Companies that care about their customers may not be able to truly deem themselves “customer-obsessed.” They may think or say they are because they focus on great products and great service. But the moniker of customer-obsessed goes deeper than that, according to Walter Rogers, CEO of CCI Global Holdings, who wrote in a post for Salesforce that “true customer obsession involves turning our customers into fans who believe in, advocate for, and keep coming back to our business.” How can companies do that? Rogers said the commitment to customers needs to be baked into organizational culture and “consistently reinforced and strengthened with the right strategies and mechanisms.” These include: research, insight, commitment, language, rewards, leadership and education. 

We caught up with other experts who discussed ways organizations can become customer-obsessed:

Become an Insights-Driven Business

Jacob Ayoub, senior director of customer & market insights for Salesforce, spoke about ways his organization has committed to become customer obsessed in his keynote at the DX Summit in Chicago (Editor’s note: Simpler Media Group, the parent company of CMSWire, runs this conference). Becoming an insights-driven business is one way to get going on the path to becoming customer-obsessed. And Forrester agrees it’s a really good thing, reporting in 2016 that 40 insights-driven public companies and a horde of insights-driven startups (fee required) are on track to grow from $333 billion in revenue in 2015 to $1.2 trillion in 2020. 

An insights-driven business takes the time to listen to its customers, according to Ayoub. It invests in people, tools and programs to actually take that feedback and translate it into meaningful insights. ”And, most importantly," he added, "it's a company that acts on that feedback because customer feedback and customer insights without any action is meaningless. It doesn't do anything. It will not drive your business forward.”

Related Article: The 3 Essential Sources of Customer Insight

Develop Business-Focused Research Leaders

The easiest way to make sure insights and customer feedback is actionable? Put them in the context of the business issues and challenges that your business partners are facing today. At Salesforce, Ayoub said researchers and voice of the customer (VOC) experts are aligned to each key business unit. “They are ingrained and embedded in those businesses. They know the business challenges. They know the competitive landscape and the dynamics," Ayoub said. These stakeholders actively suggest and design research and listening programs based on what they know about the business. "And when they deliver the results," he said, "the results are in the context of the business in question and the competitive landscape.”

Know Why Your Customers Left

You can become customer-obsessed by recognizing the factors that made some customers leave, according to Sançar Şahin, VP of marketing at Typeform. “Customer churn is the result of not understanding your customers’ needs,” Şahin said. “To improve retention and keep people coming back, you have to understand customer loyalty, and why your customers are leaving.” Analyze user behavior data, do more user testing, check in with an NPS survey, or simply pick up the phone and ask a customer, Şahin said.

Related Article: What Is Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)?

Walk in the Customer’s Shoes

Nick Jiwa, founder and president at CustomerServ, said organizations that want to become customer-obsessed should start by becoming a customer of the brand and experiencing it in the real world. “Without firsthand knowledge as an end user or consumer,” he said, “you can't be customer obsessed.” Become students of the customer's products, services, missions and values. If you're a service provider, you can't offer cookie cutter solutions to improve the customer experience until you live and breathe the customer's brand in your service operations. “This is how your organization can become more customer-centric and better brand ambassadors,” Jiwa said.

Hire the Right People, Create the Right Culture

The key ingredients to building a customer-obsessed culture include hiring the right people and creating the right culture, according to Trish Sparks, chief customer officer for Demandbase. “Hiring people with a customer-centric approach to decision-making and communication is essential in developing a customer-obsessed organization,” Sparks said. “Product knowledge and presentation skills can be taught, but an employee that 'lives on the Island of Me' will likely never be able to shift to a customer-first mindset.” 

Creating a culture of service and accountability is also necessary in the quest to become customer-obsessed, she added. “Decisions should be made through a customer lens, with an authentic passion to serve and delight the customer,” Sparks said. “If it is not genuine, customers can tell.” 

“Selecting key metrics to measure success and holding team members accountable for ensuring the success of their customers,” Sparks said, “will be the key to determining if your organization has succeeded in becoming customer-obsessed.”

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Developing a Customer Obsession Culture

Always Be Ready for Digital Change

Organizations have to recognize a changing digital landscape and the need to adapt across the company to remain customer-first. SAP did just this, according to Bertram Schulte, CDO at SAP, “We honed in on advancing our digital-buying process first, looking at how the buyer journeys we facilitate fit with the experiences our customers want and need.” The findings? Customers desired self-service options that are quick and supply a simple path to purchase. “In response, we re-imagined into an omnichannel, ecommerce platform where customers can easily discover products and solutions they need, try them out, purchase them and start using them all through the same platform and within hours or days, rather than weeks,” Schulte said.

Customer-centricity is all about creating great experiences, he added, and delivering on your promises to customers, whether those promises are focused around service, team support, easy-to-use products, partner support or a combination of all. “Revamping digital channels and digital-purchasing processes is a great starting point for building better customer experiences and making your organization customer-centric,” Schulte said.

Related Article: Is Customer Centricity Actual or Aspirational?

Make it Every Department’s Mission

Customer success is bigger than any one team, and it takes more than customer service managers to consistently make customers successful at scale, according to Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight. “Customer-centricity, as both a strategy and a mindset should not fall on the shoulder of a single customer-facing department. The solution is to break down silos, operate cross-functionally with the customer at the forefront, and have every department involved in creating a consistent customer journey,” he said.

Siloed departments mean poor handoffs, lack of coordination and conflicting points of contact throughout customer journeys. Rethink department roles and prioritize customer needs, not internal ones, Mehta said. Create organizational charters that align with the customer journey and have defined missions, operating metrics, activities, risks and dependencies. “Whatever part they play,” Mehta said, “all departments need proper enablement to go from a world of fragmented data to coordinated action.” 

Another way to do this is by bringing all your departments together, from sales and marketing to product, to design a consistent customer experience and journey across every interaction, from the first point of contact to the long-term post-sale relationship. This could start with aligning the product team with the customer success team. The product roadmap, from bug fixes to new features, should be a cohesive strategy that addresses customer's current needs while creating future innovations.

Reward Teams, Partners for Customer Success

Finally, when your organization is able to bring it all together and become customer-obsessed, recognize the people that made it happen, Salesforce’s Ayoub said. “At Salesforce we like to recognize and reward our cross-functional partners that are actually taking action on the (customer) feedback in very big, but also very small, ways,” he said.