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Today I’m pleased to present a guest post by Rohit Yadav.

The way customers interact with brands has drastically changed over the past few years. In the words of Forbes contributor Brian Walker, “Digitally empowered customers are firmly in charge, bouncing from channel to channel at the drop of a hat.”

It is now more important than ever before to intertwine marketing efforts with sophisticated customer relationship management tools to deliver a seamless customer experience at every touch point in the purchasing cycle.

The “Customer Journey” has become a common buzzword – but it can mean a lot of different things, depending on what you ask. I like to think of the customer journey as a love story between a customer and a brand, with the following stages in their journey toward the pursuit of happiness: Acquire, Onboard, Engage, and Retain.

Acquire: You briefly meet and make sure to get the customers’ name and phone number or email address.

Onboard: First impressions are important. This is the perfect time to tell customers about yourself and learn what interests them. Begin building the relationship – convince them to give you a shot.

Engage: So you had a great first date. Now what? You’ll keep it interesting with relevant, compelling conversations. And like the chivalrous type you are, you wouldn’t dare forget their birthdays or anniversaries.

Retain: Every relationship has its ups-and-downs. If they’re losing interest, focus your efforts on winning them back. Remember, there are two sides to this. Don’t just ask for what you want, listen for what they need.

The price of the product, the brand value, and the other pillars of marketing are no longer the most important factors in a consumer’s selection process. At a certain level of affluence, the absolute value of experience a company is likely to deliver becomes the pivotal point in making a selection. There is a dramatic growth of consumers who are reaching – or are about to reach – that level. Therefore customer centric companies are likely to outperform their competitors, whose leaders cannot see beyond the next quarter’s financial results.

Customer Centricity is about knowing who your best customers are – beyond demographics and persona definitions. Regardless of the type of business – B2B, B2C, or any other combination of letters  – it is people who decide whether they had a good experience as your customers or if they should try someone else. These people share their opinions with others, like they always have. However, now these opinions have as much, or more, of an impact on shoppers as advertising.

According to Peter Drucker – “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him.”
Exclusivity – it may not be politically correct or culturally easy to accept, but a company cannot deliver a top quality experience to any customer – only to those it is best focused on to serve profitably. This is better for such a company’s culture, its employees, its target customers, and the consumers at large to clearly communicate what type of customers it will not serve, because it cannot deliver the quality of experience they deserve. The best example I know is USAA, which leads every chart as the top customer experience provider but will not take your business if you are not a member of the military family.

Being customer-centric is not simply a matter of appointing a customer executive, making bold statements about differentiation based upon your customer experience, building a strong sales force,  or equipping your customer service representatives with new technology. Achieving customer-centricity means that you understand your most valuable customers intimately, you know their world and its challenges, and you are able to speak their language. It means knowing when to be there for them and when to stay away. And when you are there for them, it means delivering on your promises.

Customer Centricity is not a project or a corporate initiative; it is the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value. It’s about thinking differently, challenging tradition, adopting a new approach, developing sustainable competitive advantage, and embracing the transformative nature of the change required.

When was the last time you really put yourselves in your customers’ shoes?

Rohit Yadav is a customer experience evangelist who helps companies identify and make the best use of their key performance indicators and generate insights to improve their customer experience. He currently works at BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solutions as Solutions Manager for Customer Intelligence solution consulting Fortune 500 global firms across industries to monetize value from Analytics by analyzing information, deriving actionable insights and delivering sustained impact through operationalization of Analytics.