Building a customer-first brand relies heavily on the customer experience ecosystem. In Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine’s book Outside In, this is defined as, “a complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners, and customers that determine the quality of all customer interactions. It is the single most powerful framework for diagnosing and fixing customer problems in ways that make the fixes stick over time.” 

It’s particularly important to understand that problems in the ecosystem can include customer-facing employees just as much as behind-the-scenes employees and everyday policies, processes, and technology. The trick is figuring out how to manage your business from the outside in — keeping the customer point of view at the core of every decision that you make. 

Through every step of the customer journey, customers are evaluating their experience with your brand based on 1) how well you meet their needs, 2) how easy you are to do business with, and 3) how enjoyable you are to do business with. The good news is that rapid acceleration of digital technology has provided brands with a wealth of data and insights into what customers need and how they feel. But how can brands translate these findings into a plan that delivers a stellar customer experience at every touchpoint?

I’ve spent over 20 years examining the complexities of the customer experience ecosystem and empowering brands to tap into the many possibilities that come with putting customers first. Here are some of the biggest secrets to building a customer-centric brand:

Ensure that you have customer visibility. 

One of the most important aspects of building a customer-first brand is ensuring full customer visibility. When you have full visibility into your customers’ experiences, you get a better picture of their needs, pain points and overall sense of how strong your relationship is with them. The right customer service platform can integrate all of your customer data so that you have all of the relevant details and context available at all times. By prioritizing this visibility, you can become a true partner for your customer, one who anticipates their future needs and addresses issues quickly and accurately before they become problematic.

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Fully enable your customer success teams.

To keep all eyes focused on the customer, it’s imperative to set up your customer success team for success. This means recognizing their needs, building a collaborative environment and providing best-in-class technology, tools and training to empower them to do their best. When your customer service agents feel supported and knowledgeable, they can better focus their attention on addressing the multi-dimensional needs of their customers.

Prioritize empathy.

The more empathy brands can infuse in their customer interactions, the more authentic connections they may be able to foster. And at a time when customers are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty, empathy can be an important differentiator. According to Kustomer data, 69% of consumers expect an organization to prioritize their problem if they are upset, and more than half of consumers expect a business to personalize how they interact. To do so, brands can use tools like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Customer Sentiment Analysis to read messages between customers and agents, quantify how a customer feels about a brand in real-time and figure out whether their outlook is positive, negative, or neutral. This allows for conversations to automatically escalate so customers with the most urgent needs are prioritized. This analysis can then help agents put themselves in the customer’s shoes and determine the best way to communicate in that moment and in the future, as well as allowing for automatic escalation of the most urgent customer service needs.

Listen, learn and evolve.

The importance of the customer voice cannot be underestimated. By listening to what customers say and share, you can get much closer to adopting that all-important “outside-in” mindset. I think Bill Gates was on to something when he stated, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” The feedback and insights you gain, coupled with the wealth of data and predictive analytics that modern customer service technology offers, will allow you to make the necessary adjustments to consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

It’s no longer enough to talk about the importance of customer experience. Today’s brands need to leverage the customer experience as a true competitive advantage, investing everything possible in making sure that the business revolves completely around the customer. When the entire organization gets involved in putting the customer first, brands can elevate the customer experience to an even higher level.

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