Tips on Becoming a Customer-Oriented Company
How do you manage to stand out in an anonymous crowd of interchangeable products and companies? Or in other words: How do I turn one-time customers into loyal, regular ones? The solution is obvious, but it brings with it several challenges. When a high-quality product alone is no longer enough, convenience and service must give you a competitive advantage. The keyword is, therefore: customer orientation!
Customer Orientation — a Definition
Customer-oriented companies align all market-relevant measures to the needs and problems of their customers. The term customer orientation is sometimes used as a synonym for the focus on the customer, but orientation goes much further. Although customer orientation is also focused on the customer, the customer is here not just the focus, but rather a trend-setting and decisive factor.
Customer loyalty is achieved by recording and analyzing the wishes, needs, and expectations of customers at regular intervals. The insights gained from the analysis are then implemented in every business area, from marketing to offers, products, and services. Understanding the customer experience is an important foundation for further action. The aim is to establish long-term customer relationships or, even better: retention!
Customer Orientation in Detail
The structure of customer orientation is divided into two levels, the information and the customer level.
Companies that work in a customer-oriented manner collect comprehensive information about buyers. The following questions serve to help get this:
- What do you know about the customers?
- What information is collected?
- How can the lessons learned get translated into product and service solutions?
At the information level, internal processes are also examined:
- How is the collected information internally stored?
- How convenient is this data-gathering solution for employees?
- Does every employee have access to the information?
This shows how fundamental interaction between individual divisions such as Marketing, Production, and Sales really is. Only if all the departments are interlinked can the company as a whole build up a successful customer orientation.
At the customer level, all the factors which play a role from the customer’s point of view are decisive for the customer orientation of a company. These factors include, for example:
- Product quality
- Quality of service
- Flexibility in delivery of service
- Qualification of sellers
- Reliability and friendliness of the workforce
This all-around package must be authentically lived by a company in order for a customer to feel connected to it.
Customer Orientation, Customer Focus, and Customer-Centricity – What Are the Differences?
If you know the definition of customer orientation, you could be forgiven for thinking that customer focus and customer-centricity are simply synonyms. However, this assumption is wrong – customer focus and customer-centricity can be clearly distinguished from each other, as well as from the concept of customer orientation. We will go into detail on both terms in further articles.
- Customer focus: Customer focus is the first stage of the paradigm shift in corporate culture towards a customer-centric company. The focus is on the customer, but decisions are ultimately made based on many different aspects. In addition, the customer focus is a rather static, almost passive strategy: you look closely at the wishes of the customers, but the conclusion from this does not draw as wide circles as with the actively designed customer orientation.
- Customer-centricity: Customer-centricity, on the other hand, goes one step further than customer focus. Here, the company aligns itself holistically towards its buyers and takes into account their unspoken needs. In addition, customer centering influences the operation down to its mission statement – even if this means adapting it!
The Customer-Oriented Company – What Does it Mean?
A company that values customer loyalty aligns economic thinking and action with the needs, wishes, and problems of its customers – that is the quintessence of customer orientation! It is therefore a promising marketing measure and a prerequisite for successful sales.
Customer orientation is not only just outward, but also inward-looking. An important step – and often the first hurdle – is the development of a customer-oriented corporate culture. This must be actively enabled and promoted at all levels, from employees with direct customer contact to managers in C-level positions. This is how colleagues become customers. After all, employees themselves have a social environment that needs products or services. In marketing, therefore, internal customer orientation is part of personnel marketing, as satisfied employees are satisfied customers and part of a secure marketing strategy.
Customer Orientation as an Important Part of Marketing Strategy
Thus the task for the respective company is clear: Customers’ needs and expectations must be met in the best possible and most profitable manner. Nevertheless, this point is missing from many companies’ marketing strategies – or simply overlooks how important it is. In order to make the relevance of customer orientation tangible, we break down the quite complex strategy into four fundamental marketing points:
This is the focus of every marketing strategy and is challenging on multiple levels. After analyzing data requirements, high-quality information must be collected and then professionally interpreted. Watch out for the GDPR: The topic of data protection is on everyone's mind and must be taken into account. One way to collect data, for example, is to run regular multi-touchpoint campaigns.
2. Organization of Data
The highest-quality data does not add value without meaningful data organization. It is therefore necessary to clarify how data is collected in advance to determine viable organization. Important cornerstones are the overview, timeliness, and simplicity.
3. Democratize the data
Once both the internal organization and storage of the data is clear, it must be accessible to all employees. A company usually consists of different departments, but dealing with data is teamwork! Only when all the company employees have the opportunity to use the data in compliance with data protection requirements is a holistic customer orientation possible.
News of good customer orientation quickly spreads itself and thus makes the acquisition of new customers a self-starter. A marketing strategy aimed at customer loyalty is therefore forward-looking, sustainable, and efficient.
