Creating the ultimate customer-centric environment in 2018

Katja Forbes

Katja is the founder of syfte, a specialist inr esearch and experience design. She's also an educator in design thinking and interaction design at the University of Sydney and proud to be a co-founding member and local leader in Sydney of the global community organisation, Interaction Design Association. Together with Joe Ortenzi, Katja has built a community of over 1700 designers in Sydney, providing them with learning opportunities via lecture based meetups that draw a crowd of 150 people each time, a mentoring program and workshops. In addition, Katja is passionate about sharing her story and advice to empower other women in business. She has given presentations at Women In Design, Leaders in Heels, Women In Commerce, Code like a Girl (Melbourne Knowledge week) and at multiple organisations including Telstra and Macquarie Bank.

All businesses today that are serious about being successful have adopted a customer-centric environment.   

This concept, covering all industries and all types of businesses, means that the customer ultimately comes first with an experience to remember. In fact, the customer experience is considered at all levels and touch points of the business, not just at the transaction.

As a result, an entire profession has been created around achieving the ultimate personalised customer experience for each business. So how can businesses create a customer-centric environment, and how it can be done in a way that offers customer experiences that will be remembered?

The customer experience refers to the experience that a customer receives at every single touchpoint with a particular business. Therefore, the transaction itself is only a small part of the bigger picture.

The experience begins when a customer first notices the business, and then the business’ interaction through social media and advertising channels (coinciding with what was traditionally the domain of marketing departments), the purchasing transaction itself, and of course the way the business maintains contact after the transaction. Successful businesses know that repeat customers are much more cost effective and lucrative than gaining new customers all the time, so the customer experience is crucial, rather than just profitable.

Customer-centric environments have a few traits in common. To begin with, these put the customer first, at all occasions. The business goes above and beyond what the customer expects, and this is what keeps customers returning, even if the competition is cheaper. 

The business also delivers an extremely personalised experience using data it has collected over time. Generally, the same advice applies across all industries: a customer likes to feel special during their interaction with your business. The experience should be memorable, and this depends on a number of factors including how customers approach and engage with your business, how your staff and team members behave toward your customers and how you maintain contact with your customers after their experience.

Very small and simple tricks like addressing customers by their name can make a difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary experience. However, nowadays we have technology that enables us to find out a lot more about our customers. For example, we have the capacity to know what exactly our customers purchase from us each time, how frequently they engage with us. The bigger question organisations now need to ask themselves is this: How do we utilise this information to create the ultimate customer experience that in turn will create repeat business for us?

A great deal of other technological concepts aimed at customer experience are gaining momentum and will continue to do so early next year. Augmented reality is just one of these concepts that will dominate the business landscape.

As a trial of sorts, augmented reality proved extremely successful with the roll-out of the Pokémon Go game.  In this game, an image is placed as a hologram over a shot of your environment. To see the holographic image, the viewer needs to be looking through the lens of his phone. 

While Pokémon Go is a game, this concept opens up a world of possibility to businesses. For example, retail businesses can allow customers the ability to experience a  truly unique customer experience, whereby customers can place an image of the object they are considering  buying (a couch for example) over a previously taken photo of their environment (such as their living room) to see how the item looks.

At the end of the day, customers want to know who they are spending their money with, and showing them the business owner provides the ultimate customer-centric environment. They like the fact that their kids go to the same school as the kids of their bank manager, and they enjoy bumping into their hairdresser or accountant at the supermarket. A CEO sitting in an ivory tower who has no means of communication with customers is a thing of the past.

Perhaps this loyalty provides a sense of security in a world where nothing is certain anymore. The way we live now has been influenced by the Internet and social media.  After all, we can contact the President of the United States on Twitter if we want. Yet ironically, all we want to do is purchase annual worming tablets from our local vet and wish her Happy Birthday while we are there. That, for me, is a true customer-centric environment. 

Regardless of industry, businesses that choose to operate without considering their end user, ignoring a customer-centric environment and instead deciding to focus on other business objectives, are not going to succeed. A plethora of social media and technological creations are available to make the goal of creating a unique customer experience a reality. It’s would be professional suicide to any business that does not attempt to create a customer-centric environment not to take advantage of them today.

Tags: customer engagement, customer experience management, customer centricity

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