For 73% of buyers, customer experience is a deciding factor when making purchasing decisions. Some of the customer experience factors that play the biggest role are convenience, friendliness, and a brand people can align with, but they all have an underlying theme that businesses should really care about.
That theme is that customers want a business that focuses on their needs and puts them first.
At first glance, this can seem too obvious to need mentioning. Every business owner knows they need to cater to their customers, so what does that even mean?
Well, even though it’s easy to understand on an intuitive level, actually implementing a customer-focused business model is a different story. A business is always facing temptations in terms of cutting costs, trying to embellish certain aspects of their offers, or even using aggressive sales methods that might provide a short-term boost in sales.
While these strategies can generate sales, they usually end up causing more harm than good, and companies with a customer focus throughout their entire business model usually come out on top.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the essential aspects of a customer-focused business and why it’s necessary.
What Defines a Customer-Focused Business?
A customer-focused company is defined by its unyielding pursuit of meeting every demand and expectation its audience might have. Businesses using this model will never prioritize short-term wins over long-term values and will put their customers at the very center of all their efforts.
To truly make customer focus your primary objective, you will need to develop a close relationship with your customers and your audience in general. You will need to learn to listen, to accept criticism, and to make an effort in meeting the ever-increasing demands that will sometimes take a lot of resources to meet and exceed.
But as a business, you will be rewarded by customers who will see the value in doing business with you and will not turn to the competition at the first opportunity, increasing your customer retention.
An important thing to understand when employing a customer-centric approach is that it’s a continuous process and not something that you can work on and then leave it be.
As you learn more about your audience, you will become more aware of their needs, but you will probably always have things you can improve, mistakes you can correct, or priorities you might need to shift to really stay in line with what your best customers need from you.
Why You Should Take a Customer-Centric Approach
If you operate in a competitive eCommerce market, you may be wondering whether a customer-focused business model is feasible in your situation. After all, if your competitors are more aggressive and more willing to pursue profits, won’t they eventually push you out of the marketplace?
Well, even though that may seem like the likely outcome at first glance, the opposite is actually true.
The unique benefits that a customer focus across your entire business can bring far outweigh any potential limitations. That’s especially true if you stay consistent and build a reputation that your audience can associate with.
To really bring home the advantages of a customer-focused eCommerce business model, let’s look at some of the main benefits it can offer.
It’s More Profitable Long Term
Although it might not be apparent at first, focusing on providing the best possible experience to every customer does actually bring in more profits over the long term.
That’s because, for every short-term opportunity that you might miss, you will be more than rewarded with an increase in customer loyalty, more purchases from repeat customers, and an overall increase in customer lifetime value.
Easier to Attract New Customers
While repeat customers are a significant part of the right type of customer focus, that doesn’t mean you can’t expect to bring in the very best new customers as well.
As you start building a reputation as a business that cares about its customers and goes the extra mile to make them happy, people will want to work with you even without you having to actively promote your store.
Differentiate Your Brand
Finally, as an eCommerce brand, you must find ways to separate yourself from the competitors and develop an identity that gets people to choose you. This is especially relevant because you’re not just competing against similarly-sized stores but also against multi-billion dollar giants like Walmart and Amazon.
If customers know you have their back and won’t try to trick them for a quick buck, they might be willing to pay a little extra for your products just to experience the extraordinary customer service you bring to the table.
Essential Steps for Building a Customer-Focused Business
Adopting an approach based on customer focus can have a dramatic impact on your success. But figuring out how to incorporate the fundamental principles of customer-focused businesses isn’t as straightforward as investing more into your support team.
However, there are steps you will need to take to build a company that values customers. So let’s look at a few of the most important ones below.
Start with Understanding Your Audience Needs
A customer-focused business must put the needs of its customers above all else. So it’s only natural that such a business needs to have a deep understanding of who their customers are and their most pressing concerns.
And that’s where many eCommerce stores fall short. The lack of in-person interaction that comes with online selling means that many store owners end up relying on assumptions instead of actual data about their audience. And that can create a disconnect between what the customer really needs and what the brand assumes they need.
But how can you overcome this?
Well, the only real solution is to use voice-of-customer data to figure out precisely what your audience wants and how you should provide it. Sure, this approach does take time and effort, but the rewards it can offer far outweigh any resources you might have to allocate.
The best way to collect VOC (Voice-of-Customer) data is to conduct one-on-one interviews. Whether in-person or through a webcam, these types of interviews with recent customers can be an invaluable resource when trying to determine exactly what they prefer in a brand, what products they like, and even what language they use to express their concerns.