Internal Customer Orientation: Factors and Tips
Internal customer loyalty encompasses the entire network involved in the company's internal processes, such as suppliers. These processes work smoothly when all parties involved cooperate and work together. In addition to professional competence, smooth cooperation is also based on the human factor. This is addressed by the entire workforce and all service providers feeling valued. One is therefore well-advised to focus on the human element.
Efficient structures are another prerequisite that can be found in the procedures and individual processes. Nothing is quite as frustrating as an inefficient process that prevents all parties from working instead of simplifying them. In addition, commitment, know-how, and a suitable individual attitude are also among the required elements. Only when these are created and can be maintained will internal customer loyalty be established.
How well your own company is doing can be determined by these questions:
- Are both the individual and the overall performance mentioned and rewarded?
- Will staff be involved in decision-making and innovation processes?
- How do you deal with conflicts?
- How do you respond to errors?
- How does the in-house communication work?
- Is there clarity about objectives and tasks?
- Is there an appropriate mission statement?
- Is information to be classified as an asset or a liability?
- Are there transparent and clearly clarified responsibilities?
- How do communication structures between the individual network members function?
- Does Management live up to the given values?
The Path to External Customer Orientation
As soon as the company is internally set up for customer loyalty and orients itself within the mission statement, it is time to address the question of external customer orientation. This applies to all external customers, i.e., anyone who is ultimately going to buy the product or service. The foundation for this is an open corporate culture that has a direct line to customers. Therefore, one should get to know the buyer and get into an active exchange with them. It is desirable to be human, close, and empathetic. It should also be possible for the customer to easily contact the company.
All these issues can be easily dealt with through the use of digital tools. With an up-to-date social media account, the company can show itself close to the customer, collect their impressions of and interact with them.
Customer Orientation: Collect Data with NPS®
If, as an entrepreneur, you want to improve customer orientation, it is a good idea to first measure customer loyalty in order to have a starting point and be able to record your progress. The Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), which is an important metric for determining customer satisfaction, is ideal for this purpose. In addition, the Net Promoter Score can be used to increase customer satisfaction. Thanks to this well-thought-out system, it is possible to collect and evaluate the feedback of all participants on a single scale. The basis of the NPS is the question:
"How likely is it that you would recommend our product/service to others?"
Various studies in recent years show that simplicity is the great advantage of the NPS: customers need only read the question and click on a scale from 0 = very unlikely (detractors) to 10 = very likely (promoters). It also provides an empty field for your own responses. From the sum of all the answers, the NPS is created by calculating the percentages and then subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. The result is the NPS, which is therefore between −100 and 100. Customer satisfaction can then be read from this value, and it can be determined not just how many loyal customers the company has but also where there is potential for improvement to make customers even happier.
The Next Steps Towards More Customer Orientation
The most important points about customer orientation and building customer loyalty have now been laid bare. Before you start, however, you have to collect more information and only then switch to the communicative phase. In the course of this, a few steps should be undertaken in order to get closer to the goal of optimal customer orientation.
1. Developing a strategy
In order to successfully increase profitably, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive strategy. that is valid for the entire company. This strategy must be communicated in a comprehensible manner to all employees, and a customer-oriented mission statement composed.
2. Instruction of all employees
When all your employees have access to and understand the new strategy, you can start. To ensure that all stakeholders have the skills they need, it's time for training, additional guides, guidelines, and even control bodies to help foster rapid problem response.
3. Connecting all departments
Customer orientation concerns both internal and external customer loyalty. Therefore, all business units, from Management to Marketing, Service to Sales, must be considered as a whole. There must be no limits or divisions, otherwise, the strategy will not be implemented in a uniform and holistic way.
4. Focus on internal and external customers
All internal customers must feel valued in order to feel a connection to the company. This also includes actively integrating them into developments and processes.
5. Fine-tune the overall picture
The overall picture of the company reflects this mission statement. This, in turn, is geared to the strategy. The overall picture also includes the perception of employees as well as communication to the outside world. Therefore, one's own Public Relations and Marketing output must also be aligned and, if necessary, changed on the basis of the strategy adopted.
6. No standing still
Customer orientation is a process. Therefore, the whole strategy must be designed as continuous and not considered complete. This includes, among other things, that suggestions for improvement are desired, that everything is regularly questioned and that criticism is transformed into improvements.
Using the Optimal Strategy to Generate Loyal Customers
With a well-thought-out strategy on the way to optimal customer satisfaction, a smart business need not fear the competition. Loyal customers prefer to rely on familiar and beloved products and services.
This makes customer orientation in today's fast-paced consumer world the ideal way to drive customer loyalty, making your own company (and with it all your products and services) unmistakable. The prerequisites for this encompass the entire company structure. To do this, the process must begin internally by developing a sound strategy and directing the remaining employees to follow Management as role models. Data is fundamental in order to implement the wishes and needs of your customers. When collected and organized in a practical manner, any employee can access them to ensure a customer-friendly process — ensuring that they understand the customer. All this makes customer orientation an important tool, far beyond pure marketing and sales strategy: it becomes the foundation for entrepreneurial success!