Beyond Products: How Brands Are Cultivating Trust in the Age of Customer-Centricity
In the last few decades, the market has witnessed a gradual power shift between brands and consumers. Previously, brands would work on their ideas and develop a product or service that they believed would help customers. Now, brands are taking notes and working on innovating and devising products and services that customers believe in. By conscientiously creating offerings to make consumers feel valued and needed, brands foster greater customer centricity.
Today’s Era Requires a Customer-Centric Approach
Prioritizing the customer above everything is no longer a fresh concept in terms of marketing, but it remains the most crucial of all. Being customer-centric allows brands to develop trust and a sense of reliability in the eyes of their customers.
Many companies that boasted being customer-centric in the pre-COVID era failed to deliver on their promises once the situation turned grave. Customers all over the globe realized that most brands didn't have a plan B or plan C to ensure the convenience of purchase and a thorough customer service experience in case of a natural calamity such as COVID-19. How could they though? It was an unprecedented situation that completely shook the world. Whether it was helping customers virtually or providing them with detailed information on the product/service pre- and post-sale, most B2C and B2B brands struggled to ensure quality assistance in remote setups.
Consequently, brands faced revenue loss and an unfortunate erosion in reputation even though the quality of products/services was up to the mark.
Customer-centricity attracts brand loyalty, and in return, the frequency of purchases increases and so does positive word-of-mouth marketing. The positive consequences help the brand earn respect and a good reputation in the eyes of consumers.
Helping Brands Excel in Customer-Centricity
A brand or business is termed customer-centric when it puts forth the customer’s requirements above everything. All the strategies and important decisions are centered around the customer’s convenience and need.
The following 10 important factors can help a brand excel in the department of customer-centricity:
- Anticipate customers’ needs beforehand. Many companies spend a lot of time and money hiring analysts who can help understand a typical consumer’s mindset. Brands that can predict a trend have a business advantage over their counterparts. Innovating in areas that can guarantee convenience for the end user surely makes it to the top of a consumer’s purchase preference. Many companies are turning to artificial intelligence-backed tools to gauge and understand future market dependencies.
- Express empathy and concern. A brand that wishes to ensure a good reputation should invest in building a customer service team that's trained to handle clients in emotional distress. Listening and being empathetic to a customer’s predicament instills trust in the customer’s mind. This, followed by an effective solution to the issue, creates a positive customer experience and thereby leads to brand loyalty. Commerce with compassion is a key step to achieving customer-centricity.
- Deliver exemplary customer service. Customer service, at times, is single-handedly responsible for classifying a brand as customer-centric or the contrary. Brands that emphasize a pleasant customer experience during the sale and strive to retain the same kind of vibrations and impressions post-sale are truly valued. Outstanding customer service is a mélange of flexible and empathetic interactions at all touchpoints, effective solutions, fast response time, and customization.
- Stay flexible. Today's consumers like short and simple interactions. Brands that can provide frictionless customer-agent interactions at all touchpoints will earn themselves a favorable reputation. Flexibility also involves being present on multiple channels for easy and interruption-free conversations. According to Comm100, millennials prefer live chat for fast and convenient customer service, so it’s no wonder that many organizations have implemented a live chat experience.
- Offer personalized experiences. Personalized experiences are essential to achieve customer-centricity. If a brand fails to create an experience that suits the customer’s time and convenience, the brand is most likely to lose its customer to one of its competitors. Also, personalization isn't restricted to experiences. A customer-centric brand imbibes personalization through its promotional content, products and services. For instance, skincare giant Clinique came up with a moisturizing lotion that can be customized to suit the specific skin requirements of the user. One can add up to five booster cartridges of their choice.
- Ensure ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is one of the most difficult goals to achieve for a brand aiming at customer-centricity. Conducting business in compliance with the resident country’s laws and regulations isn't an obstacle-free path. When a company still chooses to do it, it becomes customer-centric and earns brand loyalty for life.
- Maintain transparency and honesty. Customer-centric brands practice honesty and transparency while listing product/service features on their website or chosen platform of communication. They also encourage communication which sheds light on hidden charges, and prices inclusive of taxes and shipping.
- Enlist affordable and user-friendly products/services. Purchase price and user friendliness are two important decision-making aspects for consumers. Today’s consumers are smart and quick to understand when a product or service is priced unjustly — or even justly for that matter. When a product/service is reasonably priced, the brand attracts affinity from a large group of consumers. In addition to this, the complexity level of operating a certain product also proves to be crucial if a customer has purchased it to save time.
- Provide omnichannel support. If a brand wants to stay ahead of its customers, it must ensure an omnichannel support system. Modern customer engagement tools can mobilize and personalize customer journeys across multiple channels. For example, live chats, social media, offline and online messaging systems, calls, and emails. According to Microsoft, most customers continue to use three to five channels to get their issues resolved, so it doesn’t look like the omnichannel experience is going away anytime soon.
- Respect your consumer’s privacy. There's a fine line between approaching customers about their preferences and harassing them to leverage their data for business gains. When a brand makes a conscious choice to respect the customer’s privacy and actively protects sensitive or classified data, it becomes customer-centric.
Acknowledge Customer Expectations
Today's consumers are more informed and more selective than their predecessors. This indicates that companies should step up their game and meet these ever-evolving expectations — or risk losing out to their competitors.
Furthermore, customer expectations are often based on past experiences. A true customer-centric brand will work meticulously to rise to the occasion by diminishing past biases, meeting new expectations, and even exceeding them in some cases.
Sohaib Ahmed is senior director of CX program strategy at HGS, the leader in digital-led customer experience and business process management.
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Sohaib Ahmed is Senior Director of CX Program Strategy at HGS, the leader in digital-led customer experience and business process management, where he builds relationships with marketplaces and connects companies with comprehensive CX solutions. His expertise spans cloud communications, automation, AI, and lean operations to provide technological and operational insights. Prior to HGS, Sohaib served in a technology strategy consulting role covering North America and EMEA with Accenture specializing in the BFSI, retail, and energy sectors. Sohaib holds a master's degree in computer science.