Take a Family Business Approach to Customer-centricity
Customer-centricity sounds straightforward. The term seems to simply describe a way of conducting business that puts the customers at the center of what an organization does. For most businesses, that much is intuitive. After all, it’s common sense that helping customers is what businesses do and quality customer service wins and keeps good customers.
However, more than a seemingly self-explanatory buzzword, customer-centricity also encompasses the values, culture, and processes (both internal and customer-facing) of a business. To make a company truly customer-centric, often fundamental shifts are needed at every level and in every department. And while it may be daunting to audit and amend every aspect of your business to ensure your customer is the focus, it is worth the effort. In their research, Deloitte found that “client-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer.”
To put it another way, Building a Storybrand author Donald Miller says, “The day we stop losing sleep over the success of our business and start losing sleep over the success of our customers is the day our business will start growing again.”
The family business advantage
The concept of making your customers the center of your business is not a new one. In fact, it is something family businesses have known for a long time. The organizational values needed to support customer-centricity are baked into the approach of family-owned and operated businesses.
In other words, the essential qualities that the word family brings to mind – strong relationships, authentic communication, a “band together” attitude – are also the crux of customer-centricity. Here we’ll explore those characteristics and how they can help grow any type of business.
Becky Galvez, CEO of the family-owned customized apparel company Shop4ties, knows the value of strong relationships in her business. Galves states, “Creating meaningful and long-lasting connections in every part of our business – with our vendors, customers, and each other – is important to us. It’s one of our core values.”
Building your company’s values around relationships will help prioritize the work of empathizing with and understanding your customers – which is the work that lends strength to your connections. It is a commitment, but it is essential to a customer-centric strategy.
Customer relationships and communication go hand in hand. Authenticity, however, is what moves an organization toward customer-centricity. Authentic communication with customers grows from trust and mutual respect, much as it does with those we call family.
Galvez remarks “We take pride in the type of candid conversations we get to have with our customers.” For any business, that sort of dialogue takes effort to cultivate. But a simple place to start is by asking for and elevating your customer’s perspective. Incorporate customer feedback at every stage of the business from idea to development to delivery – not just after the purchase. When customers see the results of their input, they’ll join you in those conversations that will help your business grow.
Teams that band together
In many family businesses, everyone pitches in. Where you would find operational silos, you instead find the original cross-functional team. This structure perfectly supports a customer-centric approach in its inherent agility.
Often real customer-centricity is stymied by information silos and employees who don’t feel empowered to make decisions that can benefit the customers. Cross-functional teams, however, have the ability and agency to innovate and problem solve. Like a business version of the Swiss Family Robinson, these flexible teams are better equipped to meet customer needs as they evolve.
You don’t need to be a family business to adopt a customer-centric approach for yours. How it looks will depend a great deal on your business and your customers. But you can test these strategies out, and if they fit, start reaping the benefits.