Customer orientation, centricity or focus. Call it what you like, but it’s critical.

Marketing22 October 2019

Thinking you’ve got it right, isn’t enough

Customer orientation is something most businesses could do with more of.

Who hasn’t thought they were onto a winner only to find out it wasn’t the guaranteed success it appeared to be?

Some years ago, we jumped on the Adobe Digital Publishing bandwagon. With the uptake of tablets, surely the market would be crying out for interactive, content-rich publications to read on their shiny, new iPads? Right? Wrong.

Turns out that our customers weren’t really that interested in spending more converting a print-ready document to an interactive one with bundles of bells and whistles for the sake of it. ‘Just give us a PDF’ was the typical response when confronted with the cost.

Before rushing to retrain ourselves and get what we thought would be a significant competitive advantage, asking a few customers what they wanted might have been a brighter idea!

Turns out we weren’t on our own though… Adobe soon repurposed the product for larger publishers only (think Rolling Stone mag), so we didn’t feel too bad.

Our way’s the right way, you’ll see

Most organisations are often siloed into departments with specific responsibilities. The larger the company, the more departments and the bigger they are.

And they are all likely to think they have the keys to success in the form of customer insight. When and if they do talk to each other, it’s generally to voice their own opinions.

To complicate matters further, the departments that deal directly with the customer, are remote from those making the decisions regarding product and service development. This can result in some less than desirable results and accompanied industrial-strength swearing.

I’m right, you’re wrong

We all form opinions based on our own experiences. We all like to think that our views are the right ones. But without any facts, all we really have is our own idea of what should be done, or not done. Sometimes we’re right, often we’re not but too many ‘wrongs’ can fly a company straight into a financial cliff face!

Assume you know nothing. Generally, you don’t

We all take a great deal of pride in what we do (hopefully?), and we want the company we work for to be successful – our ongoing employment and possible pay rises depend on it. We’ve got a vested interest. This is where the problems start.

When we go to work for a company, the moment we start work, we lose objectivity. We begin to think we know what’s best for our customers. This may be obvious, but beware thoughts or statements that start with ‘what the customer needs is this…‘ There’s a strong chance that without significant research, you really have no idea and your efforts will be a waste. This is something we’ve found that most companies like to avoid.

Customer orientation, as the name suggests, means putting the customer at the heart of your business. Not only asking them what they want – beware, this can be problematic too – but understanding how they’ll use your services or products, how they’ll buy them, and from where, and then developing them accordingly.

Some services are purchased directly by the end-user, others by people who neither pay for or use the product (think doctors, engineers, architects and purchase managers). In a family situation, one person purchases the product, and another uses it (Thanks, Mum!)

And none of the above, are you.

Customer orientation makes business sense

Customer orientation is all about understanding your customers’ needs and meeting them at all stages of the customer journey by aligning the activities of your business to them. Easier said than done. Lack of time, lack of budget and vested interests can all conspire to make this not happen.

But customer orientation is worth the effort, the rewards can be significant.

Customer-focused companies are shown to have higher profitability, stronger growth, better customer retention and a higher rate of successful new products and services.

Digital publication anyone?

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