Marketing has been treated to a bad rap over the years for its fastidious, fluffy jargon. It was never that the thrust of its message was unappealing – just that some of the taglines and descriptions were audacious. With its latest blast it has exceeded all previous waffle.
Customer centricity is apparently a way of doing business with customers in a manner that provides positive customer experiences. Well what do you know!! Somebody has finally figured out that customer outcomes matter. Apparently, there is now a difference between a business that is customer focused and one that’s customer centric. Ah here!!
The new marketing mantra urges the providers of consumer products to think like a customer rather than an accountant. Customer focus means designing something that will sell. Customer centric means asking the customer what they’d like to buy. But it goes further. Customer centricity identifies not only what customers want now but what they will need in the future. Marketing people credit Steve Jobs RIP with not just inventing hand-held portable phones with pictures; but with creating technical solutions for the future needs of consumers. It is this holy grail of being able to identify future consumer trends that distinguishes centric-products and services (and their providers).
Guinness is a great Irish-based example – although we must remember that it is wholly-owned by a UK conglomerate. One would imagine that the brand is so well known that it hardly needs to publicise its existence – and yet it constantly produces clever and costly advertising to promote images of happy customer experiences. But it’s the work that it does behind the scenes that differentiates it from competitors. The Guinness Storehouse is the pivotal tourist attraction in Ireland; far outstripping the numbers visiting the Blarney Stone, Giants’ Causeway and Cliffs of Moher. While the Storehouse re-enforces the brand and is customer-focused it does little for sales. The nearby Open Gate Brewery is the real customer-centric gem. Here customers are encouraged to provide feedback on future product lines – and they are even charged for the privilege.
Guinness has identified that future competition will not come from the craft-beer revolution but from advances in medicine. Doctors and pills will determine its forward direction. Therefore, remaining customer centric requires a significant reappraisal of existing operations. MMPI believes that this is the key distinguishing feature between being focused on customers and truly placing the customer front and centre.
Customer centricity may well be the latest piece of marketing jargon but it is hardly revolutionary. Some businesses have spotted the importance of customers and have noticed how customers’ needs, wants and desires change over time. Long-term relationships are hugely beneficial in generating more business referrals – far more efficient than expensive promotions. MMPI is fortunate that its products and services (investments, pensions, life assurance, mortgages) lend themselves to the long term. But we are careful to nurture close relationships with our customers and to never take any of them for granted. This surely is the ultimate in customer centricity?