7 Tips for Creating a Customer-Centric Organization
Client Satisfaction is more important than ever. No matter what industry you are in, customers will make comments—online and off—that affect the future of your business. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to prioritize Customer Success (CS) and teach their teams to deliver exceptional service that builds meaningful relationships with clients.
“In the age of transparency, [client] trust in traditional Advertising messages has waned while their trust in the opinions of friends, bloggers and online comments and postings of those they consider reliable sources of influence has increased,” writes Jeb Blount in his book, “People Love You.”
Blount goes on to explain that this change puts “advocacy, referrals, and personal recommendations on a new pedestal of importance.” Potential customers are going to believe the things they hear and read about your business. These comments will affect their decision to buy your products or services. You must take steps to ensure that when clients are talking about your company, they are saying GOOD things. Here is how to deliberately create a customer-centric organization that builds long-lasting client relationships, and in turn, a solid reputation.
1. Make It Easy to Work with You
To create a successful CS organization, you need to be nimble and flexible on processes and services. Of course, there will always be elements that an organization must keep intact to function, such as using a CRM system, maintaining your service-level agreements and setting critical operational processes.
However, there are definitely variables that you can augment to make working with your partners easier. Although we have Insertion Orders and campaign order templates available, we allow clients to use their own order templates or work from email if they prefer. We also offer self-service and managed service models and make it easy for businesses to modify approaches.
We adapt to our clients’ workflows, rather than expecting them to change for us. For example, some of our customers have one point of contact, who we speak to weekly. Others prefer us to set up multiple calls with various stakeholders. We are fine with that!
That said, we don’t sacrifice our core values or overpromise—a common mistake entrepreneurs make, especially in the technology industry. It is not feasible to say “yes” to every one-off request. You can be easy to work with without changing your value proposition.
2. Be Flexible Internally, Too
Don’t be afraid to try new things as you consider how to best support your customers. We restructured our CS team multiple times to find what works best. At first, we divided our team by type of client. Then, we moved to a regional structure, in which team members support all clients within a particular region. This makes it easier to build strong relationships because our team understands the nuances of each region.
3. Build to Scale
As you adopt processes, think of how they will translate as you grow your team from 5 to 50, to 100 and beyond. When I started my most recent job eight years ago, it was hard to imagine the 275-person operation we run today. I have had to rethink big things like my communication strategy, and smaller things, like our seating chart.
Getting the whole team together for weekly check-ins is easy when you are small, but with 120 people across the country, even a virtual meeting is a scheduling nightmare. Now we use Slack for team announcements.
In the past, departmental meetings were simple, but as our team grew we had to scale and install a new process. We also use Slack for these meetings and follow up through team level meetings with innovative ways to re-instill the importance of the information at hand.
Be deliberate with all your decisions, even the team’s seating arrangement. Last year, I told our regional directors I didn’t care how they arranged the floor. Turns out I did. We ended up rearranging desks three times in one day—quite the disruption. We laugh about it now, but it reminded me that seemingly small decisions matter when you are growing a team. (It also taught me that even though I don’t want to be involved in every decision, I do expect to be kept in the loop.)
4. Be a Servant Leader
Your team can’t support your customers unless they are supported themselves. Robert Greenleaf coined the concept of “servant leadership” in the 1970s. He believed managers get the best work from their team by empowering and serving them. I do this by making sure Managers have everything they need to do their job and the ability to make decisions without dealing with red tape. This has a trickle-down effect: I empower my team and they empower theirs. Our CS professionals are encouraged to seek out solutions, pool ideas with the entire department, and be creative in how to best serve the client.
5. Remove the Element of Fear
If your employees are disgruntled, customers feel it. You need all your employees, especially the CS team, to feel invested and secure. To do so, make it OK to fail. Tell your team (and show your team) that if they make a mistake, you will be there to correct it and to put processes in place to prevent it from happening again. As a Business owner, accept mistakes are going to occur, especially if you are encouraging people to make bold, swift decisions.
6. Create a Bond Strong Enough to Withstand Problems
Author Stephen Covey coined the concept of the Emotional Bank Account to describe “the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.” You need to invest in your relationships with employees and clients so they trust you—even when there are problems.
Customer Success means owning the “Sale after the Sale,” and sometimes, that means conflict resolution. At my company, that could mean a client is unhappy because a campaign didn’t perform as expected or an ad didn’t render properly. But because we have strong emotional connections with our customers, they trust us to reconcile the issue. A small setback doesn’t terminate our relationship.
To build this level of trust, you need to understand your clients’ goals. Ask them about their objectives and challenges. Understand the environment they operate in and how their success is evaluated. This sort of fact-finding takes soft skills so coach your team to communicate effectively and read body language and tone.
7. Hire with Care
You can’t perfect CS unless you have the right people. Be painstaking about your hiring. At my company, we don’t extend an offer unless we have unanimous consent from our interview panel. When hiring with CS in mind, look for people with exceptional communication skills and the ability to learn quickly and navigate conflict. I think these attributes, along with culture fit, matter more than industry experience.
Want to grow your company? Make it a CS-centric one. This is how you will turn new clients into loyal customers, or better yet, advocates who will help turn prospects into business.