June 30, 2016 | By

How Customer Centricity Differs From A Customer Focused Approach

If you’re involved in customer relationship management and the culture of customer experience, then you’re probably familiar with many of the various approaches and philosophies of how a business could or should interact with its customers. The lines between many of these approaches are blurred and it is often difficult to see the differences that exist between many of them. Two of these customer relationship approaches, which are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly so), are customer-centric and customer focused approaches. You may have run across these terms yourself and, while they embody a very similar core philosophy, they offer different methodologies for their execution.

Indeed both are quite similar and even a simple Google search will show that some of the most experienced CX veterans have been put to task trying to explain the differences. Both see the customer as the most important factor in the success of an organization and both recognize that an organization’s actions should revolve around meeting customer needs. It might be best to think of it as a difference between being reactive and proactive to customer needs.

The Reactive Mindset of a Customer Focused Approach

Customer-focused organizations will often structure their sales departments to maximize their conversions and, as a result, their ROI. These organizations observe their rivals’ actions and measure their own customers’ behaviors to see where they can optimize for greater sales. The idea is that by providing a level of service that is slightly better or perhaps lower prices than that of their competition, they can get more business from existing customers and generate sales from new customers. Organizations that apply a customer focused approach tend to be more reactive to fulfilling customer needs, making adjustments based on more obvious visible indicators such as those which arrive in the form of complaints, metric data, or search analysis. This often results in sales departments being designed and trained to discover buyer pain points, offering solutions that are pinpointed to those needs. Essentially, addressing customer needs and expectations only occurs when it serves the interests of the organization’s obligations and goals.

How Centricity Contributes to Proactive Engagement

An organization which embodies a customer centric approach anticipates what their customers are looking for. They want to immerse themselves in the process of thinking like their customers to understand how they can improve their products and services to meet customer needs. These organizations often explore ways to satisfy their customers’ needs while also providing good value in their services. This makes for a far more pleasant purchasing experience for their customers, boosting reputation and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). Organizations who adopt this approach rely on the satisfaction of their customers to drive loyalty with existing customers, generate word of mouth, and provide a large influx of organic sales.

Essentially, these companies believe that by demonstrating to the outside world a customer-first culture within their organization and by investing heavily in refining the customer experience that profits will increase from an expanding and loyal customer base. This usually means that these companies also invest heavily in talent and in the people they employ, empowering them to make decisions and contribute in whatever way they can to addressing customer issues and needs. Everything about the organization’s culture resonates and surrounds the success of the customer and how members of the organization were able to help them succeed. By putting people at the forefront of the conversation, both employees and clients, the organization is able to foster an environment where customer needs area anticipated and problems are solved before they happen. Employees feel their role is to create innovative ways to make the customers’ experiences more pleasurable and exciting and customers are delighted by it as a result.

Understanding Your Customers’ Needs: Emotion vs. Observation

In the world of acting there are many styles and methods which actors use to hone and perform their craft. There is one in particular, aptly named “Method Acting”, which was developed by Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. Strasberg’s version of “The Method” teaches that an actor must take on the external mannerisms of the character, such as movement and speech, and from this the character will eventually develop at least from an outside perspective. Stanford Meisner, who was also heavily influenced by Stanislavski and developed his own system, believed that an actor has to embody the emotions of the character and formulated a system of emotional exercises to assist actors in reaching this point. While their goals are the same, the two methods offer very different approaches and similarly to customer centric versus customer focused, one concentrates on adopting external behaviors while the other attempts to become the character from within. When it comes to business and organizational culture, it is the difference between giving the impression you care about customers by taking on external behaviors and empathizing emotionally with their needs. Only once you are able to empathize with your customers can you truly recognize, meet, and exceed their expectations.

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