How to Run a Customer-Centric Business: The Ultimate Guide
Putting customers first is a sure-fire way to increase sales, growth and ROI. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a customer-centric business strategy.
When you hear the term “customer-centric business,” what springs to mind? Most people immediately think of happy shoppers, satisfied customers and companies with great reputations.
At the same time, when business owners brainstorm how to improve factors such as sales and growth, their first thought is often: “We have to find a way to keep customers happy.” That’s because the success of every sales-based company depends largely on how it treats its customers.
While all of this may seem like a simple enough concept, there’s a formula to getting it right. Keep reading to learn about the steps you need to follow in order to run a customer-centric business.
Think of Your Customers
The first step in creating a customer-centric business strategy is to think of your customers. What are their needs and wants? Are there any issues they might run into with your company that you can plan for and prevent / mitigate ahead of time? And what can you do to proactively anticipate how to make them happy and put the right tactics into place?
Approach this initial planning stage from every angle of your business. Think of your customers in relation to the products / services you sell, shipping and logistics, communication policies, customer service and every other facet of your operation. This will enable you to make a list of the factors you need to address and then tackle them head-on.
Consult Customer Interactions
Building off of the first step, in order to determine what your customers want and need, consult the interactions you’ve had with them. Check in with your customer service team and find out what questions are being asked the most and what problems your customers are experiencing.
By analyzing your customer interactions, you can learn a lot about how best to go about improving satisfaction and retention. You can also gain insights into things like which products shoppers are requesting and what types of on-site help documentation you should create to answer customers’ frequently asked questions. And finally, any particularly positive interactions can let you know what your team is already doing well so you can continue in the right direction.
Look at Reviews to Inform Your Customer-Centric Business Approach
Another great way to learn more about what shoppers want and how you can better address their needs is to look at reviews. What are customers saying you’re doing right? And what are they saying you’re doing wrong?
Reviews offer you a golden opportunity to discover what tweaks and improvements you need to make with customer satisfaction in mind. That said, we know that some negative reviews result from factors beyond your control — such as courier shipping delays.
But by consulting reviews (and the aforementioned customer interactions), you can at least know when these types of issues are occurring frequently. Once you know about them, you can adjust your customer service strategy to communicate with shoppers about potential delays or problems ahead of time. That type of honesty and transparency is at the very heart of running a customer-centric business, and it’s a sure bet that most of your customers will appreciate this proactive approach.
Don’t just depend on existing reviews for insights into customer satisfaction. As we’ve mentioned before, recent studies show that only 1 in 26 shoppers will take the time to lodge a complaint when something goes wrong. The other 25 will simply take their business elsewhere without saying a word.
That’s why it is so important to actively seek out and gather feedback from your customers. And there are several ways you can do so. They can include everything from sending workflow emails that automatically go out after a shopper completes a purchase or interacts with your team, to including a feedback pop-up form directly on your website, there are countless ways to ask customers how you’re doing. If you’d like to dive deeper into this approach, check out our previous guide: 22 Ways to Collect Customer Feedback.
Listen to Customers
Once you’ve assessed interactions, analyzed reviews and gathered additional feedback, it’s time to actually use them to consider what your customers have to say. Listen to your shoppers and really think about what you can do to better serve them in every facet of your business.
Are customers asking the same questions over and over? Create FAQ pages that answer them up front so shoppers don’t have to go searching for answers or take time out of their day to contact you. Are they saying your checkout page takes too long to load? Have your development staff address and correct the issue. Whatever your customers are telling you, make sure you convey empathy and do what you can to make their shopping experience with your company as positive as possible.
Study Other Customer-Centric Businesses
Now that you have explored everything your shoppers are asking for, it’s time to look at what else you can do to run a more customer-centric business. A great place to start is by studying your most successful competitors.
If there are companies in your industry that consistently get rave reviews or that boast an impressive fan base of loyal customers, check out what they’re doing to accomplish that feat. What kind of user-focused language do they use on their website? How are they interacting with their customers (perhaps on social media)? What’s so great about the products they sell or the promotions they run?
By looking to your competitors, you can begin to gain a picture of the best way to engage and delight shoppers. Then you can duplicate that success in your business (in ways that make sense for your brand).
Assemble the Right Team
Running a customer-centric business depends largely on having the right people on-staff. Once you assemble a team of helpful customer service reps, talented developers, amazing salespeople and the like, it will be much easier to keep shoppers satisfied and coming back to your store.
Be very purposeful in your hiring practices. Let prospective employees know that you’re dedicated to making customers happy, and that you expect the same from each team member.
You should also make a list of attributes that workers in each department should embody. For instance, customer service reps should be friendly and knowledgeable. Developers should be skilled at web development and focused on the end user. And salespeople should be capable of answering prospects’ questions and helping them understand your products / services without being too pushy.
Assign Specific Responsibilities
Once you have your team in place, you need to make them fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to customer satisfaction.
For example, your customer service representatives will likely be responsible for answering customer questions and assisting them with any issues. Your developers will be tasked with keeping your website(s) user-friendly and running smoothly. And your salespeople will need to help shoppers with buying decisions.
When everyone knows exactly what goals they’re responsible for achieving, your customer-centric business strategy will have a much better chance of succeeding.
Hold Team Meetings Regularly
Keeping your team on the right track isn’t just a matter of hiring great people and assigning them to their respective tasks, however. In order to make sure that customer satisfaction remains at the forefront of everything you do, you need to hold team meetings regularly.
These meetings will give you the opportunity to touch base with your employees and discuss any problems that arise or any changes that need to be made. They will also enable you to explore all the things that are going right, and brainstorm ways to keep any positive momentum going. And finally, team meetings allow you to apprise your workers of any new policies or practices that you’re putting into place so they are prepared to succeed amid company changes.
