Customer-First Culture

What Is a Customer-First Culture?

The customer first approach refers to the idea that the relationship with customers and their key needs must be a primary factor for organizations. When decisions need to be taken, resources need to be allocated toward initiatives, and strategies need to be considered, prioritizing customer expectations is the ideal way.

With this technique, your company's every move is evaluated in terms of how it will affect your customer experience, even if the decision is only slightly related to your consumers.

Defining a Customer-First Culture

Investopedia defines customer centricity as "A strategy and culture of doing business that focuses on creating the best experience for the customer, and by doing so builds brand loyalty. Client-centric businesses ensure that the customer is at the center of a business's philosophy, operations, or ideas."

It's reassuring to know that everyone in a customer-centric organization prioritizes the consumer. In theory, this mentality should lead organizations to maintain a competitive advantage that their competitors' lip service cannot undermine. In reality, you can spot a customer-first culture when you see one. You can tell when an organization is truly committed to all existing, new, and potential consumers.

Defining and implementing a customer-first company culture is not as simple as it may appear. Market leaders must define what it looks like before knowing how to build it using strategies.

The Business Outlook on Customer-Centric Culture 

The secret to thriving in the present business environment is cultivating a customer-first culture. Any discussion, business evaluation, and a decision must include the consumer's viewpoint. Businesses should have an emphasized outlook on a customer-first culture more as a strategic and competitive advantage rather than being one of the many tenets of customer experiences. 

"The internal organization needs to orchestrate around the customer- strategically, creatively, technologically, and operationally. Bringing different teams, processes, tools, and information to deliver a memorable brand experience is a constant, evolving goal. The customer's needs and desires should be the unifier to help guide CX decisions, but making that real is quite complicated," says Jared E. Fink, Group Director, Experience, Siegel+Gale.

Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, for example, interact with their customers by including feedback loops into their products and services, keeping them informed and enabling them to respond quickly. Their awareness of their customers' needs has completely disrupted their respective sectors over the years. 

As Fink rightly pointed out, consistency in prioritizing customer needs is only achievable through a clear business outlook on the strategic and operational front. 

Why Should You Adopt a Customer-First Culture?

It's crucial to safeguard the growth narrative you have for your business by ensuring a customer-first culture.

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Here are 3 major reasons why companies must adopt a customer-first culture:

1. Improved CX

The lack of a customer-first culture is the biggest CX challenge for 31% of marketing and advertising industry leaders. Therefore, a better CX is inevitable when every working process aligns with customers' wants and demands. It's a direct formula - adopt a customer-first culture to enhance customer experiences.

2. Increased ROI

A customer-first approach helps companies understand their customers better. Less speculation about what consumers want results in cost reductions in marketing. What matters most to customers may be determined scientifically, and the ROI of providing it to them can be calculated.

Because of improved customer retention, less price sensitivity increased wallet share, and favorable word-of-mouth marketing, a customer-first culture helps increase revenues. Adopting a customer-first culture means:

  • Lower customer acquisition costs
  • Fewer complaints resulting in better brand positioning
  • Positive consumer-generated brand content amounting to brand recognition
  • Greater customer satisfaction gives rise to customer loyalty
  • Repeat customers lead to higher sales
  • Flawless customer journeys consistently ensure increased ROI

Also, customers will want to invest more of their time and money in your products or services if they feel they're important, well-attended, and in control at all times.

3. Distinguishes Your Brand

Taking the customer success route on priority makes your brand stand out from the rest. A business can react swiftly to the shifting wants of its customers because of the internet's hive mentality. The opinions of your customers, both good and bad, are one of your most valuable resources. It will let you know where you are leading the charge and where more effort is required.

For instance, customers will appreciate the good customer service culture provided by an online retailer when it goes above and beyond basic assistance to address the underlying causes of difficulties and resolve them quickly. Filling the voids in any kind of customer dissatisfaction with customer-first solutions can positively distinguish your brand at many levels.

How to Build a Customer-First Culture?

