The Role of Marketing in Scaling a Small Business using Customer Centricity

One way that small businesses can continue to be not only relevant but in some ways even compete (or out-compete the large competitors) is through obsessing about their customers and creating meaningful experiences for them.

Marketing can play a very important role in this journey by not only knowing who the customer is for their product or service but also ensuring that the entire organisation knows about it as well. This shared understanding enables everyone in the organisation to align and find ways to make a difference in the lives of the customers.

– The product development team now knows exactly for whom they are building their product for. They understand the reality of their lives and what challenges will their product or service address for them.

– The customer service team now knows the context in which the customer uses your product and the kind of importance they place on your product functioning the way it is supposed to function. They can also understand and build a process to ensure that they keep this information at the center of how they respond to the requests from customers. They might even find ways to eliminate issues by learning the most common ways that your product might be creating troubles for the customers.

– The accounting team now knows more about the customer and can find ways to make their interactions with the customers a meaningful, delightful or an efficient one (depending on how they would like to engage). The accounting could make the invoicing, payment and any other process that they use to interact with the customers meaningful for them.

– The sales teams would know how to position the product and create meaningful interactions based on the knowledge of the customers. They can create powerful and meaningful moments out of their sales closures and even when they lose deals, find a way to make it memorable for the customers.

– The HR team would now know what kind of people that we need to hire to do well with this kind of customers & what kind of work environment do these people need. This will inform their HR policies, perks and the places they will go looking for the prospective employees.

– The leaders would know what kind of culture they need to create in order to retain their employees so that they can, in turn, do well to retain our customers.

– The procurement teams would know the kind of vendors that they would need to work with, in order to be able to help the company create meaningful experiences for the customers.

– The partnering team will know what kind of partners do they need to identify and partner with. Where and what kinds of partnerships, distribution and/or channel partners do they need in order to not only reach these customers but also to serve them in meaningful ways.

When every part of our organisation obsessed over how to deliver meaningful experiences for our customers, the customers tend to reciprocate by staying loyal and growing their relationships with our business. This is probably one of the fastest ways for a small business to create a competitive advantage for themselves and at the same time scale their business really quickly.

 

 

Customer Awareness and Customer Care

Customer care

A recent post by Bernadette Jiwa made me think about the difference between Customer Support, Customer Satisfaction and customer awareness/care.

The post articulates the importance and difference between both categories, which I completely agree and wanted to bring in my perspectives on the same.

Both customer satisfaction and customer support are targeted towards customers who are vocal about what they think and feel about the product or the company. A small subset of this are customer who are vocal because they care and want the business or the product to get better. All others in this set of customers are people who are not happy or are vocal only to resolve an issue and dont particularly care about the product or the business.

It is critical for a business to know who among these vocal customers are being vocal because they care. The business needs to listen to them, build a relationship with these customers.

However, it is even more critical for a business to understand what the other set of customers who are not being vocal think and feel about the product or the business. Most often, if i am happy about a product or a business, I just continue to buy or use the product and not bother about filling out a customer satisfaction survey or reach out to the support team. If i am not happy, i just dont bother buying or using the product again and dont bother giving a feedback.

One way that businesses can continue to grow their fans and customer base is by figuring out a way to care for customers who are not vocal about the product or business but do care about it by giving repeat businesses.

The difference between customer satisfaction and customer care is that one is post interaction and the other is how you interact. You cant change the customer satisfaction post facto but you can influence the customer satisfaction by caring for the customer. In order to do so, you need to be aware of the customers needs and wants and not just that of the vocal customers but also the non-vocal customers.

So, the question that i want to ask is the following:

Are we aware of our customers and do we really care about them and their needs? If yes, how can we continue to improve and if not, what can we do to become aware and care for them.

7 Lessons for CEO’s from Aam Aadmi Party’s Revival in Delhi

In a remarkable feat, upstart political party – Aam Aadmi Party, consisting of non-political contestants swept across the elections for the Delhi Assembly poll.

People across the nation had expected them to put a decent fight but not many expected them to win 67 of the 70 assembly seats. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that they did this after suffering a humiliating defeat during the national lok sabha elections that concluded less than a year ago.

In my opinion, there are a lot of lessons for CEO and business owners if they understand the way this party transformed itself and conquered the Delhi assembly.

