Tell customers what they want and need and disregard their priorities and preferences. 

That was the Mad Men way. Businesses could make huge profits without concern for their customers. Some even profited from their customers by penalizing them. 

Take Blockbuster. Blockbuster's revenue model grew off the back of late fees from customers, laying the roots for its ultimate failure. Netflix swept in with a far superior experience on offer and succeeded — in part — because Blockbuster never managed to put its customers first.  

Like so many organizations that fell apart after the crash, Blockbuster failed to appreciate a shift in the balance of the relationship between consumer and brand, with the power swinging firmly in favor of the customer. 

Powered By Customer-Centricity

The companies people care about today were built with their customers in mind. The Spotifys of the world driving their success based on their customer-centric organizations. Long before anyone else, it saw a future where teams and organizations would be shaped and driven by the changing needs, and ever-escalating expectations of customers. 

Businesses now need to build teams around customers, with their individual objectives and missions dictated by the two metrics that now matter: lifetime value and churn rate. 

These targeted teams will be assigned a narrow focus: around types of customer like VIPs or first time visitors, or categories like abandoner re-engagement. The focus around customers — as segments and individuals — will unify these teams, and a programmatic approach will enable them to focus on specific engagement rather than being preoccupied with processes. 

Playing Catch Up with Customer Experience Disruptors

This radical change needs buy-in from all departments to ensure success. If the focus on the customer remains siloed, people will only duplicate efforts, deepening siloes and draining resources when they should be harmonized to do the exact opposite. The brands of today and tomorrow have marketers who are the full package, masters of all digital trades who craft sparkling experiences that place their business far ahead of the propositions of more mainstream organizations. 

Businesses that fail to shape experiences that fit seamlessly into their customers’ lives, and adds value every time they interact with it, they will drop you and find an alternative that does. This requires immensely powerful data infrastructure, rapid processing and responsive actioning to develop a truly evolutionary experience that can compete with the nimble propositions served by Amazon and Uber.

Satisfaction isn’t a concept customers understand anymore. It may fleetingly appear, only to be torpedoed away by fresh innovation. Customers don’t stand still for very long, so future-proofing your experience means ensuring it exceeds their expectations every time they interact with you. 

The time for change is now. The disruptors have a five-year head start. Organizations have less time than that to close the experience gap by remodeling their businesses around the customer. 

3 Steps to a Customer Focus

These three steps will help drive success in refocusing your business around the customer: 

1. Understand how customer behavior has changed

While it may sound obvious, despite the lip service paid to customer experience — 89 percent of brands claim they will compete on customer experience this year — few customers see their brands truly making the effort to offer an enhanced customer experience. 

Customers are becoming more speculative and more demanding and expect to see more value in experiences before committing to brands, a dynamic that every company must recognize.  

2. Know your customers well, and act on that knowledge 

Irrelevant experiences quickly lose their appeal at a point when customers expect higher levels of personalization. Experiences that fail to recognize the individual and that add no value to customers lives will never win customer loyalty. 

That’s why a granular understanding of your customers is so important to building your business around them. You can now collect a wealth of data about your customers and use that data to create granular actionable insights that enable you to tweak and perfect an experience around your customers. Mold your business to suit their needs once you know their preferences and priorities. 

3. Whatever else you do, stop hesitating  

Inertia is not an option. Businesses like Blockbuster and Borders fell by the wayside because they didn’t digitally transform around their customers fast enough. They did not see the way the wind was blowing and how companies that enlisted all levels of their organizations behind delivering first class customer experiences were primed to take the lead. 

A business built around customers needs to share data between departments, focus on digital transformation as a whole entity rather than approaching it as individual departments, and ensure all leaders are united behind the same mission. Infighting between departments will only frustrate efforts to become truly responsive. 

Long-term success depends on knowing the experiences customers are looking for, how to craft them, and how to defy customer’s rising and unpredictable expectations. 

Expectations are always changing, advancing and evolving. Unless brands set themselves up for success now, they will fail to do the same.