In today’s world a "typical day" for marketers no longer exists. The complexity of the data-driven landscape and "always on" digital channels demands a blend of both science (e.g. measurement, analysis and discovery) and art (e.g. design, content and visualization) to execute effective marketing strategies and customer experiences.

"The Age of COVID" has only elevated this complexity as the attitudes, behaviors, preferences and engagements of consumers continue to shift based on societal regulations and issues the virus poses. So, adopting a customer-centric focus requires a data-driven foundation in order to understand the state of the relationship between the brand and the customer. As Harvard Business Review’s recent study Beyond Big Data found, 85% of executives say they know integrated customer data insights are the strategic foundation to drive loyalty and satisfaction, yet only 23% say their organizations have a strong understanding of their customers' behaviors and attitudes.

Given this, there are 10 fundamental traits that provide the foundational stepping stones for an organization to become customer-centric. These steps foster a closer relationship between the customer and brand which ultimately motivates the customer, strengthens their loyalty, develops affinity and can even cultivate evangelism. Focusing on these steps is even more critical. One individual whom I know has extensive experience in the customer experience and market intelligence realm is Crispin Beale, a board director and fellow for The Market Research Society and senior strategic advisor for mTab.

“If you don’t understand the decisions, actions and sentiments of the customer you can’t effectively engage them,” explained Beale. “And if you can’t effectively engage them then you certainly can’t motivate them to connect with your brand. This is the foundation of customer experience which breeds loyalty, affinity and evangelism. This is exponentially more critical with the COVID environment we’re in as brands are looking to rebound with their customers.”

What Customer-Centric Brands Do to Be Customer-Centric

1. They Listen

Listening to the customer is a data-driven exercise which requires inventorying datasets across the organization in order to integrate and synthesize them into a single-source environment of evidence. Allowing customer experience insight technology to do the heavy lifting is key here.

Beale bit: “With a plethora of internal data sources and external reports and studies, which  generally sit in silos within various different departments, having the ability to blend and overlay them unveils powerful untapped views of the customer.”

2. They Learn

Knocking down the data silos simply by centralizing, mapping and synthesizing the data sources migrates the company towards uncovering insight into how customers interact with and are engaged by the brand and how the dimensions of each of these shift in real-time.

Beale bit: “Whilst many organizations tend to think eliminating data silos is an impossible task, it’s an exercise in inventory and integration, which is easily accomplished through innovation adoption. Merely learning that these integrated insights exist is often an epiphany for companies and a major step in becoming customer-centric.”

3. They Understand

Learning about the multitude of customer dimensions quickly evolves to understanding the attitudes, behaviors, preferences and engagements of customers and how various environmental factors from the economy to weather to COVID is affecting each of these factors. Once a brand understands it can take a major leap towards customer-centricity.

Beale bit: “As an example, overlaying datasets across sales performance, buyer surveys, advertising efficacy and product usage displays aligned multidimensional views of customer engagement, purchase, usage and sentiment which leads to actionable insight around the customer.”

4. They Teach

Once an organization starts to gain this customer understanding having the means to distribute and democratize it across the organization becomes essential. Consistency across the data with an ability to visualize it is key and can easily be achieved through customer experience insight technology which distributes customer insight access to every team. 

Beale bit: “Having every team — marketing, sales, CX, product, customer support, finance, and even the C-Suite marching to the same drumbeat and empowered with the same customer experience insight is essential so that there is one evidenced, version of the truth, that everyone is working from.”

5. They Align

This deep level of insight allows the organization to align each team’s tactical decisions with the customer. This includes technology investments, support staffing and channel messaging as an example. This alignment is the foundation to delivering exceptional experiences congruent with customer attitudes, behaviors, preferences and engagements.

Beale bit: “Every department in some way touches the customer whether it is how they make a purchase, how they make payment or how they get support, so aligning each of these for maximum efficacy is a major factor in delivering effective customer experiences. This is why customer alignment only comes through widespread customer understanding.” 

6. They Adjust

Once you have tactical alignment, adjusting on a strategic level should be the focus. Every team should modify their strategic plans to deliver on the behaviors and expectations of the customer in regards to the team’s specific roles and responsibilities.

Learning Opportunities

Beale bit: “Building out customer-centric strategies for each department is usually a catapulting step towards a brand becoming completely customer-centric. This is often where customer-centric cultural shifts start to occur.”

7. They Engage

This is where strategy meets execution around positioning and messaging of the brand and and the general communication channels that are used. Again the alignment of these based on the data-driven customer insight is critical to maximize efficacy.

Beale bit: “The voice and message of the brand are vital to successful customer engagement. This is why having a clear understanding of the details of how customers engage with a brand are so essential in developing effective marketing engagements and communications.”

8. They Motivate

Beyond communication engagements designing exceptional experiences between the customer and brand are the backbone in driving loyalty, enhancing affinity and ultimately cultivating evangelism. 

Beale bit: “Motivating customers falls largely to the behavioral experiences they have with each element of the brand that they engage. So, building these elements in a manner that motivates has increased efficacy as you construct them based on what the customer wants.”

9. They Measure

Measuring the performance and results of the tactical decisions, strategic plans and motivational engagements is essential, particularly given how quickly the landscapes of markets and journeys of customers are changing.

Beale bit: “The process becomes cyclical and has to be rooted in data so there is consistent understanding of the changes and evolution between the brand and customer. So, this is not a one-and-done exercise, but rather an ongoing evolution.”

10. They Evolve

This ongoing intelligence process drives understanding that will, if embraced, evolve the organization so that it is customer-centric and continually strengthening customer relationships.

Beale bit: “The evolution of the organization is a process that works when you commit to customer understanding becoming part of the organisation’s DNA, literally as a foundation for making decisions, setting strategies, developing innovations and designing engagements across the entire operation. This becomes the genetic make-up of a data-driven, customer-centric organization.”