If you want to reach a larger sample size, you could run surveys to your subscriber list, asking specific questions about who they are, what’s important to them, and what types of products they want you to offer.
Finally, if you need to get a quick answer to a specific question, such as which segment of your audience comes from a particular traffic source, you can always run an on-site poll.
Listen to Your Customers
Learning to listen to your customers can become the biggest driving force behind shifting towards a customer-focused business model. That’s because your customers are the people your business is actually designed for, and therefore they should have a strong say in the types of decisions you end up making.
By running customer surveys and collecting feedback on multiple channels, you can discover that many of the assumptions you made were actually wrong. You may also find that some of your processes are inefficient and require restructuring if you want to avoid disappointing buyers.
Regularly measuring customer satisfaction will ensure that whenever something goes wrong or stops working, you will know about it quickly and can address it before it snowballs into having a negative effect on your company’s reputation.
Another way to use customer feedback is to leverage your audience to test new ideas and approaches. Making even seemingly minor changes can have big consequences, so having a way to test out whether your best customers like the changes can help make decisions with much more confidence.
Finally, if you make it a priority to collect and listen to feedback, your customers will appreciate the effort as well. Today’s consumers want to buy from companies that are willing to improve. Knowing that you are willing to listen and implement changes will separate you from most competitors in your market.
Few things are as frustrating to customers as discovering that a company is not transparent about its practices. Whether it’s hidden fees, shady marketing strategies, or even avoidance of addressing problems, customers will quickly turn on a company that tries to deceive them or mistreats them.
For instance, if a company constantly runs fake promotions that advertise massive discounts using inflated original prices, the customers will quickly catch on and make a note to avoid that shop in the future. Comparing prices is now easier than ever, so while you don’t necessarily have to always have the lowest price, you should be mindful about trying to deceive your audience.
Another common issue is shipping fees. You don’t want to surprise your customers with additional fees at the end of the checkout process, as that will discourage many from buying. Instead, either be upfront about the shipping and other costs involved or factor them into the price and offer free shipping, which can make buying much easier.
However, don’t use it as a trick, either. As a customer-focused business, you should be upfront about the fact that you factored in the shipping costs into the price, which will be appreciated by your store’s visitors and make them trust you more, which is crucial if you want to make your eCommerce customers happy.
Prioritize Top-Quality Customer Service
The importance of good customer service cannot and should not be understated. Even a few negative experiences can snowball into an onslaught of bad reviews, negative publicity on social media, and a plummeting reputation that will be very hard to restore.
Mogo had to find this out the hard way. New customers just weren’t getting answers and help fast enough, and soon, their review pages were littered with complaints about slow and unresponsive support.
Luckily, Mogo had management that was willing to recognize its shortcomings and put their customers’ happiness above all else.
Instead of trying to hide the problem, the company addressed it head-on and completely rehauled their entire customer support experience, providing customers with multiple ways to reach them and making sure that the waiting times were significantly reduced as well.
This way, they could turn a negative into a huge success story that won over customers who were on the fence and allowed the company to separate itself from others in its field.
But how can you ensure that your customer support is on par with your audience’s expectations?
Well, the easiest and most efficient path is using a customer support outsourcing service that can provide you with the people, the tools, and the best practices to put you in a position to succeed.
Measure Customer Satisfaction
Finally, if you want to become a company with a strong customer focus, you will need to have a reliable method for tracking how customers respond to various decisions you make around your marketing, product selection, and branding.
We already discussed the importance of performing surveys and interviews, but while that can provide many insights, you need a method to measure happiness on a larger scale.
And that’s where measuring customer satisfaction comes into play. There are a few methods you can use, each of them offering unique insights that can help you cater to your customers’ needs better.
First, you have the NPS or Net Promoter Score, which measures customer satisfaction as well as their likelihood to recommend (or “promote”) your business to their friends and family.
Another good way to measure customer satisfaction is the Customer Effort Score (CES), which provides insights about how easy (or difficult) it was for the user to complete an action, such as going through the checkout or navigating products.
Finally, the Customer Satisfaction Score (or CSAT) can help you evaluate the overall experience your customers are having. You can even add a space for feedback that might give you additional insights about what they are happy or unhappy about.
Building a customer-focused business is a process that takes time and effort. But the long-term rewards it can offer an eCommerce store are hard to ignore, so it’s definitely something to consider if you want to separate yourself from the competitors and ensure that people stay with your brand for longer.
By listening to your customers, finding ways to measure their happiness, and making sure that your customer service is there to help, you can build long-lasting relationships that will help you build a successful business that your customers will be happy to recommend to their circle.