Customer Retention: Doubling-Down on Customer Centricity

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Once someone finds that one coffee shop that knows just how to make their picture-perfect latte, they’ll never want to get their coffee anywhere else. It can turn into the place that they structure their entire day around, like factoring in the time they need to leave for work to grab their coffee before heading into the office.

The famous saying, “a happy customer is a repeat customer,” doesn’t just apply to the local café. Having a “people first” mentality, recognizing that the customer is a person first and a customer second, helps drive meaningful interactions that keep customers coming back. In the business world, having a company-wide attitude of customer centricity not only creates happier customers but long-lasting relationships that foster loyalty.

Customer centricity is rooted in the ability of a seller to deeply understand their customer and their customer’s needs. Fostering a company culture beyond just the frontline sales culture that focuses on prioritizing and understanding the customer’s needs can help build long-lasting partnerships that drive customer retention and loyalty throughout various changes in the economic climate. Learn three tips to build a culture that drives customer retention below.

Creating a Foundation of Customer Centricity

Creating a culture of customer centricity begins during the hiring process. To nurture a company-wide emphasis on prioritizing the customer experience and the customer’s needs, consider it a key competency for all potential and current employees, not just frontline sales roles.

“If you’re in an organization that doesn’t put the customer at the heart of everything it does, I think you’re going to struggle,” said James Marrable, senior manager of enablement at ServiceNow. “It doesn’t matter how customer-centric your sales rep is, if the people who deliver the products aren’t into that, if the system goes down and the support section isn’t great, that customer centricity sort of eats away”

During interviews with prospective employees, recruiters and hiring managers can ask questions that gauge the candidate’s ability to understand and empathize with the customer’s perspective and potential pain points.

Examples of questions to ask candidates include the following:

  • Describe a time when you chose to exceed, rather than meet, a customer’s expectations. Why did you do so, and what were the results? How did it impact the relationship with the customer?
  • Describe a time when you realized you weren’t able to fully meet the expectations of the customer. How did you manage the scenario?
  • What is an example of one experience in your previous or current role that reflects your commitment to customer-centricity?
  • Which traits are important to have in order to successfully interact with customers? To what extent do you believe that you have those traits? How could you train yourself to obtain the characteristics that you do not believe you already have?
  • What does empathy mean in the context of customer relationships?

This helps to ensure that prospective employees understand the importance of customer centricity for the health of the business and can begin to see how their potential role may impact the customer journey. In doing so, managers can set the tone about the importance of a customer-centric mindset from the beginning of an employee’s life cycle.

Setting these foundations also extends into onboarding and ongoing training once new employees officially join the organization. For example, consider including specific sessions aimed at building customer empathy, understanding customer pain points, and personalizing messaging to unique customer needs and interests.

Similarly, it can be helpful for employees to hear directly from customers and ask them any questions they may have through a customer panel or “Ask Me Anything” session. This tailored training – spearheaded by enablement – can help drive a culture that embraces a customer-centric mindset, as recent research found that enablement teams that manage sales training programs see a 6-percentage-point increase in customer retention.

Fostering Deeper Customer Relationships With Empathy

Customer empathy is the ability to understand a customer’s emotional need and the reasons for that need and respond to it effectively. By focusing on building a foundation of trust with the customer, organizations can develop stronger relationships that foster long-term customer retention. The more comfortable a customer feels, and the more their needs are met and fully understood, the longer they will stay with an organization.

“Customer centricity is a little bit like art when you see it,” said Wynne Brown, head of revenue at Fable. “We are trying to put that symbol in place so that we know that if we visit and show up, and we form real human relationships, we succeed more because the customer succeeds more.”

Building deeper customer relationships can be achieved by changing success mindsets. By shifting the determining factors for success from meeting quotas to building long-term customer relationships beyond closing deals, enablement can help push toward a stronger focus on the customer experience and, in turn, encourage deeper customer relationships.

Building trust with customers through empathy can lead to higher customer retention and improved customer satisfaction. A 2019 study by Gartner found that customer perceptions of a rep are critical in a purchase decision and customers are most likely to move toward growth purchases when they see the sales rep as a trusted adviser who will be supportive during the entire buying experience. Customers want to feel appreciated, and that comes down to an organization’s ability to actively listen to the customer’s stories and engage in meaningful and memorable conversations.

“What salespeople have to do is really remember that ultimately, we’re in a human-to-human type business,” said Malvina EL-Sayegh, director of sales enablement at Reachdesk. “What salespeople really have to do is just take a step back, listen, and actively listen, which is challenging in itself, but really take a step back and remember that we’re dealing with other individuals, and for them buying is just as challenging as selling is for us.”

Having that “people first” mentality allows organizations to recenter themselves and rethink their intentions when it comes to customer interactions. Shifting to focus on real human emotional needs rather than business transactions builds more long-term partnerships rooted in a shared trust and confidence in each other.

Enabling Adaptability Alongside the Customer’s Changing Needs

Customers want to know that they will be supported every step of the way, even if that involves unexpected changes or roadblocks. By focusing on adaptability, organizations are ensuring that their customers understand that reps are their biggest supporters and can quickly pivot to best fit their customer’s changing needs.

“The best salespeople are the ones that can adapt, and they’re the ones that can adapt not just to changes within the organization that they work for, but changes within the organizations that their clients work for,” said Daniel Haden, head of global sales enablement at Google.

To fully understand a customer’s changing needs, there should be consistent communication between the customer and rep throughout the entire journey. This allows a seller to play an important role in helping to guide customers through change to help them maintain success and continue to see the value of their investment as a customer.

“The most important thing when we think about buyer-centric enablement is how do we keep ourselves as an organization very close to that buyer journey,” said Tim Ohai, global director of sales effectiveness at Workday. “Constantly talking to people, [asking] ‘how’s your journey changing,’ and keeping abreast of the challenges they’re dealing with. That requires our role in helping them be adaptable, helping them be agile.”

With the current economic climate, creating a culture of customer-centricity within an organization is more important than ever. The more customers feel valued and understood, the more they will want to come back and engage with an organization again. Keeping customers happy goes beyond closing deals, it comes down to creating lasting relationships rooted in trust.

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