Sean Folan, the Senior Vice President at Cronin Health, says, "The primary challenge is building a customer-centric view vs. what we think we know. As marketers, we need to put our own biases aside and see things through the lens of our customers. We need to steep ourselves in their needs and desires, focusing on key pain points and opportunities to delight." 

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It truly comes down to ensuring everyone in the company has the mindset to listen to the customers and address their needs like there's no tomorrow!

1. Consider Customer-First Approach a Team Effort

A customer-first approach takes into account the entire customer journey ecosystem. It encompasses everything a customer encounters with your business, from their initial interaction through the point at which they make a purchase and require assistance with their transaction. Therefore, every department within the company must be committed to cooperating and putting the customer's needs first.

Do you think only support agents should be responsible for what the customers think? No, right? If a customer-first approach is only in the hands of client-facing staff, it won't be effective. 

Leveraging a customer-centric strategy and approach as a team effort can help you hear and act upon thought-leading ideas emerging from communication opportunities with customers, employees, and senior management.

The phrase "all hands support" has gained popularity in recent years. The idea is that everyone working for the firm, from the CEO down to the developers, spends time interacting with consumers, directly or indirectly. 

You could use a bottom-up strategy, though. In a business, management comes from the top down, while innovation comes from the bottom up. Customers and lower-level staff will be more familiar with the difficulties and potential solutions to the problems that will set your business apart from the competition.

Reference Case

The Netherlands Red Cross required assistance in the early stages of COVID-19 in distributing responsibilities to over 100,000 new volunteers they recruited throughout the pandemic. 

OutSystems built a team that worked closely with Red Cross and its volunteers to design a solution suited just for the Red Cross and its volunteers rather than selling an off-the-shelf program that wouldn't fit its specific demands. 

The Red Cross could extend its operations and accomplish more good thanks to this method, which also saved the organization hundreds of hours in administrative work.

2. Actively Listen to Your Customers to Create a Buyer Persona

You cannot create a customer-first culture without knowing your consumer persona. You can develop crucial decision-making processes when you clearly understand who you are working for.

It's not just the customer-oriented metrics but the art of listening to the customers that help them understand their personas. Businesses must think beyond the box and devise a structured procedure to gather, assess, and blend client inputs in whatever way they can.

Not everyone must be present on every platform. If you don't have the funds or resources to manage a full-scale social media team, pick a platform that appeals to your target market and manage it well. When complaints are made, respond to them, and pay attention to any ideas that may arise.

3. Strive for Relationships and Feedback Loops

Do you understand every demand of your customers? If not, you should collect and then process qualitative customer feedback. Do the utmost to recognize and resolve consumer and front-line employee feedback concerns. Building stronger customer relationships and focusing on their issues is the stepping stone toward a customer-first culture.

Accepting criticism from a dissatisfied consumer can lead to an improved experience for everyone. You may also acknowledge customer wants and deliver seamlessly using the knowledge gained from customer complaints and feedback. 

4. Voice of Customer surveys (VOC)

VOC surveys assist in collecting useful information via emails and pop-ups. To get the best results, mix closed- and open-ended questions together. VOC makes it possible to create a more carefully thought out solution that meets the needs of a larger consumer base rather than a select few.

VOC develops more trust by maintaining touch with their client base, accepting the feedback they receive, and delivering changes. Customers will ultimately be more inclined to keep offering insightful feedback that will help to improve the products and services further.

5. Leverage Social Networks

Brands should interact with their audience on a regular basis. This should be very simple with the help of social media platforms and email marketing. People may express themselves freely on social media, which is one of their best qualities. It is a great opportunity to read your customers' feedback and gain valuable insight into their mindsets.

If your company considers the opinions of those knowledgeable about your industry or product, they will feel appreciated and validated. Positive outcomes are just around the corner if you respond to them promptly over social networks. Hence, your market research can be used to make adjustments if they are practical and necessary.

6. Be Agile

The finest customer-first businesses typically choose proactive and agile customer service. In contrast to reactive customer care, the employees here contact the customers when they anticipate or think a problem will arise. At that point, implementing an omnichannel CX plan would benefit your business in every manner.

