Thinking like your customer puts your customers’ focus at the center of everything your business does and ensures that you can run your business successfully. Without customers, you don’t have a business, so it is essential to the survival of your business that you find out and deliver what your customers truly want and need.

Increasing customer loyalty rather than focusing solely on product features and profitability will help your business stand out above the competition and help you evolve as your customers’ needs change. A customer-centric approach is about putting customer focus at the heart of your business in order to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How can your business make a customer-centric approach part of your business model?

Define what being customer-centric means to your company. Everyone may have their own interpretation – give the customer whatever they want, the customer is always right, do whatever you can to make the customer happy, etc. Set clear parameters for your staff so that everyone is working toward the same goal. One company, for example, defined customer centric as the “ability for everyone in the company to continuously learn about Customers and the market. It is also the responsibility of everyone in the company to respond appropriately to what we learn.”

Create a business strategy. Making a commitment to think like your customers should be an integral part of your business strategy, much like your finances. Create a customer-centric approach that will drive the objectives and content of your strategy and plan. Thinking like your customers should not just be a statement or section of your plan – it should be at its core.

Train your employees. Prepare your employees to provide the kind of customer service that will increase customer satisfaction. Clearly define how employees should address customers and any issues that arise. Zappos, the online shoe store, for example, made it imperative that all representatives talk to customers on the phone for as long as the customer wanted. So, when a customer would call in with an order, the conversation may turn to childcare and last for over an hour. That kind of commitment to customer satisfaction has catapulted Zappos to the top of the online retail industry.

Execute your plan. Once your staff understands your definition of customer-centric as well as your business plan, start executing your plan. The key is to set the example for everyone in your business – in other words, make sure your staff sees you practicing what you preach. This also means that you should clearly define your company’s culture and values and make decisions that are consistently in line with those values.

Know who your customers are
. Clearly defining your target market will help you identify who your customers are, what products and solutions they desire, and how, when, and why they purchase products and services. Understand your customers’ buying process, motives for purchasing products and services, and who else is part of their decision process.

Identify what your customers want. Optimize customer satisfaction by delivering exactly what they want and need. Survey your customers to better understand the kinds of solutions they are seeking.

Create a learning relationship between with your customers
. A key feature of the customer-centric approach is to build relationships with your customers. One way to achieve this is by asking your managers and staff to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience on the topics they are most informed and passionate about. By creating a wealth of information to share with your customers, your customers will come to rely on you for information about current issues and common areas of concern.

At its core, a customer-centric approach strives to help businesses succeed by emphasizing the need to think like a customer. Position your business to evolve with your ever-changing customers, and build a business plan that is committed to knowing your customers, aligning your resources to meet your customers’ needs and wants, and listening to and responding to your customers.

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