  1. Customer Centricity: Post their defeat in the national elections, the leadership of the party went back to their customers (voters) and worked hard to find out the real issues are. They decided to leave everything else aside and focus on this state and the people of this state. They put the voters at the center of every single activity that they did. This focus showed off, as the voters (customers) felt that this is a party that truly understands their issue and has the will to do something about it.
  2. Competition: There is nothing much to be gained by focusing your efforts on discrediting the competition. This is a tactic that all political parties have used since time immemorial to sway the public and win elections. This is also a tactic that a lot of businesses use to win business from their prospects. Times have changed and now people want to work with someone who is focused on what they can provide and nothing else seem to matter. On the contrary, it might even be harmful for your organization if you continue to discredit your competition.
  3. Feedback and Action: Post their defeat in the national elections, the volunteers and the leaders of AAP, went back to their customers and sought their feedback. They did not stop there. They actually acted on the feedback that they received. Even though they were not in power, their leaders continued to work in their constituency as it they were the elected leaders. They ran more than 900 local meetings with the voter community to seek feedback on their own actions, the local issues and debated on how to solve those issues. Based on these debates, they had their topics on which they wanted to fight the elections ready, which ultimately, led them to victory.
  4. Co-create: People are more likely to continue to support you if they have been involved in the creation of the services or solutions that they would be sold. In the 900+ meetings that the AAP held, all the local issues were discussed and they asked the local people about the probable solutions. When you tap into the creativity & ingenuity of hundreds of thousands of minds that are close to their problems, chances are that you will come up with the best solutions. Best part is that since the people participated in this co-creation process, they are more likely to adopt them as well.
  5. Humility & Authenticity: One of the feedback that the party had received from their customers was that the party became too ambitious too fast and let them down prior to this elections. The leader of the party then publicly apologised for this mistake, at different forums. A politician apologizing to the public for a decision that the party took is unheard of in this nation, at least among the current generation of the voters. This honest apology played an important part in the voters again becoming open to giving the party a second chance to form the government. Also, all the leaders and the volunteers were genuinely interested in solving the local issues. This authenticity is critical. Even in business, there are times when you take decisions that do not go well with your customers. Instead of standing by the decision, it is always a good idea for the business leader to be humble, accept the mistake and show the measures put in place to avoid such decisions in the future. We have seen multiple examples when the leaders of a business respond quickly, decisively and honestly to a business escalation have ended up increasing the trust that their customers place on them.
  6. Work Hard: It is one thing to get on a pedestal and promise a lot of things but a totally different thing to organize and run 900 local community meet-ups and distill the feedback from each of these 900 meetings and come up with what Howard Moskowitz calls the vignettes, the critical pieces that are the deciding factors in the results. This is hard work and as they say, there is no substitute to hard work.
  7. Execute: It is not enough to have great engagement and feedback mechanisms in place but critical to actually execute on the plan. This is what the government will now be measured on The party has raised a lot of expectations by engaging their customers and identifying the critical areas where work needs to be done. Now comes the time when they have to prove to their customers that they will actually be able to execute on their vision and promises. This is what will determine the future of their organization and their ability to come back to power and from a business perspective, allows you to continually grow your organization.

These are just my learnings from the victory. What have you learnt? If you haven’t thought about this yet, please do spend sometime to think and make your own list of things that you have learnt. It is this ability to learn from things that happens to others around us makes us humans, different from all other organisms around the world.

 

PBTO4: Getting Hooked On Customers With Bob Thompson

Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson

Welcome to episode number 4 of “Pushing Beyond the Obvious”. In this episode, we have with us Bob Thompson, CEO & editor of www.customerThink.com, the biggest online community about customers and customer centricity.

Bob has recently released his book #HookedOnCustomers. We shall talk to him today about what does customer centricity mean and everything that goes along with it.

We talk about

  • The fact that most customer centric organizations are such, because their operational fabric is such that they do listen to their customers and act upon it and this is not part of a special program or a project.
  • CRM, Customer Experience Management, social businesses & big data have become buzz words and without the right culture behind the efforts, they do more harm to the business. 
  • The role of Chief Customer Officers & how it is critical to have the CEO assume that role.
  • Some of the mistakes that firms do in their journey towards becoming customer centric and how they can avoid them.
  • What role can the sales, marketing and customer service teams play in the journey
  • When is it not a good idea to listen to your customers (with a good example).
  • The steps that he outlines in his book, Hooked on Customer (which by the way is a great book & you should pick it up): Listen, Think, Empower, Create & Delight.

This chat provides some very good insights if you want to or already are on your journey to becoming customer centric.

Hope you enjoy the chat.

You can connect with Bob on www.hookedoncustomers.com or www.customerthink.com.

 

Three Conversations that Help you Remain Customer Centric

In a blog post, Eric  Barker shares the insights from Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter and list down “Denial”, “Hubris” and inflated “Egos” as some of the most common mistakes leaders do. The post also talks about some good advice that leaders can do well to heed to.

I think that leaders need to create and keep an open line of communication to three kinds of people to stay grounded to reality.

  • Frontline staff: Regularly engage your front line employees who sell/service your customer for a frank and open conversation. Keep these conversations open and use them as a pulse check for ground reality and bullshit detection. This will work best if you schedule some time every week and randomly pick staff and engage with them directly, without having to let any of their managers know about the discussion. This keeps everyone on their toes. Most importantly, act on the information that you learn as part of this conversation. This will ensure that your staff will also take these conversations seriously.
  • Customer and customer Staff: Meet your customers (your counterparts and end-users of your products/services) and talk to them about the product or services. Try and learn why they do business with you and how they benefit from the product/service. Also, ask them about their opinion on how could you make it easy for them to work with you. Take their inputs with a grain of salt and find ways to use these conversations to explore better ways to work with your customers and make it easier for them to do business with you. Again, it would be best if you use your CRM system and get your assistants to schedule some of these appointments or calls directly.
  • Someone who is not from your industry but serves the same market segment: Some of the most interesting insights about your customers can be gained by talking to other businesses (from different industries) that also sell to your current set of customers. You can then use these insights to improve your business and interaction with your customers.

If you are able to do these conversations regularly (at least weekly), you shall remain grounded to reality and will never have any dearth of ideas to improve your businesses.

This also has a ripple effect among your staff as they will also realize that you could end up talking to any of their customers and so will continue to treat their customers well. This will also ensure that your direct reports don’t filter out bad news for you, which in my opinion is the single biggest reason for organizations going bankrupt or missing out on huge opportunities.

The overall result would be that your organization will be considered more customer focused by the people whose perception matters the most – Your Customers.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

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PS: A great video that talks about 5 techniques that you can use to keep your organization Customer Centric: