As a Customer I want to be listened to, so that when I engage a Brand and pay for a service or product, and sign up for an experience, it’s what I want and I can enjoy it in a way that fits my lifestyle. My career has been as a Marketing Leader, which has been about Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning – although I have always striven to design experiences around Online, Mobile, Social and CRM that resonate with customers, both as Individuals and as Businesses, to ensure the optimal relevancy for them throughout their engagement with Brands such as HP, BT, Dell and Norton. I therefore introduce ‘Customering’!
I recently enjoyed an editorial (Time is running out to save capitalism from the capitalists) by @allisterheath in London @Cityam, the key point of which was that for Customers, Brands and the Economy to prosper we need to focus on ‘Customer Capitalism’ and with Brand experiences that deliver for the end-consumer. Brands have struggled to take such an intimate view due to reasons such as their organisation size, structure, measurement and a number of legacy system and data challenges. However when done well, ‘Customering’ can provide much enhanced Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – for Revenues and Margins – because people want to have a positive, sustained and mutually-beneficial Brand relationship. This provides significantly higher Customer Advocacy, so that additional new customers come to the Brand based on referrals and actively want the experiences on offer.
So what needs to happen to ensure that a Brand can be based on Customering?
- It starts with the CEO, who needs to ensure that Customers are the real primary focus of a Brand. ‘Back-to-the-Floor’ schemes, such as those introduced by Sir John Harvey-Jones over 30 years ago, will get leaders to the customer end of the business and illustrate leadership by example. A Senior Leader spending a day a Month or Quarter to work in the Call Centre or on the floor of a Partner Store in order to speak with customers is a must. This also provides a great example of customer-centric transformational leadership to Investors.
- Engagement with Customers is cherished across all levels and functions of the Brand. Leadership involvement in putting customer-intimate mechanisms such as Social Media and Customer Service Telephone / Online Chat Services at the centre of the Brand will deliver re-position Customer perceptions. @TeamMclaren have increased their follower base by 100% based on the rich content they publish from across all aspects of their business. (thanks @Essence for #Shuffle2013)
- Marketing champions the focus on the Customer, and the Brand. Although Marketing cannot do it all, it is the function best positioned to be the pivot to aid the transition across other functions. Marketing can collaborate with Finance regarding CLV; It can work with Sales regarding tighter Channel and Brand Partnerships to deliver the number; It can undertake Online Marketing through SEO, SEM , and other Digital techniques to drive E-Commerce numbers; and it can work closely with its kindred spirit Customer Services / Support in order to evolve the engagement with customers.
- The Customer Experience of a Brand is truly end-to-end and encourages User engagement.
When designing a product or service for a Customer, the Social and Relationship aspect needs to be considered from the outset. This is mandatory when a proposition based on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or other continuous service model, is offered. Customers are encouraged to offer their data, either directly, with a positive incentive that relates to an optimum experience of the proposition they have or are about to purchase, such as a Norton Account, or based on using their Facebook profile.
- Customers may control and scale their own experience based on their choice of media and timing. Amazon and Apple have done good jobs as Brands, although there are further opportunities to hone the approach for more pinpoint delivery, particularly with an ever more diverse set of devices and media consumption.
- Existing Leaders, and those recruited, are assessed based on their passion for customers. This is a critical aspect for future Brand success, by screening personnel at all levels, to ensure that they have a passion for driving and innovating the customer experience. Recruiters and Hiring Managers need to be trained to seek and select in this manner.
- Ensure Customer Satisfaction Measurements apply to all people who work for a Brand. Pay and Advancement has to be based on the causal performance link back to how satisfied customers are with specific aspects of the Brand experience – which has been delivered by different teams and functions across the organisation. Such Qualitative Measurement becomes a tangible and material aspect of an employee’s Bonus structure.
Brands must not only remain relevant in a Social / Digital / Mobile age, but if Customering is fundamentally adopted it can be a significant competitive advantage and correlate with greatly enhanced business results.