It is simpler for you and the customer to get in touch with one another because all of the necessary customer communication tools, including live chat, help desk, knowledge base, and email marketing, are housed under one roof.

7. Promote and Deliver Transparency

Typically, people want answers to their questions immediately. Consumers do not want to believe they will do so today when you are not even close to delivering the product. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to respond to every consumer complaint for various reasons. Whether you like it or not, a "customer comes first" philosophy occasionally backfires.

Give clients a clear explanation of why you can't provide what they need when you can. Simply put, be open and honest about the problem. Customers appreciate being heard, so let them know what challenges you are currently facing and when their requests will be processed. There is a greater likelihood that they will comprehend and continue to support you.

8. Pitch Ideas to Improve Customer Experience

"Brands should listen and observe. Present options and experiences that differ, and observe to see what sticks. It's costly and can take time, but there's value there," says Charles Bell, Regional Sales Manager, Galderma.

Once you make a well-liked product or service, there is no time to relax. It doesn't work that way. Sales won't increase on their own while you'd sit back and wait. To begin with, applying your best efforts is crucial to get the most benefits.

Moreover, clients could become irate if they sense your lack of involvement. Your rivals won't pass up the chance to steal your customers; they'll come up with creative solutions. The key to a successful customer-first strategy is innovation. The customer is a crucial stakeholder in every process leaders create, which leaders must also comprehend by coming up with transformative ideas.

9. Tailor Your Offerings as per Customer Needs

Customers are more inclined to flexible businesses to make adjustments when necessary. Your company bases its efforts on the requirements and needs of its customers. By customizing your offering to a customer's demands, you can keep them coming back. The more you satisfy them, the more likely you are to capture their hearts and quickly gain some brand advocates.

You will undoubtedly stand out from the competition and demonstrate your customer-first qualities if you have a powerful presence and the ability to resolve a specific issue of your consumers. Customers are more likely to be satisfied when they believe you provide them with the greatest experience.

Reference Case

L'Oreal customizes makeup combinations. The business introduced L'Oréal Perso, an AI-powered smart device that develops personalized formulae for skincare, foundation, and lipstick, to assist customers in finding the precise shade. The app comes with real-time contextual data considering the environmental factors that impact the skin, such as pollution, pollen, and UV index. 

The company focuses on giving consumers more control over their makeup and skincare, according to Guive Balooch, Global Vice President of L'Oréal Technology Incubator. "Consumers have been asking to be part of the process of their beauty and have a stronger relationship with how well it's working. [With Perso], you become part of the process of your cosmetics," he says.

10. Emphasize Quality Over Quantity

Companies following a customer-first strategy are usually less concerned with the number of customers and more interested in customer interaction. Instead of three rapid sales that will probably churn after a few months, they'd rather seal a transaction with one devoted customer who would use the product for years to come.

11. Hire the Right People

Choosing employees that take a clear customer-first stance in their communication and decision-making is crucial. The secret to a successful growth plan is customer focus. The best employees should be able to think strategically from the consumer's perspective and truly care about making them happy. 

You can tell if your company has become customer-first by choosing critical indicators to track and crediting team members responsible for delivering a fantastic experience.

5 Ways to Measure the Level of Customer-First Culture in Your Organization

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An organizational culture dedicated to customer obsession is fundamental to business performance. Irrespective of your industry, measuring it and calculating its impact on performance is pivotal to your company's growth. Here are some ways to measure the level of customer-obsessed culture in your organization:

1. Customer insights

Utilize customer insights to ensure that your business has a thorough awareness of the needs of its current customers. As a result, you can improve customer journeys and comprehend why clients behave as they do. 

In order to make data-driven decisions, it is crucial for you to not only develop insights but also transform them into understandable and useful intelligence. Ultimately, such customer data insights will help you know where you stand regarding customer-first culture at your organization.

2. Customer foresight

Future customer demands and behavior are subject to change. Before consumers become aware of their own shifting wants, your business should be prepared to lead the market with innovative customer-centric services. As a result, consider the knowledge of future consumer preferences and desires while developing products and services. Such customer foresight will help you measure the quality of your customer culture.

