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Three Tips for Driving a Customer-Centric Mindset

I’m Planful’s Chief Customer Officer (CCO). This means I have a responsibility for doing everything possible to create a consistent, value-focused customer experience, from the first time they interact with our brand to their continued retention as a loyal and satisfied customer. I’ve been deeply entrenched in this work for over 20 years and have a passion for it. 

At Planful, we’re focused on customer success because it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also our number one company value. Grant Halloran, our CEO, established these values when he joined Planful more than 2 years ago. Customer success is a key component of his vision for Planful, and it’s why the CCO role was established.

Through my experience as a CCO and in other customer-centric roles, I’ve learned a lot from the hundreds of customers I’ve had the pleasure to engage with. The learnings I’ve taken away apply to organizations both big and small, and can be applied to your overall customer success strategy regardless of how mature your organization is.  

Here are some tips that I believe help drive a customer-centric mindset both within customer teams and across an organization, focused on benefiting one of the most important assets of any company: the customer.  As you read this I am certain you will be nodding your head in agreement as these concepts are fairly simple, however it’s the execution of them that matters most!

#1 – Listen and learn from all of your customers, even the ones that are no longer customers.

Just like in any relationship, the power of listening goes a long way. Any time a customer invests their time with you, it’s an opportunity to learn, and that time should never be taken lightly.

There will always be ups and downs in any journey with a customer. Engaging with your customers proactively throughout their journey is how you can identify improvement opportunities to your service and engagement model.  Truly listening and being curious to understand what is going well and what isn’t, and ensuring those learnings make it into your customer playbook, are table stakes for any customer team.

The step that often gets overlooked is talking to customers that end their journey.

As everyone in the customer business knows, losing customers does happen. Even though it may be hard, I’ve learned that time spent with these customers post departure is incredibly powerful. Not just sending a survey or an email, but having an actual one-on-one human conversation. This is an opportunity to have an open, honest discussion and receive valuable feedback on how your team or the company can improve. It’s a powerful time when both sides of the partnership have their guard down, and it can be a very transparent, authentic discussion where the learnings can be substantial.

Taking the time to learn from all of your customers, even those that are no longer customers, is an important step to building your toolbox of knowledge to support and engage with existing and future customers.

#2 – Everyone plays a role in customer success.

The success of customers is critical to delivering continued growth and company success. However customer success isn’t just the responsibility of a customer organization, it is a team sport, and every member of an organization plays a role. 

Just think of how many employees from different departments interact with a customer in their journey. From Marketing to Sales, to Finance, to Product and Engineering, every group has a role in the customer journey, and each touchpoint impacts the customer’s experience and overall success. Just like winning sports teams, the players all know their role and play their part. It’s the same in business. 

Companies that do this well create and adopt a company value around their customers and focus on the role each team plays throughout the journey. They don’t just say it, or put it on the wall and forget about it; they live it, every day. Companies that represent a unified voice to customers create a feeling of confidence and assurance in the customer that they are truly heard and valued. Companies benefit by achieving a better alignment and understanding of what’s important to a customer, and in turn deliver a better product or service. It’s unrealistic for a company to deliver upon every ask every customer makes of an organization, but it is very realistic to listen and respond to those asks with a unified vision, voice of partnership, and desire to do what they can to help them achieve their goals. 

I’ve learned of Amazon’s concept of keeping an empty chair in the room during meetings to represent the customer voice. I love this, and believe that adopting a customer-centric mindset like this is something every organization should strive for. Shared ownership, vision, and passion towards the success of customers takes work, focus, and sometimes buy-in. But I’ve seen it work, and when it does, the benefits to both the customer and the organization are substantial.

#3 – Create memorable moments.

I grew up in a house with two teachers, both of whom had a real passion for what they did. But something they did that stayed with me was their amazing ability to really connect with their students, creating impactful, memorable moments that made them a “favorite” teacher, the one their students wouldn’t forget years down the road.

I’ve realized that, in business, we have that same opportunity. Embracing the customer journey by making sure handoffs are well understood and templates for deliverables are in place, while ensuring value realization is top of mind, all the time, is critical. But how you go through the motions, and really examining that journey to understand where you can go that extra mile to learn and create memorable experiences along the way are just as important. I had a customer tell me once that the software is 50% of the value, the experience with the vendor is the other 50%. I think a lot of customers feel the same way.

This experience starts with simple things, like saying thank you for a renewal, or a phone call to connect one-on-one after a recent go-live to learn about the experience so far. Staying up to date on the news about your customers and connecting with them when big things happen is another. Sitting side-by-side with them while they leverage your software to experience what they do so you can better relate to them is yet another. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of just getting to know my customers by taking them to lunch (whether virtually or in-person!). They are real people that put their pants on one leg at a time just like you, and when you understand more about them, you may learn more about the best way to connect and work with them throughout the journey—just like my parents did as teachers. 

Something that is so simple is bringing a member of the leadership team to a meeting with a customer. It lets them get acquainted, and your leadership team then has an opportunity to connect and learn about the customer’s journey. In return, customers feel heard, and your company leaders are more in tune with customers and what drives value for them.

The key point is to look for opportunities in the journey to connect with your customers in meaningful ways, to learn more about them, and create moments that matter. Your customers will remember it, and you will, too. We all should strive to be that favorite vendor customers won’t forget.

Changing the Game

The CCO can certainly be the guide and lead the vision for defining and establishing a value focused customer journey in a company. However, to really ensure the journey results in an impactful experience for a customer, it requires a true customer mindset that everyone in an organization contributes to. This shared mindset is what differentiates a company from just being another vendor with the traditional roles and swimlanes. Being customer-centric brings teams together and provides alignment and focus on a common goal. And, if you follow the tips above, you can truly create a win-win experience for both your customer and your company!

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