Meet your new boss, the customer!

The customer is king” is probably one of most overused clichés in business having been recited in Boardrooms and offices for decades to the point where the message is almost taken for granted and arguably, has lost much of its impact. If all companies were putting their customers first, we would already be completely customer centric. A recent report by KPMG1 which explored the top 10 issues Australia’s business leaders in 2019, suggests there is still a long way to go.

Digital transformation overload

The number 1 challenge in this area is surprisingly, Digital Transformation, a term that has crept into the daily lexicon of businesses in recent years. Often used in combination with tech or innovation projects, it is easy to see why it has become associated with developing a shiny new website or app. But as the authors of the KPMG report suggest, digital transformation does not always mean a slick new gadget – it is more about the way customer interaction connects through the entire organisation (and back again). So, businesses also need to look at processes, culture, supply chain and more for the key to putting customer needs first and ultimately, running a successful business.

In August 2018, research company Gartner2 issued their assessment of ‘digital transformation in Australia’ and found that project ambition often outstripped performance. By being too ‘try hard’ with over-complicated technical features, your business is in danger of losing sight of what customers really need. If it doesn’t help them have a positive experience with your company, the chances are you won’t see them again.

Knowing your customer; the first step to success

For digital transformation projects to be successful, it is important to focus on what the customer values, wants or needs. If you know what is important to them, and you can improve their experience through the project, you will increase your chances of success. To understand what customers value, want and need, businesses first need to talk to their customers, which means you need to know who your customers are.

On the face of it, it may seem simple to answer, but the reality often lies within multiple customer spreadsheets, folders or worse, a ‘database’ saved on someone’s desktop. Having one source of truth for customers, their profile, purchasing history, preferences and more, is a simple, first move into successful digital business transformation.

From a marketing perspective, businesses who have this information readily available, are usually much more successful in engaging and informing their customers. In reality however, businesses are relying on multiple sources, their memory or social media networks as a customer database.

Digitally driven operational improvements such as automated processes, removal of data entry and integrating systems will all positively enhance the customer experience. Whether that translates to better customer service, faster turnaround times, or other efficiencies, these improvements will provide a marketable competitive edge – but only if your customer values them.

Understanding your customer, their values and needs

Understanding your customer profile also helps inform your digital landscape and shapes how to most effectively utilise each channel. with purpose, far beyond just having a website and ‘being on’ Facebook.

Knowing which channels customers use and why, what type of content they want to read or view, and which digital channels are best at driving demand generation, are the collective key to digital success.

Digital transformation isn’t always about something new. With predominantly free access to real-time web analytics for example, companies can continually improve the user experience by analysing the behaviour of their visitors. On-going optimisation will also help to build on existing foundations rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Within KPMG’s report, Customer Centricity is identified as an issue in its own right. The digital age has given people more choice, knowledge and access to information, meaning they expect more. To meet these demands, businesses again need to understand what their customers value, want and need. On the face of it this is nothing new, but it can be confusing to determine.

In another KPMG study that focussed on customer needs, the stand out trend was that customers want to pay less – don’t we all! As the report outlines, if every business ran with that, it would be a race to the bottom which isn’t sustainable or practical.

In order to delve deeper and put aside the cost-focussed aspect of customer preferences, businesses should instead establish what their customers like and don’t like about a service or product, and explore what needs are being met and which remain unfulfilled. One example could be learning more about how they use tools such as your website. Through customer research and regular observations, businesses can cost-effectively build up a list of customer preferences by segment or group and rank them against importance.

Hand-in-hand with brand

This plays a vital role in your branding too, as a truly customer centric company will not just position their visual identity to be appealing to their customer, they will also factor in the company’s ethics, values and actions to consistently meet with their customers’ ideals.

Another interesting issue cited within the report was Public Trust; moreover, the need to be trusted by their customers, community and employees. The perception of businesses is that they function to serve their shareholders or owners, but in a world where customers have more choice and higher expectations, the businesses that treat their customers like a boss, will inevitably also gain more trust.

Sources:
1 – https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/au/pdf/2018/issues-facing-australian-leaders-2019-outlook.pdf
2 – https://www.gartner.com/doc/3885879/digital-business-transformation-australia-perspective

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