Make the Changes You Need
After collecting all of the customer data you can through feedback and interactions, it’s time to make the necessary changes!
If certain products are faulty and garnering lots of complaints, remove them from your inventory, repair the issue or replace them with a better item. Also, if your website is frustrating shoppers by running too slowly or being glitchy, have your developers run a full website analysis to find and fix the issue. And if your competitors are more successful with customers than you are, use the info you gathered when studying them to make any improvements to your approach that you can.
And finally, take all the rest of that user feedback you collected, analyze it and address it throughout every department of your business — from customer service to your warehouse to logistics.
Adjust Your Company Culture
Speaking of changes, once you’ve assessed customer needs, made the necessary changes to your business approach and assembled the right team, it’s time to adjust your company culture.
Within any “About Us” website pages or internal documentation, make sure the primary message is: “We are a customer-centric business.” Let your customers, employees and the public at large know that you are laser-focused on respecting shoppers, prioritizing their needs and keeping them happy.
Test Customer-Centric Business Strategies
After putting any new customer-centric business policies into place, whether it’s a new approach to customer service or an updated way of organizing your warehouse efforts, you need to test your strategies regularly.
That’s because, while a new approach may work for a while to keep shoppers happy, the world of sales is constantly changing. For this reason, it’s important to stay on top of what’s working and what needs to be changed or updated.
Test any new strategies out by gathering various analytics that relate to their performance. For instance, if you have new warehouse rules in place aimed at shipping items out quicker, take note of any changes in order packing speeds. Or, if you’ve enacted new goals for customer service expediency, look at inquiry response times. And, once again, gather user feedback to inform your decision on how best to tweak your strategies.
Tweak Customer-Centric Business Strategies as Needed
As already stated, when testing customer-centric business strategies, be sure to tweak your approach as needed.
No matter how great your techniques are, almost nothing can work optimally forever without being changed or updated to keep up with the times. Make sure you are continually collecting data on every company initiative you implement so that you can adjust however and whenever necessary.
Be Flexible in Your Customer-Centric Business Efforts
And obviously, when testing and tweaking customer-centric business practices, you need to always be flexible. Sometimes, new strategies you try just won’t work out the way you wanted them to — and that’s okay. Be willing to adapt and evolve your approach in accordance with your customer’s (ever-changing) needs, and you’ll keep shoppers coming back to your store again and again.
Tell Customers They’re Your Top Priority
Want customers to know they’re your top priority? Tell them! Make sure you engage with your customers and prospective shoppers everywhere you can to let them know about your customer-centric company culture.
This is where social media and website forums really come in handy. Follow conversations in your industry and converse with users to communicate about your brand’s dedication to delighting customers.
Running a Customer-Centric Business: Focus on Customer Service
At the end of the day, running a customer-centric business is all about customer service. By focusing a huge portion of your efforts on improving this area of your business, you can pretty much ensure that your company will be poised for success. The next few sections will cover exactly how to beef up your customer service.
One of the most important factors of effective customer service is to respond to inquiries quickly. Today’s shoppers expect answers to their questions in minutes, not days or even hours.
We understand that this may seem easier said than done. But if you’re a multi-channel eCommerce seller, helpdesk solutions like Replyco enable you to centralize all of your messaging from every marketplace into one inbox. With customizable sorting options and a comprehensive dashboard, we also let you organize messages however works best for you and keep track of your customer service team’s performance.
Offer Live Chat
Another great way to offer great customer service and quick responses is to provide live chat support on your website. This lets you answer customer questions on-the-spot, taking care of their needs immediately while they’re in the middle of potentially making a buying decision.
Again, Replyco helpdesk software for eCommerce gives sellers the ability to install a fully functional live chat widget on any selling website.
Use Auto-Responders & Templates
Another great way to offer amazing customer service is to use auto-responders and templates.
Auto-responders enable you to respond immediately to customer questions even when you’re away from the office. You can set up specific messages to automatically send out to customers who contact you during after-hours times, so they aren’t left hanging. Then, when you return to work, a human member of your team can fully address their inquiry.
Smart auto-responders (such as those offered by Replyco) can be programmed to recognize certain words in a customer query, such as shipping, and then send out the appropriate canned response (for example, information about your shipping and delivery policies).
Helpdesk solutions also allow sellers to use message templates in order to save time. Rather than manually typing out customer names, order numbers, addresses and the like, tags and templates can automatically insert the necessary information into your message.
By proactively communicating with customers via auto-responders and saving valuable time with templates, you can truly run a customer-centric business in which no question goes unanswered and no customer waits too long for a reply.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Customer-Centric Business Strategies
One final note when it comes to operating a customer-centric business is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Sometimes, keeping shoppers happy requires creativity and the courage to step out of your comfort zone. Be open to new ideas, especially when those ideas are aimed at thrilling customers.
Go Above & Beyond
And lastly, be sure to go above and beyond when dealing with customers. If there’s a problem, do everything in your power to correct it. Even if it means taking the time to try multiple solutions or going the extra mile in some other way, do your very best to leave each and every customer satisfied.
Final Thoughts on Running a Customer-Centric Business
Really, you only need to remember one primary notion when trying to run a customer-centric business: put your customers first. If you prioritize your shoppers and show them how much you appreciate their business by making their experience the best it can be, they will reward you with their loyalty.
And as we said before, one of the easiest ways to do this is by shoring up your customer service. If you’d like to learn more about how Replyco helps eCommerce sellers stay on top of messages, take a quick tour of our features. Our, get control of your inbox right now by starting your free trial today.
Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help!