Customer centricity has I believe entered the pantheon of buzzwords these days. It seems it’s been on everyone’s lips for a while now.

TUI: classic case of a company saying they are “customer centric”

Yet, surprisingly, some companies are only now coming onto the idea. For most, similarly with digital transformation programmes, progress is invariably slow, if not tortuous. Marketers, with their thin veneer of authenticity, have been pushing through, trying to find tools and shortcuts to “connect” with customers. I laughed the other day when I heard a sponsored ad on a podcast talk about using a fancy marketing automation tool to make “meaningful customer relationships” with customers. It’s as if the tool will do the hard work…

Making customer centricity happen?

I hear two types of typical refrains these days on both ends of the spectrum about the mad rush to being customer centric:

  • it’s really hard for us brands: we need to constantly create meaningful relationships with our customers to make our brand more trustworthy.

or the other hand, there are the cynics saying:

  • don’t be silly: people — especially the shareholders — don’t want to be friends with your company. They just want the product to perform as promised.

Reality is that “it depends” and there’s a time and place for both according to your business and the stakeholders involved. Surely, customers don’t want every brand to become their BFF. But, customers are also evermore wary about marketing messages and manners.

Here are two things that brand marketers would do well to consider in building their ongoing plans:

  1. You are your network. When it comes to building your own personal network, it needs to be done in a way that encourages trust, where the value exchange is significant and mutual. It’s not the same as when you are wishing to build up a massive FMCG brand. However, creating a trustworthy relationship is entirely relevant when considering your inner circle, the key partners and/or important influencers. The more consistent and congruent your relationships, the strong you will become. 
  2. Flex your empathic muscle. When it comes to approaching and/or engaging with a (potential) customer, take the time to listen to them, to think about their context. Why, when and how are they going to want to hear from you? It’s not that every potential customer wants or needs to be “friends” with you. It’s just that you need to foster more trust and make a bona fide effort in creating a value exchange that is mutually beneficial.    

Ultimately, in a market where you have many priorities and masses of people with whom to interact — and where resources are limited — you can’t and mustn’t seek to make all people feel like they’re your best friend all the time. Strategy and selectivity demand a more nuanced approach. Aphorisms can be good for starting the conversation.

“Always give people more than they expect to get”. – Nelson Boswell

“Joy comes from surprise and connection and humanity and transparency and new…” – Seth Godin

“Make the customer the hero of your story.” – Ann Handley

At the end of the day, it’s about execution. My personal and favourite aphorism on customer centricity is: Treat your customers as you would like to be treated.

Aphorisms can be useful, however, they will lead you astray if followed blindly. Being customer centric equals thinking and acting in the shoes of the customer, not in stead of him/her.

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