man surrounded by confetti
When employees feel appreciated, it reflects on the customer experiences they deliver. PHOTO: Ambreen Hasan

Some companies gloat about their technology. Others about how innovative they are. Still others about their global reach. What's more powerful as a business driver than all of these combined?

Customer obsession.

According to MarketCulture Strategies, a company dedicated to making it easier to measure customer obsession, “A strong customer-obsessed culture is the single most important driver of future business performance.” MarketCulture Strategies found that the deeper the customer-obsessed culture, the higher the profitability.

Yet, in Hotjar’s State of Customer Experience 2019 report, only 12% of the responding companies identified themselves as being extremely customer focused.

Houston, we have a problem …

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Being Customer Obsessed

Are you focused on the customer? On customer success? On customer retention? Is it central to who you are as a business? Does it drive what you do day in and day out?

Or, are you instead making decisions in a bland corporate conference room with internal team members and internal data, but void of the Voice of the Customer (VoC)?

As reported in Salesforce’s second annual State of the Connected Customer, 80% of 6,700 survey respondents confirmed that the experience a company delivers is just as important as the product or service itself. Fifty-seven percent of respondents actually took the radical step of stopping their purchases from a company because a competitor provided a better customer experience.

The stakes are high. Those who aim to thrive in our hyper-competitive world should not only focus on customer success, but should be customer obsessed.

Related Article: Innovation and Alignment: A Customer Experience Leader's Harmonic Convergence

Extracting Customer Insights

If you want to build an organization that focuses on customer success at the core and delivers an exceptional customer experience, then you should have systems and processes in place to ensure execution. An excellent place to start is by gathering of customer insights through VoC.

There are various ways to tap into VoC through your website. These include:

  • Onsite Surveys
  • Polls
  • Quizzes
  • Online Chat
  • Online Forms

You can also read the digital body language of your site visitors through behavioral intelligence software, such as Decibel, Clicktale, Mouseflow, Hotjar, FullStory among others. With this software, you’re able to not only view where site visitors are clicking, scrolling and spending time on the page, you can also watch recordings of user sessions (what their mouse is doing on the screen, not the people themselves). The behavioral intelligence can reveal the messaging that resonates most with your audience, while also revealing when they appear to be frustrated while on your site.

In addition, you should go well beyond your website for audience insights. A great place to start is by interviewing actual customers in person, over the phone or via web conference. You’ll probably be surprised by some of the things they say, so be sure to capture those nuggets of gold and store them in an easily accessible database of customer feedback.

You can also look to your Sales and Customer Service teams: What objections are salespeople hearing the most? What responses seem to resonate most?

What are the typical complaints your customer service hears? Problems? Frustrations? What are the ramifications of such issues if not fully addressed?

Related Article: Why Your Voice of the Customer Data Isn't Actionable (and What to Do About It)

Talking About the Customer

Do you talk about your customer 50% of the time? Or less than 5%?

Are you asking smart questions to help them gain further competitive advantage? How often do you talk about their customers? About their customer journey? About enabling your client to connect more effectively with them?

Earlier in my career, I was with a company that had a rather extensive sales proposal for prospective clients. I immediately asked at what spot within the proposal did the company start customizing the content to focus on the specific prospect (as opposed to boilerplate language used across prospects). The answer was page 16. I asked why it wasn’t page one.

The company had reached a plateau and was having difficulty making new sales. I restructured proposals so that page one spoke exclusively to each prospective client individually in a customized manner, as did the remainder of the document. This type of customer-centric approach was then applied more broadly in the organization, and the company, that previously had no sales growth, then skyrocketed from 85 to more than 700 employees within five years.

Your organization may claim to be customer centric, but unless it’s evident in everything you do, it’s possible that the commitment is only surface level and without substance. It may make you feel good to say you’re customer centric, but saying it and living it are two completely different things.

Here’s an exercise you can do right now to better assess your organization’s commitment to customer success. Calculate the percentage of your time spent actually talking about customers, solving their problems and enabling them to achieve their goals. It’s my belief that organizations that openly discuss customers a higher percentage of the time provide a better customer experience, are able to deliver on unanticipated future needs more effectively and are better equipped to retain customers longer.

After all, it’s difficult to help customers when you’re not focused on them and not talking about them.

Related Article: Use Design Thinking to Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes

Baking Customer Success Into Your Core

What’s the customer experience you’re delivering? Is it centered on customer insights, customer success and customer obsession?

How are your systems and processes organized in a way to drive greater customer success? Are you continuously feeding your decision-making with insights from customers? What percentage of the time are you spending talking about your customers and solving their problems?

What’s your client retention rate? What specifically are you doing to keep and retain clients? What are you doing beyond the basics of providing your product or service? How are you delighting them and making the experience memorable?

In the future, it’s the organizations that are customer obsessed that will win. Get obsessed!