In the age of digital transformation, a scenario like the following would be extremely risky for businesses: the projector throws the latest advert for the newest product onto the screen. All the product details are highlighted in large-format images, and the decisions made by product design are backed up by complicated scientific terms. During the nearly four-hour discussion, the ad is meticulously discussed – but those who can bravely resist falling asleep will find that some important terms are missing: Customer Experience, Customer Journey, and Customer Satisfaction. The human being as a customer and a prospective buyer does not appear once in this lengthy presentation.
If companies ignore the changing purchasing behavior of customers, as in this example, it can have fatal consequences. After all, every successful entrepreneur has understood one fact: in the end, people decide for themselves what, when, how, and where they buy. Pure advertising, which offers no added emotional value, hardly arouses any interest. After all, shopping is a customer's journey, the so-called customer journey, which is intended to appeal to emotions and offers much more than the pure product. Only when the customer has a wow experience, is his interest and thus the bond to a brand is aroused.
So what measures can companies take to move towards success? Clearly, it requires a change of focus: Away from the product and towards the customer! The customer must be put in the center, his wishes and needs serve as a guide to the future. With this first step, you embark on a journey to success.
Sometimes the customer decides consciously for a product (and therefore a company), sometimes this decision is made unconsciously. A number of factors play a role here, above all his needs and wishes. He no longer just wants to be supplied with pure product information, but also actively believes in an authentic brand with values. The buyers want to participate in their chosen company.
In order to adequately take this new purchasing behavior into account, customer focus should be the first step in a long series of promising measures – and it should not, under any circumstances, be overlooked. Those who choose to focus on the buyer also choose not to focus solely on the product. And this can be very difficult for marketing and management – after all, it often means a drastic change of course.
It is, therefore, expedient to first clarify what exactly is meant by focusing on the customer: companies that focus on buyers take into account their wishes and expectations and serve them in the best possible way. For this purpose, it is imperative to know the preferences of the customers and want to address their problems. Only then can you offer customer-friendly services, solutions, and products. The first part of the customer focus strategy, therefore, focuses primarily on the stated and obvious expectations of the customers.
An important finding for most companies is that this focus on customer needs and problems is the first and easiest step on the path to customer-centric business orientation. For this reason, the customer's wishes are usually accepted, which can be well integrated into the previous corporate goal. The company does not yet want to change its entire mission statement but wants to use the focus on the customer as a marketing strategy. This strategy is ideal for testing whether the focus on the customer generates positive feedback and thus promises greater success. If this is the case, further steps can be taken on the way to increasing customer focus.
Customer focus is thus only the beginning of a paradigm shift in corporate culture. This becomes clear with an in-depth examination of the two concepts of customer orientation and customer centering.
The term customer orientation is sometimes used as a synonym for the focus on the customer, but orientation goes much further. Here, the meaning of 'focusing on something' is rather confusing. This is because customer orientation is also focused on the customer. However, the customer is not only a focal point but also a guiding and decisive factor. One concentrates on this, while with focus it is more about putting the customer in the middle; although ultimately making the decisions on the basis of many different aspects. In addition, 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. Therefore, one should see and use these terms as separately as possible, especially in marketing.
Customer centering goes one step further: Here, the company aligns itself holistically with its customers. Their unspoken needs are also taken into account. In addition, customer centering influences the operation down to its mission statement; if necessary this even has to be adapted! As this has extensive consequences, we will not present this in detail in this article but will look at customer centering elsewhere.
You can look at customer focus as follows: Focusing on the customer is the first step on the way to customer orientation. If this has been achieved, the company can then focus on the follow-on goal of customer centering. Or: first, you look at the customer and his well-known needs, then you use the customer as a guide for the further development of the business model and in the end, the whole company and its mission statement completely align with the buyer. But where does this change of heart come from purely product-led advertising to focusing on the customer?
With the large wave of consumption in the early 1970s and 1980s, the focus shifted away from the product and towards the customer. Some companies are still clinging to the pure product focus, but it is becoming increasingly clear that one can no longer ignore man as an emotional being.
Thanks to the digital age, there are new questions about customer satisfaction. Modern marketing must keep pace and invest significant commitment to learning and testing new opportunities. Ultimately, the focus on the buyer can become a starting point for decisions and in some cases even overwhelm the entire business plan.
In order to ensure customer satisfaction, it is important to understand exactly where the differences between product focus and customer focus lie.
