Being Customer Centric

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gonca sofuoğlu

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I attend many meetings in and outside of the company as a Customer Experience Manager. The discussions are mind-blowing and very productive. Besides, I observed that there was confusion about customer centricity and realised that there is a path we should all take together to get it perceived correctly. In this article, I would like to share my knowledge and thoughts on this with you. I have plenty of questions and would very much like them to be enriched with your comments and opinions as always.

First of all, we need a common definition of "Customer Centricity".

What Does Customer Centricity Mean?

We can define it in the simplest way as: "To do whatever it is that we are doing, by listening and understanding our customers and acting in accordance with their expectations in order to achieve continuous improvement."

So Why Do We Need to Talk It Over and Why Do We Need to Understand This?

In technological terms, the transformation of the automotive world is watched closely by of all of us. We are talking about new concepts in electric vehicles such as; rotating pointer, autonomous driving, connected technologies and mobility; and we see that there is a different development every day.

Automotive is one of the most important outputs of the industrial revolution and continues its journey; which it started as a commodity in the changing economic cycle; by differentiating first with the product and then with the service and by ruling for a long time. At the point we have reached, the stories that we have included in our conversations about the brands that we also admire a little; show that a significant part of the transformation taking place in technology and industry is directed towards the increasing need of creating a customer-centric and social business setup.

Here I want to give the floor to Pine and Gilmore. (I recommend their book "The Experience Economy" for those who have not read it). In this book, they define experience as unique, unforgettable, sustainable experiences that are repeatedly narrated and promoted by word of mouth by customers. At the company level; it is defined as a product that emerges as a result of the business deliberately staging its services like a theatre play to attract customers and using its goods as decor and accessories. Here, the paradigm to be looked at; is the shift of focus from the "products and services" to the customer experiences in this process of consuming.

Automotive products continue to arouse excitement today, just as in the past. There are brands we want to own, cars we call with their names and pictures of them we hang on our walls. (For example, mine is a blood-red, white leather seated, open-top, 67 model Mustang GT since I was 16☺.) In the past, we used to create the value our customers place on our products with the magic touch of advertising. It was enough to see their magnificent silhouettes and colors, hear the intense engine sounds and promise the "things" that are supporting the dreams. However, social media spoilt the whole game; enabling the world to connect easier and liberating communication.

Automotive companies continue to make money, but on the other hand; the crowd that they dominate with the products of which the rules they establish and the services that are accepted as it is given; is being replaced by a crowd that speaks in a language they do not understand; who does not have much of an idea about what they say, want and expect. In other words, customers demand products that will serve their expectations, wishes and desires; rather than the world we create for them.

Okay, So What Are We Going To Do?

In a complex environment, everyone's suggestion is to focus. Considering the business world, everything has one common point. The automotive sector is no different in this sense. The common point is designers, producers, creators, buyers, in short; people. They are also the focal point, our customers.

The Customer Really Does Exist!

The first barrier for any company that sets out to be customer-centric is to reach a consensus on what and who the customer is. Each part of the company only sees a small part of the customer, it has a different meaning. A segmentation profile for marketing, traffic on the website; the number of calls in customer relations; buyer for the sales team; the number of entries for after-sales teams; data for R&D are the motivations for production. This is a big risk. Because these different perceptions may cause a shift in the company focus point, the customer to be unknown and a lack of understanding in the customer needs. The perception on the employees that they are actually working for the person who bought the product, ie the customer, also disappears. Therefore, it is important to agree on this issue and to define the customer correctly.

The customer is not just a concept or fact, it's a living being!

In Capital Letters; EMPATHY

Putting yourself in the customer's shoes.

Data is very valuable and it becomes increasingly valuable. However, the human data processor works very differently. In my previous article, I highlighted the fact that data is important to understand the expectations of our customers, however, we are dealing with a layered problem. Here too, is a challenge to overcome. We have to listen to our customers deeply, but to understand, we need to learn to empathise. Everyone working within the company should be encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of our customers.

Our professions and our daily work can distract us from the basic principles of human communication. When we look at the survey data, what we see is the information produced by our products. However, the people to whom that data belongs and those people also have stories. Hearing the story and beyond hearing, understanding it is a challenge to overcome.

Customer expectations are not a goal that we can claim to achieve. But to try! When we begin to understand this changing and transforming the world from the customers' point of view; then we will be able to call ourselves a "customer-centric" and "social company".

Let's consider this question until the next post: "How much do we hear our customers' voices and how much of the expectations they state are in our decision-making mechanisms?"