Did you know that 54% of customers “make decisions based on customer service?” Some 19%—almost a quarter—consider it the most important factor when making purchasing decisions.
In 2023, customer service is more important than ever—driving customer decisions around purchasing, loyalty and more. But great customer service doesn’t start with better IVR, quicker handle times or more channels—it starts with the customer.
That’s where customer focus comes in.
Data shows that brands who maintain a customer focus strategy are more profitable, have higher customer loyalty and retention, reduced churn, higher customer satisfaction and more.
But what is customer focus, exactly? And how do you develop a customer focus strategy for your brand? We’ll show you how in this article.
What is Customer Focus?
So, what is customer focus?
Customer focus is an orientation where the business centers the customer’s needs, preferences, goals and habits in making decisions. A customer-focused strategy pushes the company to consider how every product or service decision supports the customers’ needs and goals, rather than the company’s. In fact, with a customer-focused strategy, the company’s primary goal should always be to prioritize the customer.
Ultimately, this strategy prioritizes:
- customer needs over company needs
- customer preferences over company profits
- customer loyalty over customer acquisition
- customer trust over company goals
While this is a very customer-oriented strategy, brands should keep in mind that it is a profitable way to build businesses. After all, prioritizing customer needs and preferences improves customer satisfaction and creates more valuable customers over time.
Ultimately, creating a customer-focused culture requires companies to consider the customer at all touchpoints and business junctions—and to prioritize decisions that value and center the customer.
Why is Customer Focus so Important
As each of us are customers ourselves, it’s probably not hard to imagine why customer focus is important.
After all, we like brands who prioritize our needs, goals and preferences. The brands who design tools and products that support our goals are more useful to us, and we’re more likely to engage with and shop with brands that make things easy for us.
Your personal experience aside, the data on profitability, loyalty, acquisition and churn supports a customer-focused strategy. For example:
- According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies who lack customer focus.
- 74% of customers say they are more willing to forgive companies for a mistake if they received excellent service.
- 60% of business leaders say providing quality service improves customer retention.
Customer-centric companies are more profitable, experience increased brand loyalty and improved customer retention. Increased loyalty and retention also reduces churn, which lowers customer acquisition costs as well. In short: customer focus makes marketing more effective, improves the bottom line and strengthens customer satisfaction.
On the flip side—a lack of customer focus can spell disaster for otherwise profitable businesses.
Over time, a lack of customer focus can destroy customer trust and loyalty, and reduce your product-market fit. Customer needs and preferences evolve quickly, which means that brands who make a concentrated effort to keep up with customer desires will win in the customer experience. And of course, brands who have a strong customer experience and fit will be the most profitable in the end.
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How Can You Improve Customer Focus?
However, implementing a customer-focus strategy is easier said than done. While you might not have a customer focus yet at your company—or perhaps it takes a backseat to other concerns—it’s possible to incrementally improve customer focus over time. Lean into these strategies for improving customer focus:
Listen to your customers
Of course, it’s impossible to focus on your customers without first listening to, and understanding, what they want and need. When seeking customer feedback, you can do so both:
- directly—by asking customers to participate in surveys, rate their experiences, leave a review, and so on
- and indirectly—through social listening, reading social media comments, online reviews, and listening to inbound calls and support requests.
This listening then allows you to complete the first step of a three-part strategy to innovate and design for your ideal customer:
- determine their needs
- predict their needs
- solve for their needs
Some of the most innovative customer-focused companies used this strategy to nail their customer experience. Eventually, they come to understand their customers so well that they can not only solve for their current needs, but also for their future needs, thus providing a higher value for customers.
Track the right metrics
Data-informed decisions begin with the right data. But which metrics are the best ones to track? When it comes to improving customer focus through data, focus on customer-facing metrics that help you understand and improve the customer experience.
Customer experience metrics are often confused with customer service metrics, but there’s an important distinction. Although each informs the other, customer experience metrics measure the customer’s experience with your brand directly, while customer service metrics provide quantitative data on the level of service you provide.
That is, customer service metrics measure what you’re offering, and customer experience metrics measure how customers are experiencing or reacting to it.
While you may think you know what the customer wants (i.e. faster service, more channels), customer experience metrics can help back up your ideas with actual data and customer feedback. Customer experience metrics to track include:
- Customer churn rate
- Customer retention rate
- Customer lifetime value
Lead from the top
Customer focus starts from the top. It’s a strategy that should be implemented throughout your entire company and decision-making process, not something that rests on the customer service team.
But how can C-Suite leaders intentionally bring customers into focus?
- Share customer feedback and data widely throughout the company. Do your quarterly company updates contain data and information on customers as well as data on profits, sales and product updates? By bringing this data to the forefront of company updates, you signal to your entire team that the customer is a driving factor in company decisions and planning.
- Talk to the customer yourself. While customer service representatives are typically the ones handling direct customer communication, there’s no reason why others in the company—especially leadership—can’t get involved. Whether that’s hopping on customer service calls, speaking to your most valuable customers, or just listening to customer service interactions and recordings, hearing directly from your customers on a regular basis will keep customer needs and concerns in focus.
- Connect your customer experience goals with other business KPIs. When the entire team can see how the customer experience connects with larger business goals, it accomplishes two things:
1) it builds customer experience into your wider company initiatives, and
2) it shows the value of customer experience as a foundation for other company goals.
