Today’s business landscape is fraught with companies that proclaim to be customer-centric. But do these businesses actually put the customer first? A lot of them don’t. A Gallup poll found that, of surveyed businesses, only 29% have a true customer-centric culture. That means 71% of businesses are not putting their customers first as an overarching strategy. But why would any business not want to build a customer-first strategy? It seems like it would be beneficial for any organization. Indeed, it is — which is why so many businesses fail to implement one effectively. In order to build an effective strategy that puts customers first and yields measurable results, you need to know how and why it works in this way for your business specifically. Here are some key insights about building a customer-first strategy and why it matters:

What is a customer-first strategy?

As with so many things, it’s helpful to start by defining the problem. A customer-first strategy is a business’s overarching philosophy that puts customers — not shareholders, employees, or the company itself — at the center of its operations. A customer-first strategy acts as a prism for a company’s decision-making process. It can be applied across the entire business spectrum — from marketing and sales to operations and customer service. Because it’s not just an idea that exists on a checklist in the C-suite. It’s actually woven into every business process. It’s reflected in your employees’ daily activities and choices. And it’s reflected in your company’s interactions with customers — online and offline.

Why build a customer-first strategy?

There are a lot of benefits associated with a customer-first strategy. Some of the most important ones are that it allows you to: - Understand your customers better. Customers are not a monolithic group. They come in a variety of different types with different needs, expectations, and preferences. Knowing which segments your customers fall into, as well as why they use your product or service, allows you to tailor your communications to better address their specific needs. - Build a more sustainable business. Building a customer-first model can help you reduce churn rates and fight off the threat of price wars. This is because when you’re focused on meeting customer needs, you have the long-tail advantage — you have recurring sales rather than a one-off transaction. You also have a competitive advantage because you aren’t focused on undercutting your competitors on price since your model is based on value. - Create a better customer experience. A customer-first strategy helps you avoid being a commoditized company that has no real value beyond the price. Instead, you can be an organization that stands out as having a strong reputation and rapport with customers.

How to build a customer-first strategy?

First, you need to understand the customer journey. This could be multi-channel — including digital experiences and touchpoints — or be specific to a certain channel. Then, you need to tie this journey back to your company’s business strategy. Next, you need to identify where you can create the most value at each stage of the journey. Finally, you need to create a roadmap for how to go about doing that. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a customer-first strategy, there are some general principles to keep in mind. - Be consistent. Consistency across the brand is key to building trust and rapport with customers. This means bringing consistency to your customer service, marketing messaging, product delivery, and operations. - Be innovative. While consistency is important, you also need to be innovative in the specific ways that you create value for customers. You can do this by using behavioral data and insights to create new products and services in response to customer needs. - Be empathetic. Customer-first doesn’t just mean putting the customer first in terms of what they want or need. It also means putting them first in terms of the way they want to be treated and engaged with. You can do this by conducting research and creating personas that reflect your customer base as a whole.

Key takeaway

A company's broad business concept that places consumers — not shareholders, staff, or the company itself — at the heart of its operations is known as a customer-first strategy. The decision-making process within a company is filtered through a customer-first strategy. It may be used in every aspect of business, from operations and customer service to marketing and sales.The benefits associated with a customer-first strategy include the ability to understand your customers better, build a more sustainable business, and create a better customer experience. To actually build a customer-first strategy — and reap these benefits — a business needs to be consistent, innovative, and empathetic in its approach to customer interactions and touchpoints.