Narrowly Defining Who a "Customer" Is Thwarts the Power of Customer Centricity

May 4, 2020 By [email protected]_84 Off

Today, many companies are rallying around the powerful concept of customer centricity. Customer centricity is when all processes within a company are designed around the needs of the customer. The goal is to ensure that processes within the company are focused on customer satisfaction, because satisfied customers are more likely to recommend the company’s products and services to someone else. By doing so, the customer-who is not affiliated with the company other than buying its products and services-becomes an unsolicited promoter of the company.

Customer Enthusiasm Is Contagious

In 2007, I was on a business trip to Shenzhen, China to research the software engineering services provided by a company headquartered there. After spending the day touring the company’s facility and meeting with various members of their software engineering team, I had dinner with one of the company’s senior executives at a restaurant in nearby Hong Kong. The senior executive spent most of the time at dinner raving about a then-new, one-of-a-kind mobile phone he purchased while on a recent trip to the United States. Other patrons sitting near our table looked at the executive’s phone and said that they would buy one as soon as it became available in China. The mobile phone in question was the first Apple iPhone.

The executive’s enthusiasm was contagious, and I have to admit that I could hardly wait to buy one of the new phones as well.

Focusing on Customer Experience In Addition to Products and Services

In addition to ensuring that the customer is satisfied with products and services, executives are also focusing on the customer’s experience with the company. The customer’s experience when interacting with the company is just as important as the customer’s satisfaction with the company’s products and services; however, companies may not be harnessing the full power of customer centricity when they limit their definition of customer.

The Definition of Customer

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, a customer is a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business. Today, many companies still have the notion of the customer being only the individual buying something from the business. Therefore, companies divert much of their attention to the parts of the company (e.g., Sales and Customer Services) that interact with the customer as previously defined. Many of these touch points directly correlate to the customer’s experience with the company, hence the reason they remain important.

Expanding the Definition of Customer

While focusing on the narrowly defined customer is still important, companies can benefit greatly by not limiting their definition of the customer to the person who buys goods or services from them. To be completely customer-centric, the definition of customer should include anyone who interacts with the company. How people are treated, no matter their affiliation with the company, is the crux of complete customer centricity. These people include, but are not limited to: the person who cleans up around the office; the mailperson delivering mail; the individual stopping by to leave a sales brochure; the landscapers maintaining the office grounds; the security guards working in the lobby; the individuals working in the cafeteria; the family member visiting an employee for lunch; the employees; or the individual coming in for an interview.

A Case In Point

A few years ago, while working at another company, I interviewed candidates to fill an open senior administrative position that was available in my organization. Interviewing candidates afforded yet another opportunity to provide someone a positive interaction with the company. Last week, after more than ten years had passed, I received a message from an individual who interviewed for the role and was offered the position. However, the individual had two opportunities from my company and eventually decided to accept the other opportunity. The individual’s message stated that even after ten years, she still remembers the “thank you” card that I gave her after she finished her interview. She said that this really made a positive impact on her and she still has the card today.

Even after years had passed, this individual still remembered the “thank you” card that she received following her interview with us. Most people believe that the interviewee should send “thank you” cards to the interviewers. My team and I believed that the interviewers should also send “thank you” cards to interviewees, because we understand that the process is sometimes an imposition for everyone. To many employers, the individual going through the interview process would have been just another person who wanted to join their team. It was our honor to interview this individual and the other candidates, so we let them know that.

In Summary

In order to reap the full benefits of customer centricity, companies must review their definition of the customer. The following are suggestions for companies in this regard:

  1. Review the company’s definition of the customer and expand it to include everyone who comes into contact with the company, including employees.
  2. Always remember that companies generally only have one chance to make a positive impression. What do people whom the company does not consider customers have to say about your company?

In case you are wondering, I responded to individual who sent me the message within twenty-four hours of receiving it. My team and I did not send “thank you” cards to interview candidates because we wanted them to tell someone about their positive experience. We sent them “thank you” cards because that is what we would do for any valued customer.