What is a ‘customer-centric’ approach?

Back in the late 90s when I was cutting my teeth as a young marketing executive, I spent my time grappling with marketing jargon, trying to get to grips with what it meant. ‘Customer-centric’ was THE latest buzzword at the time (others were ‘website’, ‘email marketing’ and ‘chardonnay’. Odd how time flies isn’t it?).

Magazines such as Marketing Week were packed with ideas and examples of how to make the customer central to the approach you take in marketing your business.

When you say it like that, putting the customer’s needs and wishes at the heart of your business strategy seems obvious. But, lots of small business owners find it tricky. They tend to organise themselves and how they sell their product or service around what works best for them or for their staff. And, I’m sure I do this too – it’s very hard when you are head down, busy with your own knitting, to figure out how you could make getting your product into the hands of your customers easier for them.

Here’s an example. One of my favourite indulgences is to book the valet parking at Gatwick when we go on a short trip away. Not only because the man at the gate is the friendliest, most cheer-giving person in the world. (He’s more smiley than Father Christmas AND Mr Tumble, even in a blizzard, even at 5am.) Not only, because it makes me feel, in some small way, ‘a bit fancy’. But, because it’s just so DARN easy.

The valet parking firm have realised that if you are going to pay extra to have someone else park your car at the airport, you want to be able to do this RIGHT NEXT TO THE TERMINAL DOOR, rather than having to bus back (which was how you used to have to do it). So, they’ve reorganised Gatwick to make this happen. Not easy, but SO convenient and worth every penny.

So, how can you make a customer-centric approach a reality in your business? Well, here are three areas that you can start pondering on TODAY to get started.

  • Meet your customer where they are NOW.

You’ve set up your business to help a certain group of people with a certain need. But, have you researched and researched to find out EXACTLY what their problem is? What is the one thing that is causing your target market the most stress that you can help with right now?

You might be telling your audience you are a Virtual Assistant and you can offer them support with admin. How about, instead, showing them that you can help with something more specific. Give examples of how you help clients to get ready for their tax return, or organise a workshop? This might be the exact service that your dream clients are looking for.

  • Give them something they actually want.

Giving away a free gift with a purchase, free trial of your service, or using rewards to drive loyalty amongst your engaged customers is a great idea. But, if you are going to do this, be sure to give them something that they genuinely want, not just whatever you happen to have knocking about in the back of the cupboard, leftover from Christmas.

When I go into WHSmith’s to buy a birthday card or magazine, they often ask if I’d like to buy an add-on purchase of a GIGANTIC chocolate bar at a knock-down price. Frankly, this is not working for me. I don’t eat vast quantities of chocolate. I’ve said no to 500g of Fruit and Nut at least 12 times now. What I really want is a voucher for cheaper birthday cards next time. Or discounted stamps, for example. If they were offering these free gifts, I’d be shopping in there all the time.

  • Deliver your service when your customer actually wants it.

This is a tricky one. Most business owners don’t want to work weekends. We don’t like evening appointments. But, if that’s when your ideal customer is free, you have to make yourself available to them.

I find it more or less impossible to get my kids to the dentist without taking them out of school. My particular dentist finishes work at 3pm and often takes half term as holiday. I’m thinking about changing dentist because of the grief this causes me.

Being able to deliver a service WHEN your customer wants it is the reason businesses such as Deliveroo and Uber are so popular. We don’t want to go and wait at a taxi rank in the dark and rain. Technology has made it possible for us to avoid queuing, so we don’t.

By starting to think about these three areas, you might notice that you aren’t putting the customer at the heart of your business. Perhaps it’s time to change things up a bit?

Now, it’s your turn. I’d LOVE to hear your ideas. How could you improve the customer-centric-ness of your business? Or, what are you already doing that works in this way? Let me know in the comments below.