- Improve cross-team collaboration and employee satisfaction. Customer-focus requires the initiative and input of every department, not just a select few. As such, leadership must be able to improve cross-team collaboration—both on behalf of the customer directly and indirectly. In addition, improving employee satisfaction is not only good for your employees—it’s good for your customers as well. Companies who focus on their customers at the expense of their employees will eventually find they can’t support the excellent customer service they’re expecting.
Build your team intentionally
With that said, building your team intentionally is essential for strengthening your customer focus as an organization. While all members of your team need to be able to contribute to your goal of customer focus, customer service agents and customer facing staff are especially important.
Customer service agents need to directly foster relational and empathetic connections between your brand and your customers. When customers feel that a brand understands them or relates to them in some way, there are generally strong customer service skills at work behind the scenes.
Look for agents with strong soft skills like compassion, empathy, good listening, understanding, problem-solving and so on. While it’s easy to train agents on necessary software or procedures, training agents to care about customers is more difficult. As such, companies should hire agents who have strong soft skills and then invest in adequate training and resources to improve both soft and hard skills.
Empower your agents
Finally, to improve your customer focus, empower your agents—your front-line customer connection—to care for customers. Agents who are bound to policies and procedures will generally struggle to implement a strong customer focus, because each customer need and experience is unique in some way. Rather than restricting employees to strict protocol, train agents well, and then give them freedom to personalize experiences and create unique solutions for individual customers.
For example, Zappos has long been a customer-obsessed brand, famously allowing employees to do “whatever is needed” to serve a customer. Similarly, Hilton gives employees a set dollar amount per situation that they can use to resolve customer concerns. This gives them boundaries to work within while also allowing them to resolve concerns as they see fit to create happy customers.
Examples of Customer Focused Companies
Speaking of Hilton and Zappos, looking at other customer-focused companies can provide inspiration for how to improve customer experience within your own brand. Here are three examples of brands winning in the customer focus space:
Zappos has often stated their goal is not to be a shoe brand with great customer service—but to be a “customer service brand that happens to sell shoes.” In their quest to become synonymous with customer centricity, they have taken a different path than many brands.
For example, consider what Tony Hseih (founder and former CEO of Zappos) said of their customer service policies:
“Most call centers are set up by policies and so the actual person that’s answering the phone doesn’t really have the ability to do anything. If you…call most customer service places, if you ask for anything that’s not normal they have to talk to a supervisor or just say ‘oh our policy doesn’t allow that’ and whatever. So we generally try to stay away from policies, we just ask our reps to do whatever they feel is the right thing to do for the customer and the company.”
As a result, Zappos was able to reduce customer effort, improve customer service, create loyal customers and establish themselves as a customer focused brand. All by giving service employees freedom to engage with customers in the way they felt the situation warranted.
Netflix is a great example of a brand understanding customer needs and then solving for them—even before the customers knew what they needed.
Netflix’s goal—from the beginning—was to make it easier for consumers to access movies and video content. So they began offering a DVD-by-mail service that allowed subscribers to rent an unlimited number of DVDs by mail. Even though this service continued to grow, Netflix realized that over time, consumers would want easier and easier ways to access content.
Driven by their priority to innovate on behalf of their customers, Netflix invested large amounts of time and money in creating a brand-new streaming service, the likes of which didn’t even exist at the time. Although there wasn’t yet a market for it, Netflix anticipated future customer needs and created the market. Doing so upset even their own business strategy—but provided a customer-focused solution that gave them brand loyalty for years to come.
When it comes to customer focus, Disney is one of the greats. Their famous parks have an exceptionally high 70% return rate for first-time visitors. Customer churn? Disney’s hardly heard of it.
What did Disney do to build such strong customer loyalty? The key lies in the experience—something that anyone who’s been to Disneyland or Disney World can likely attest to. Disney creates incredible customer experiences by:
- listening and incorporating customer feedback
- proactively anticipating customer needs
- designing their experiences with the customer in mind
In just one example, Walt Disney wanted to ensure parks stayed clean and were easy to navigate for visitors. As such, he sent a team of researchers into the park to analyze how far visitors would carry a piece of trash before littering. The answer? About 30 feet. As a result, Disney installed trash cans every 30 feet throughout the parks—of course, carefully designed to blend in with their surroundings, so as not to detract from the immersive experiences Disney provides. Now, visitors don’t have to waste time looking for a trash can and the park stays clean and inviting.
The attention paid to such a small detail is just one example of Disney’s intense customer focus.
Are You Ready To Become Customer Focused?
Becoming a customer-focused brand is not easy, but it is worth the investment.
For brands who commit to focusing on their customers first, there’s ample evidence to suggest that in a few years’ time, they will outperform competitors in terms of customer loyalty, retention, and even profitability.
If you’re ready to become a customer-focused brand but don’t have the internal resources to take you there, consider outsourcing some or all of your customer strategy and service to a team of CX experts. Here at ROI Solutions, we help you create quality customer care and support experiences to aid you in becoming a customer focused brand. Our team takes care of the day-to-day service and support functions, so your team can focus on the customer.
Connect with an expert from ROI Solutions today to see how we can support your goals.