If one orients oneself with studies, the market, and sales figures, one thing is clear: companies that can count on loyal customers lead the market in many industries. So the rethink seems to be paying off. In order to be able to surf this wave of success, it is necessary to understand and establish the focus on the interested parties as a new strategy in marketing.
But: not all roads lead to Rome. Rather, it must be discovered and tried individually in each company. Nevertheless, there are, of course, general basic rules that help one to tackle this strategy. First of all, we should make the operational status quo clear and then determine the orientation. The following questions can be effective:
If this is enough to give you difficulties, it can help you to create concrete personas. A persona is a fictitious, representative person who represents your respective buyers. For this purpose, the persona is assigned certain characteristics that your clients have. This persona should be used to better answer the questions above. If the results are available, a concept can be developed to plan the reorientation. In addition to management, the marketing department should be involved and made responsible, because the know-how is available there to successfully address the new orientation.
Good news for the company that employs its own marketing staff, because it is now on these insiders that the development of the new core strategy rests. Depending on what is currently in use, new tools and opportunities may well be needed. The goal is to grab the interested party emotionally first and then convince them rationally.
Sounds difficult? Luckily, marketing offers all sorts of tools that are great for this. This includes, for example, so-called neuro-marketing, which has since been scrutinized by various studies. Scientific findings are used to analyze buying habits and processes that subconsciously take place and to use the findings for further advertising. This includes the use of colors, text language, and symbolism.
To understand this in concrete terms, the following four tips help:
Digital transformation is a hot topic on everyone's lips and revolutionizes all areas of life. After all, it is the process of continuous development of all digital technologies and also the resolution of problems with appropriate technical means. The first thing that is fundamental to digital transformation is the progressive digitalization in a company.
Digital transformation also plays a major role in everyday business, as customers use various technologies to search for products and make their purchasing decisions. Entrepreneurs must therefore also seize the opportunity of digitalization – otherwise, they will fall by the wayside.
In companies, the threads for digital transformation usually converge in the IT department. If one adds the customer focus as a leitmotif to the digital transformation, new possibilities grow. Here, too, it is important to know and implement the needs of the buyers. This starts in all online areas around the respective company, but the focus on the buyer must also be consistently continued offline.
To do this, the IT department must work hand in hand with marketing and management staff to adapt digital capabilities, such as AI, chatbots, or easy-to-use apps, to the new core strategy. Conversely, with the knowledge of the IT department, the marketing department can make full use of the digital possibilities in the interests of its customers. This process must be designed continuously because digital transformation is also an ongoing process. Standstill here is synonymous with capping customer loyalty.
Through an authentic digital implementation, you can achieve a high level of customer loyalty and attract loyal customers, but only if you keep an eye on this process continuously. The question then arises, of course, how it is possible to check customer satisfaction at regular intervals.
Every week, the marketing department put its entire commitment into the new core strategy. It takes time and nerves to integrate the individual departments and all employees, to work out new digital measures together with IT, and to pass them on to customers. Now management is expecting initial results and the marketing staff is faced with the task of showing whether and how the customer focus is successful. At this point to find out how well focusing on the customer works in the company, you can employ different tools. Therefore remember the Maxim: the focus on the prospective customer is reflected in customer loyalty and this in turn in customer satisfaction. Therefore, it is a good way to measure customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
One possible way to ask customers directly about their satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score®. Customers answer a question on a scale and can enter additional comments in a field. The NPS® can be calculated from the result. This can then be used to reflect customer satisfaction, how many loyal customers the company has, and also what can be improved.
It is important that the comments in the text box are also evaluated because this is the only way to encounter problems and wishes and to see where there is a need for improvement. The holistic Net Promoter System® can also be used for the evaluation of the free-text answers.
The holistic Net Promoter Score proves the success of the new core strategy: customer focus has worked! Even if the first steps involved a lot of effort to move the old focus away from the product and towards the customer, it was worth the effort. Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty have been further increased by the new measures.
The marketing department, together with IT and management, is in charge of converting the new strategy with all the complex areas into an individually appropriate concept for the company and then implementing it, for example, in service. Of course, there must be no tilting against windmills. Rather, the strategy must be done in comprehensible steps so that it is the company's board and management can understand exactly what is at stake and what resources are needed for it. The more transparent the strategy is planned, the sooner the whole company will follow suit.
Even if the customer focus primarily addresses the expressed wishes of the customers, it is nevertheless important to involve and train the employees accordingly. This is the only way to make the company and the product be perceived as authentic and only in this way can companies and products develop further over the long-term with the support of loyal customers.
Content Marketing Manager