The most successful companies know that a customer-oriented approach isn’t limited to customer service teams, but should permeate every department. Customer-oriented companies enjoy many benefits, including increased profitability, decreased costs, and improved customer satisfaction, and they do it by putting customer needs first. This guide details why every department should be customer-oriented, plus lists five tips for implementing a customer-oriented philosophy company-wide.
Customer Oriented Means Putting Customers First
Customer-oriented companies prioritize customer success and customer happiness. Their mission statements are firmly rooted in the needs of their customers and how they will meet them. Business operations, products, services, and even profitability are secondary. If a company does a poor job of helping its customers, it’s not going to be in business long; but if a company can delight customers with a customer-oriented philosophy, it stands a great chance of achieving success.
Customer orientation isn’t limited to employees who directly interact with customers but should be instilled in each employee so they understand how they impact the customer experience. For example:
- Product development makes things that solve customer problems.
- IT creates websites, apps, and interfaces that customers interact with daily.
- Finance makes budgeting decisions that allocate resources for customer-focused investments.
- Marketing develops materials that communicate how the company meets customer needs.
- Sales collaborate with customers to identify and coordinate solutions.
- Customer service delivers support and solves problems for customers.
Ultimately, the entire company’s role is to serve the customer. If it does that well, it will grow and become more successful.
Benefits of Customer Oriented Departments
Companies that adopt a customer-oriented culture between departments enjoy three significant benefits.
1. Improved Customer Satisfaction
Customer-oriented companies help their customers succeed, so it stands to reason that this approach improves overall customer satisfaction. If you deliver a great experience, customers will come back. They’ll also tell their friends, in fact, 73% of customers say customer experience is a deciding factor in deciding to buy, and 77% will recommend a business to a friend if they have had a positive experience.
2. Competitive Advantage
Many companies say they are customer-oriented, but it seems customers disagree. Only 38% of customers say they feel the employees they interact with understand their needs, and 82% of consumers say they are disappointed by brands. Companies that fail to meet customer expectations present a golden opportunity to competitors to gain an advantage.
3. Greater Profitability
Customers are loyal to companies that put them first, and many are willing to pay more for prioritization. In fact, 47% of millennials say they would pay 20% more for an impressive experience.
Customer retention is critical since it costs five times more to earn a new customer than to retain one. At the same time, companies have more than a 60% chance of selling to an existing customer versus just a 5 to 20% chance of recruiting a new customer. Keeping customers reduces costs.
Consider how important Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is, and it’s not surprising that customer-oriented companies outperform their peers by 80%, and 84% of companies that work to improve the customer experience yield increased revenues.
How to Instill a Customer-Oriented Strategy in All Departments
It’s one thing to know how to be customer-focused; it’s another to establish a culture in which every department is customer-oriented. Here are five tips.
1. Collect and Share Customer Insights Across Departments
- Collect and share customer feedback across departments, including anecdotal insights.
- Track and share key customer service metrics.
- Identify ways each department can contribute toward improved customer satisfaction, and share insights organization-wide.
Foster an environment where each department collects customer insights and shares them with other departments. That enables the organization to understand and act on data and adapt to customer needs. For example, the customer service team can share common challenges with the product development team so it can plan improvements designed to help customers overcome those challenges. The IT department can share requested features with the finance department, which can approve a budget to add those features to the company’s website or app.
It’s also good to track customer service metrics and share them with each department. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort (CES), Net Promotor Score, and other metrics lend insight into how well the company performs as a whole. Each department can then identify ways to improve those metrics, track trends over time, and share successes organization-wide.
2. Encourage Collaboration
- Encourage collaboration between departments.
- Hold interdepartmental meetings or breakout sessions.
- Recognize and reward cross-department collaboration success stories.
Encourage collaboration between departments to help customers achieve success. For example, customer service teams can collaborate with product development and IT teams on the best way to address frequently asked questions. Product development teams can develop FAQ articles and canned responses to help customer service teams quickly and accurately respond to customer concerns. Customer service teams can introduce customers to sales staff when they express interest in a product, service, or upgrade.
Consider bringing departments together in customer-oriented meetings designed to promote collaboration, recognize each department’s efforts, and reward successes. Doing so helps staff maintain a customer focus and offers incentives for improving the customer experience. Show how collaborating to help customers benefit the company, which in turn benefits individual employees in their role or even in being promoted to another department. Many companies, including Ahrefs and Zappos, have employees who worked in customer service before being promoted to other departments such as product management or development, proving that the opportunity to advance is real by collaborating around customer success.
3. Provide Customer Oriented Training and Coaching
- Provide regular training to foster a customer-oriented culture.
- Coach staff members on how they can improve the customer experience.
