The idea of keeping the customer at the heart of everything a business does is almost as old as the very idea of entrepreneurship itself. While this idea of customer centricity is by no means a new proposition, that doesn’t make it any less relevant today. It’s what sets apart the good businesses from the really great and it pays to make sure this fact is not lost or ever forgotten.
Take Jeff Bezos, and his often cited method of keeping customer focus top of mind. In the early days, the story goes that in meetings the Amazon CEO would point to an empty chair to represent the interests of the customer in decisions made at Amazon.
In a similar vein, it’s my experience at Xero that there are no conversations that take place behind the scenes that we’d ever be embarrassed for a customer to listen in on. And I think that’s when you know you’ve got your priorities configured correctly, when the very core of your company’s purpose is to serve your customer.
That said, with the barrage of daily operational demands, it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to keep sight of what is important as they drive forward. That’s where it’s important to keep sight of the fundamentals of customer centricity.
Here are five programmatic ideas to ensure you keep hold of customer focus.
1. Get out more, get more data
It’s too easy, especially as a company grows, to be anchored to the office day after day, on an endless conveyor belt of meetings and problem solving. Make a concerted effort to get out and meet your customers. I guarantee you’ll always come back with fresh insights and inspirational ideas that can feed into the business.
2. Think about your values and variables
Instil in your culture and reinforce in your values the importance of championing your customer and ensure each and every one of your people lives and works by the philosophy. As a result, staff will constantly seek out new ways to add value and do more for their customers, and you’ll be able to hire the right people in the right place. It will pay dividends in more ways than one.
3. The transparency test
Ask yourself if there are any any meetings or conversations taking place inside your business that you wouldn’t want your customer to listen in on. If the answer is yes, you’ve got some work to do to really put your customer at the heart of all decisions. A culture of transparency and openness does more for an organisation outside of keeping customers happy. By building transparency into everything you do internally, your people will feel more engaged and involved in the business as a whole.
4. Listen, get even more data
In a world where we’re more connected than ever, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to how satisfied, or dissatisfied, their customers are. Just as it’s important that you get out there and meet your customers, also make sure you properly read any other feedback you receive, good or bad. At Xero, our community forums give our customers the opportunity to join the discussion with other users, ask their advice, share their experiences and learn from others. As a SaaS company, the feature request portal is another important part of our community forums and our feedback loop as a whole. Here, customers can request new features, vote on others and see the progress of any in development. For every complaint you might get, there will be others out there with the same inclinations. Leave no stone unturned
5. Honesty is the best policy
If you can’t do something for a customer, you’re better off admitting it. There is a risk that you might lose the business, but in the long run your reputation is intact and you haven’t soured the relationship. If you lie from the start and aggravate a customer, 9 times out of 10, you’ll never hear from them again.
The basic truth is that without a customer there is no business. If you can keep this blunt matter of fact top of mind for you and your organisation as a whole, you’ll be able to better ensure your business’ success in the near- and long-term.