There’s a difference between words and actions. This is very apparent in customer relationships. It’s one thing to say, as a business, that the customer comes first. It’s another to actually act that way and truly put the customer first.
However, a customer-first approach is a must-have in retail. There is too much competition, choice, and convenience. A company that doesn’t serve its shoppers will fall behind. Here are five tips to create a successful customer-first strategy for your business.
Tip No. 1: Start With Your Product
A good place to start is, naturally, at the beginning: your product. Your product must directly solve a customer need starting from the planning and development phase. It has to provide value and make their lives easier in some way.
In many cases, companies develop the product they want to make—adding in features the team thinks are exciting or moving ahead with ideas only vetted by a small group of people. Instead, product managers need to always be thinking like their end-users. They need to serve up a solution that directly addresses a problem.
In worst-case scenarios, products are solving a problem created by that product. The company has invented a pain and developed a solution that isn’t actually needed in the market. The Segway is one example that comes to mind, as it was marketed as a high-end personal transportation solution—but that market for such a product never really existed.
Tip No. 2: Everyone in Your Company Knows Your Product’s Value
Whether directly or indirectly, your shoppers will interact with everyone in your company, from customer service and marketing to product managers and executives. In order to make all these interactions a success, everyone inside your organization has to know your product’s value to your customers.
What does this mean in practice? For starters, the question of “How will our customers use this product?” should be asked at all levels. Every business decision and project should be developed with the end-user in mind. It is also helpful to ask how a change will affect them. Will a new idea make their lives easier? Will it provide value? If not, then perhaps it’s not a customer-first strategy.
In addition, everyone in your company should be aware of shoppers’ complaints and the day-to-day issues dealt with by customer service. Depending on the business, it may even be beneficial to have everyone—at all levels—trained on customer service and ready to address common issues and complaints. What this does is give more perspective on your consumers and helps all employees work with their problems in mind.
Tip No. 3: Customer Support is Confident
On a related note, how your company handles customer support says a lot about whether you have a customer-centric mindset or not. Think about any experience you’ve had with a poor support team—odds are, it hurt your opinion of the company as a whole for a long time.
Therefore, support is a crucial part of a successful company. How the customer support team can be effective begins with confidence. They must be confident in your product, your services, and the solutions to common complaints raised by shoppers. Confidence here means they can answer questions quickly, resolve issues, and avoid timely delays and vague statements that are the hallmarks of poor support teams.
Train support teams, give them the resources they need to succeed, and make them confident in their knowledge and process to help customers without digging through red tape and company bureaucracy.
Tip No. 4: See What Your Shoppers See
You can’t fix what you can’t see. And you can’t deliver customer-centric service without understanding how your shoppers interact with your business.
For many, this means getting shelf-level insights into your products. Brands sold inside brick-and-mortar stores can view the physical shelf to look for anything that could impact the customer experience. It could be damaged goods, out-of-stocks, broken displays, or something else. The point is that what was planned may not have been executed, with shoppers getting a poor experience as a result.
Online, it’s important to check in on product pages—if the images and descriptions are accurate—and, of course, the prices. Brands sold by authorized resellers may want to monitor for price compliance, such as with a minimum advertised price policy. Or, it may be worthwhile to watch out for counterfeiters or unauthorized sellers serving up a bad experience for shoppers.
Most consumers aren’t able to tell whether your brand is represented properly online, so they’ll often assign blame for errors to the brand—not the seller.
Tip No. 5: Listen to Your Customers
Of course, it’s usually better to hear feedback directly from the source. In this case, your customers. You can create a customer-centric strategy by gathering feedback at all stages of the buying journey.
This begins at the design stage—going back to our first tip, potential buyers should weigh in on product development to make sure your ideas solve their problems. It continues through the point of sale. You can collect feedback by conducting surveys, holding focus groups, communicating with your customer service team, and through other tactics.
No matter what you choose, truly listen to your customers. Don’t just solicit feedback and then ignore it. Hear what they’re saying and implement change based on that. They’ll see your improvements and reward you with better loyalty in the long run.
Embrace Change to Be Customer-First
Overall, these five tips will help your business become more customer-centric. Importantly, though, implementing this mindset could require a bit of change at your company. Don’t fear that change—embrace it.
Why? Because your customers are changing and their needs are evolving too. Every day new products are released, companies grow, and problems shift. The best brands are able to adapt to the market. The ones that can’t don’t stick around for long.
Therefore, become a customer-first business by embracing change and adopting a company-wide attitude that customer problems are your problems—and everything you do helps alleviate their pain.