- Illustrate how each role ultimately impacts customers, regardless of department.
Illustrate the importance of a customer-oriented approach with training that emphasizes how each employee impacts customer success. Train employees in each department to identify and meet customer expectations and proactively anticipate customer needs.
Coach staff members so they know how to give customers a personalized experience and how to express empathy when they work with customers. Regular coaching sessions can cover topics such as collaborating with other departments, collecting and sharing information, effectively communicating and actively listening to customers, and even how to write an apology email or message when mistakes happen.
4. Lead by Example
- Show employees how departments head and executives collaborate on customer focus.
- Hire employees who are committed to customer success, no matter their role.
- Spearhead training, sharing, and collaboration initiatives company-wide.
Make customer orientation part of your mission and promote customer-focused values company-wide. It starts at the top with the CEO and C-level executives. Employees will see how the management and executive team is embracing this approach, and how valuable it is to adopt it for the company’s success and adapt to the new customer-oriented approach.
Let staff members see how department leaders work together to know who their customers are, what solutions they’re seeking, and how the company can collectively fulfill their needs. Hire employees who demonstrate dedication to customer service and company-wide goals, no matter their role or department.
5. Give Teams the Right Tools
- Give teams customer-facing tools that facilitate collaboration on customer support.
- Develop internal tools that help staff members adopt and practice customer-oriented policies.
- Use tools to automate customer feedback, then generate reports shared between departments.
The right tools facilitate sharing and collaboration between departments. For example, a company can develop an internal knowledge base each department can reference for customer-oriented policies, training, and onboarding.
Ticketing software can automatically collect and organize customer feedback, which can be shared between departments. A robust internal helpdesk system also makes it easy for different departments to collaborate on customer issues; for example, a customer service agent can bring an IT specialist in if they’re unsure how to solve a customer’s problem.
Consider how customers want to contact your company, then work with IT to develop a communication plan utilizing a platform that centralizes requests from multiple channels and grants insight into user support histories. Doing so ensures customers don’t fall through the cracks, that agents don’t unwittingly double up on the same ticket, and that customers can access quick and accurate support.
Customer Oriented Business Examples
Here are five customer-oriented business examples to use in your own business, or for inspiration in developing your own.
1. Customer Self Service
Problem: Customers struggle to find answers on the company’s website.
2. Omnichannel Support
Problem: Customers contact the company via multiple channels. Sometimes, they get lost in the mix, and no one knows who is taking care of which customer. Agents unnecessarily double up on customers, support is delayed, customers are frustrated, and the company wastes money.
Solution: The IT department works with customer service to install ticketing software that centralizes communication between multiple channels, including email, social media, and website-submitted requests. The ticketing software streamlines operations and ensures each customer gets quick expert assistance.
3. Customer Surveys and Interviews
Problem: The customer churn rate is increasing, but the company isn’t sure why.
Solution: Department leaders collaborate on a strategy to survey and interview customers so they can discover why they’re dissatisfied. They share insights with the product development team to make iterations that meet customer expectations. The product development team shares its updates with sales and marketing teams to promote new features, retain existing customers and attract new customers. The customer service team is trained on the new features to ensure customer satisfaction.
4. Error Correction
Problem: A customer’s package wasn’t delivered on time, so the customer reached out to express their frustration.
Solution: Customer service receives the ticket but isn’t sure how to find the package. The agent sends an empathetic message to let the customer, escalates the ticket, and introduces the customer to an agent who can help. The second agent discovers the missing package is lost, tells the customer what they found, and overnights a new shipment. Even though the new shipment increases the company’s costs, the customer receives quick support, and the support team collaborates on a solution that increases the chances the customer will buy again. 0
After the customer’s issue has been resolved the support team performs a post-mortem on what happened and proposes to the IT department to develop a trigger that will automatically create a ticket assigned to an agent if a tracking number registers an error, so the support team can be proactive in handling lost packages moving forward.
5. Customer Happiness Meetings
Problem: The company is focused on customer success and doesn’t want the message to get lost in day-to-day operations.
Solution: Department heads collaborate to hold mandatory meetings to share key customer service metrics and recent insights gained through customer feedback. Then, they brainstorm new ideas to go above and beyond for their customers, and they recognize and reward employee success stories related to taking a customer-oriented approach. The strategy fosters a customer-oriented culture throughout every department and reinforces the idea that customer success is the primary mission.
Customer-oriented companies recognize that all departments play significant roles in customer success. Business leaders can promote a customer-oriented culture by collecting and sharing customer insights across departments, encouraging collaboration, providing training, leading by example, and giving teams the right tools. When every department puts customers first, businesses enjoy benefits such as improved customer satisfaction, competitive advantage, and greater profitability.