3. Cross-functional collaboration

Your employees from various divisions and with varying levels of expertise should be able to address customer issues and provide superior customer service. So, assess whether your employees work together to address customer problems by bridging departmental silos, generating creative customer-centric ideas, and improving customer insights. This will indicate the current performance of your customer-first culture initiatives.

4. Strategic alignment 

Verify that your staff is fully aware of and supportive of the company's vision, values, and strategy. A strong customer culture requires a collaborative effort. So, ensuring that your staff members share your goals is critical. 

5. Customer lifetime value

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the total sum of money you anticipate a customer will spend with you or on your goods throughout their relationship. Knowing this number is crucial since it informs about how much resources to spend on attracting new customers and keeping existing ones. Any steady increase in this over a period of time means you've got a good customer-first culture in place at your organization.

5 Great Examples of Customer-First Culture to Learn From

1. Apple's product design 

Apple aims to simplify technology use. This is a component of the established culture, even going as far as to design the most efficient items with clear and concise packaging. You'll notice a well-designed, strong, lovely, and simple package when opening an iPhone box. The phone is the star, taking center stage, with the accessories stowed away in their proper places.

The minimalist style is in line with the aspirations of a larger minimalist cultural movement that has seen individuals buy tiny homes, get rid of clutter, and simplify every aspect of their life.

2. Super Bowl commercials 

Many of the Super Bowl ads in 2018 adopted a social perspective, connecting themselves with more important issues, including environmental protection, relief for natural disasters, and people choosing to act rightly toward others. This was unlike other Super Bowl commercials in the past, when the objective was to create the most outrageously humorous commercial possible.

A slew of national calamities, including hurricanes, mass murders, and escalating political tensions, led to the change. These businesses were aware of their consumers' experiences outside of the things they were purchasing. Without mentioning a product or service, this is a strategy to elicit favorable thoughts from the general population.

3. Disney's tailored experiences

All businesses can learn from the Happiest Place on Earth about providing a great customer experience. Disney and its theme parks welcomed 157 million people in 2018 with an astounding 70% return rate for first-time visitors, thanks to their magical and personalized approach to customer experience.

A Disney theme park is like stepping into a different planet. The meticulous touches in and around the parks, like the Mickey Mouse insignia on the manhole covers, contribute to many immersive components. Every part of Disney has been carefully thought out, from appearance to music to service. 

4. Amazon's customer service 

Jeff Bezos, the company's founder, believes that the secret to Amazon's success has been listening to its customers and continually pushing the envelope to meet their needs. 

By providing quick, hassle-free ordering and delivery, using data to personalize, assisting customers in real-time with product selections based on browsing and purchasing history, and going above and beyond to help customers get the best deal, the company has mastered the art of continually looking for new and better ways to improve customer experience. 

Customers can also provide feedback in the form of reviews, which are shown right on the product's website and give potential customers a variety of methods to organize the data as they see fit. Additionally, Amazon communicates with its consumers regularly through simple and unobtrusive satisfaction questionnaires. The surveys are a powerful instrument for increasing sales and converting consumers into devoted followers.

5. 3 M's customer research 

3M is a company renowned for its cutting-edge products that specifically address customer problems. The company has consistently benefited from this dedication to customer-centric solutions.

To fulfill its commitment to innovation, 3M has established Innovation Centers where customers can stop by, work with designers to create new products, and test them out. "A space where people may discover and experience new ways of thinking and learning, watching and doing work that impacts others and achieves shared goals" is how 3M describes its centers. The company ensures that it continuously provides pertinent products and services by investing in customer research.

The Bottomline

Customers now have a higher regard for companies that value and put their needs first. In addition to being more profitable, prioritizing your customers enables you to stay ahead of the curve by utilizing real-time innovation developed by individuals deeply ingrained in the market - the customers themselves. A strong team, openness, creative thinking, and awareness of customer needs can change the game for your organization and help you achieve the most desired customer-focused culture.