Five ways to build a company in which customers come first

Your Guide to a “Customers Come First” Company

Customers are the lifeblood of every business. It, therefore, stands to reason that businesses should constantly be on the lookout for ways to make themselves more amenable to customers — and, specifically, creating an environment in which the customer comes first. In a business environment that is more competitive than ever, this is essential for building a company or organization that keeps people coming back. Unfortunately, it’s not something every business does.

From creating a customer-conducive culture to gathering information like Customer Effort Scores (CES), here are five ways businesses can make themselves more customer-friendly. 

#1. Make it a (genuine) part of your corporate values and vision

Companies aren’t just collections of individual employees acting in isolation. They come with their own culture, and this is often the result of the example set by those at the top. Company cultures can be positive or toxic, reflecting the kinds of employee traits that are encouraged and, ultimately, rewarded. 

If a business operator or owner truly wants customer service to be placed front and center in terms of priority, they should make it clear that this is a central piece of the company’s founding values — and not in a way that’s simply about paying lip service to a noble idea. 

In addition to ensuring this commitment to a customer-focused culture starts at the top, also ensure that you invest in the appropriate training for employees, and then recognize (ideally, publicly) and reward particularly praiseworthy examples of this behavior.

#2. Solicit feedback

Once you’ve got a customer’s money, there’s no need to continue to engage them, right? For many reasons, this is patently untrue. Whether it’s trying to create long-term repeat customers by making them feel valued, establishing good word of mouth through relationship building, or simply wanting to learn ways to improve as a business, after-sales feedback is essential. 

After all, customers are perfect for providing objective assessments from an audience who have demonstrably proven to be interested in what it is that you’re selling. Measures such as Customer Effort Scores (CES) are essential here; providing a clear way for companies to garner feedback. CES as a measure indicates how easy customers found their interaction with a particular company, based on a numerical scale. 

Of course, to gather feedback from customers you also need to…

#3. Make it easy for customers to reach you

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and former CEO of trillion dollar tech giant Apple, made his steve@apple.com email address public knowledge so that any customer could contact him. He actually answered messages, too. Today, that same practice is continued by Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, who has run Apple for the past decade. What can people learn from this? That a customer-friendly business should make it easy for customers to get in touch — whether that’s to praise the services being offered, make recommendations, or even voice complaints. 

With that in mind, companies should make it as easy as possible for customers to communicate with them. That means staying in tune with the myriad communication platforms available (not just emails and web forms, but social media as well) and which communication methods your demographic of customers are most likely to want to use. 

Businesses should do a good job of publicizing the different communication channels available, as well as endeavoring to respond as quickly as possible. For many customers, response time will serve as a proxy for how much you value them.

#4. Offer rewards to show you care

You can’t bribe a customer into a genuine love of your brand, but you can certainly show that you appreciate customers by offering initiatives such as loyalty programs and referral schemes. Companies reportedly spend upward of 5x as much acquiring new customers as they do retaining existing ones. 

That means that, even if you’re offering a product or service that could appeal to large numbers of people, you’re better off trying to ensure repeat customers than constantly focusing all your efforts on acquiring new ones. This is especially true since established customers are more likely to spend more on a company than new customers: the result of trust levels increasing, allowing for upselling to take place.

#5. Show that you’ll change

No, this doesn’t mean that you should blow in the wind according to every single new idea that is suggested by a customer — but it does mean that putting feedback into action is important. After all, it’s one thing to gather feedback from customers; another to make the necessary changes to reflect both the good and bad responses you receive. Every company can improve to some extent. 

Being stubborn and refusing to reevaluate what you’re doing doesn’t do anyone any favors. That goes for both you (the company) and the customers you’re eager to court.

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