted by choice, retaining customers will become harder and harder. Expertise from employees will become more important, especially for bigger ticket items. A majority of people are doing research online and only go to the store to get a hands-on experience with a product. Knowledgeable employees and channel sales teams can be huge brand influencers at the point of sale.
Furthermore, customers have reached a point where they are willing to ditch a brand after a positive experience! Brands must do more, and that’s not always in relation to pricing. Expertise from employees and channel partners can make all the difference.
Employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) are equally important. In fact, EX and CX are intrinsically linked. Brands who recognize talent and take care of basic needs while empowering employees to do right by the brand will reap loyalty from customers.
7. Regular/Annual Employee Training
Today’s customer does more research before purchase than any in history. In many cases, they’re more informed about a product than the employee in store. Training employees to be product and service experts may be a customer experience differentiator. Companies that embrace expertise are going to be a leg up because they're driving customers to certain brands and products. This gives companies direct influence on what the buying experience looks like and even which brands customers spend their money on.
Related: We break down the four key phases for a successful skills development strategy, including practical examples of how we’ve partnered with organizations to execute on their skills development program.
Brands will begin embracing this idea of sustainability and going green. Customers who are big proponents of green initiatives and sustainability will vote with their dollars. Recent articles proclaim how millennials are ruining X industry, but they're not doing that at all. Millennials have simply decided they're not going to settle for a bad (or wasteful) product/service.
9. Direct to Customer
Direct to customer will continue to grow. So what does that look like when parts of the channel are eliminated or brands become direct competition with their distribution? How will you guarantee the same experience for a direct-to-customer purchase as you would from a channel partner who may give a more hands-on experience?
Don’t Put Off for Tomorrow What You Can Start Today
While this list might seem daunting, small steps today can have a big impact tomorrow. Take a look at how we helped one client drive engagement numbers through the roof and ramp up brand loyalty through meaningful communications.