By Sue Brady
“The customer is always right.” This slogan has been attributed to a few different people over time, but the crowd favorite seems to be Harry Gordon Selfridge, Founder of Selfridges, a store Harry opened in 1909 in England. Somewhere along the way, marketers and brands moved away from the meaning behind this way of thinking…until now.
The ‘refreshed’ phrase that I’ve been hearing a lot more over the past several months is Customer Obsession. Why the resurgence? My opinion is that it has everything to do with social media. In today’s world, if you serve your customers well, they’ll talk about it… a lot. They’ll share their experience on Facebook or Twitter, or they’ll share their opinion when someone posts: ‘Buying a car, running shoes, adopting a pet. Can anyone recommend a dealer, shop, adoption agency?’
Being customer obsessed is how it should be, now more than ever. It seems so obvious: Grow your business by listening to your customers and providing them with what they are asking for.
There are multiple advantages to getting in line with this way of thinking:
You’ll become more in tune with your customers
Being more in tune with your customers means you’ll develop products that your customers want, you’ll modify existing products to better meet unfilled needs, you’ll be able to head off potential disasters. This means you really have to listen to what your customers are saying. Listen in your call centers, listen in social media, listen to your sales team.
You’ll create customer advocates
Customer advocates = social proof. Tweet that! Social proof is the best kind of advertising there is. Consumers care about the opinions of their friends and colleagues. And, reviews from others sway the decision to buy. It’s a proven fact. In a Dimensional Research study conducted last year of consumers who read online reviews about local businesses before purchasing, 90% were influenced by positive reviews and 86% were swayed by negative reviews. The survey also revealed that positive reviews are most often seen on Facebook (44%). Social media matters.
Customer advocates can help you generate new business. This is different from social proof, though closely related. Customer advocacy refers to proactively engaging with your customers to create advocates and letting them help you sell. Here’s an example of how that works. I went to a marketing seminar a couple of months ago that was put on by Oracle. I knew there would be a sales element to it, but several of the sessions sounded so interesting, I wanted to go anyway. The speakers were senior marketers at their companies, and they all used at least one Oracle product to make their efforts successful. And the sessions were informative. The speakers were all Oracle customer advocates. They loved the Oracle tools that they used and in a broader marketing sense, they freely discussed how these tools made their lives easier, improved their marketing programs, generated more sales etc. etc. etc.
And once you have a group of customer advocates, you can make them feel special by asking them to speak at a seminar, asking for feedback on your planned marketing campaign or feedback on the latest product enhancement. People love giving their opinions, so let your advocates tell you what they think!
A Story. I once worked for a company that produced printed airline flight schedules. This was in the age of the dinosaurs, when the Internet was not mainstream. There were some really smart people who worked there who designed a sort of real-time version of the product. It was DOS-based and pretty cool. You could use it to look up flight schedules online! The problem was, travelers weren’t ready to get their information in that way. It had been worth a shot, but the product was shelved. And here’s where that company went wrong. They didn’t listen to their customers when Windows became a thing and the Internet started growing and becoming more available. They missed the signs because they were product focused and not customer obsessed (and I take partial responsibility since I was in Marketing). And only a couple of years later, Expedia and Travelocity were born and became hugely successful practically overnight.
There’s a lot to this customer obsession idea.
Do you make your customers #1?