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People power: The value of being a customer-obsessed business

Not only do customers commit dollars – whether that’s hundreds, thousands or perhaps even millions – to your business, they can, and should, be your best brand ambassadors.

Business customers smiling

If you ask CEOs what their organisation’s biggest asset is, undoubtedly the responses will vary. For some, it’s the latest product or service they’ve introduced to the market—which they can immediately equate to dollar signs.

As the CEO of identity governance company, SailPoint, I would say our most important corporate asset is our people, as without good people, everything else will go downhill over time. After that, come the customers. Not only do customers commit dollars – whether that’s hundreds, thousands or perhaps even millions – to your business, they can, and should, be your best brand ambassadors.

However, shifting from a product- and company-centric focus to putting customers at the heart of everything you do is no easy feat. Here are a few ideas to help your organisation achieve this.

Relationships are the be-all and end-all

While it sounds simple, building lasting relationships with your customers isn’t always straightforward. Some companies are guilty of talking at their customers without hearing their needs first. Business is like any relationship – the key is to listen; to tune into the needs of the other person or organisation and make them feel important.

There’s a reason we’re seeing a rise in customer experience and customer success officers. The sole purpose of these roles is to stay close to customers, partnering with them to ensure their success.

At SailPoint, we’ve built a customer success team and by calling team members “customer success managers” versus “customer support” or “customer satisfaction”, it’s a constant reminder that our customers’ successes are our successes.

Avoid rushing into firefighting mode

Like any relationship, there will be rough waters in your journey with your customers. In difficult situations, many business leaders’ gut reactions are to throw money at the problem. While this might help in the near-term, the long-term issue will remain – and throwing money at the problem, through giving away free products or services, for example, won’t turn customers into brand advocates.

Instead, the first thing to do is to listen to your customer’s complaint or frustrations. In several cases when I’ve taken this approach with my own business, it’s evolved into a product revision or a tweak in our service that has benefited all of our customers. This level of insight wouldn’t have been achievable without stopping to listen.

Also important is making sure customer issues don’t fester. Charting rough waters requires getting out of those waters as quickly as possible. A good place to start is adding customer concerns or complaints to the agenda of your executive team’s meetings. The goal of this is not only to understand the health of your overall customer base, but to quickly address customer concerns in depth.

From customer to brand ambassador

Unfortunately, there are no magic formulas to turn customers into brand ambassadors. While there are certain guiding principles that are universal to customer service, how you approach each customer needs to be 100 per cent tailored to that person or organisation.

Every customer is different, and they need to be treated accordingly to evolve a good customer relationship into a great one. There will be rough waters, but it’s important that you treat customers as the centre of your universe in both the good times and the bad.

The only way to turn customers not just into fans but true brand ambassadors is to become a customer-obsessed organisation. This involves listening first, building a true partnership and keeping customers at the top of your whole company’s priority list.

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