How to scale your business and still be customer-centred

Tip: it’s about listening and understanding the touchpoints that matter most and then engaging in a human-to-human way by being authentic and empathetic.

My grandfather was a very successful businessman. Watching him as I grew up, I was aware of how he knew everyone’s name and exactly what product or service they bought from him.

He always took the time to listen to his customers, make them feel heard, and sometimes even make suggestions that did not serve him but helped the customer.

Many successful businesses are built on this type of personalised service. In today’s Experience Economy, companies succeed when they deliver great, consistent experiences at every step of the customer journey. 

The challenge is to scale this experience as the business grows, especially where there is rapid growth. The CEO or founder may no longer be able to attend to each customer relationship themselves and may leave employees to fill the gap. Too often, though, there is a disconnect as employees are unable to replicate the level of service and experience upon which the CEO or founder built the business.

The sooner a business realises this and makes a concerted effort to better understand their customers’ needs, the more the business growth will be centred around the customer.

To get it right, organisations, first and foremost, need to define clearly who their customers are and understand the ecosystem within which the business operates. While the map you draw might be linear, the ecosystem is not – there are many factors and these all always need to be considered.

Take your customer into consideration and map out the customer journey and the associated service journey. Once you understand each step in the customer journey and the associated operational requirements needed to make it happen, you can determine which interactions require the CEO or founder’s involvement, and which can be delegated to another employee. We can determine the people, processes, and technology needed to make it more efficient.

Equipped with an understanding of the customer journey and associated service journey, and clarity on what is needed at every point in those journeys, businesses can clearly define what the customer experience looks like and what is expected of each employee, so that they deliver on that experience. This should be supported by a rock-solid set of lived values and a clearly defined culture, which also makes it easier to define job roles to align with what is needed to support the overall customer experience.

It’s important that employees stepping into these crucial customer-facing roles are fully inducted into the company culture, and that they have a very clear sense of what is expected of them so that they deliver the requisite customer experience.

These journeys will be unique to each business, but once you understand the steps in your journey, it is easier to build processes and systems that can enable the customer experience and deliver on the business’s promises.

Organisations that have strategic insight into their customers and the operational requirements of their business can more easily determine what technological tools are needed to support business growth. This also enables organisations to establish which points in the customer journey require human interaction and which parts can be automated, to free up internal resources and focus on higher-value work.

To ensure ongoing and proactive growth data gathering, businesses should use reporting and regular feedback loops. These help ensure such data gathering systems are working and the business is constantly listening and responding to its customers and employees.

To give you an example, in a recent client engagement, we mapped out their customer journey and found in excess of 15 points of interaction where the CEO would normally be involved.

After doing a series of client, partner, and employee interviews to understand what the WOW was in the experience, and mapping the customer and service journeys, we gained a deep understanding of each point of interaction. We were able to allocate some of the interactions to other employees and automate others, leaving two critical points where the CEO absolutely had to be involved to ensure we maintained that WOW experience.

This has helped free up time for the CEO to focus on scaling the business without compromising on the excellent customer experience that has helped build up the business to where it is. It has allowed him to work on the business and not just in the business.

In closing, the key thing to remember for any business that is scaling and focusing on being customer-centred is to ground your strategy in realism. Comparing yourself to, say, an Amazon and the like is not realistic. They are inherently customer-centred whereas you becoming customer-centred is a journey you are embarking on.

Set yourself realistic and achievable objectives and timelines; otherwise, customer-centricity will be considered a “failure” – customer-centricity is an inside-out-top-down-long-term business strategy, not a tactic or campaign.

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