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Customer-centricity today: Personal, relevant & always evolving

For years, the slogan “the customer is always right” has motivated businesses across the board to prioritise customer satisfaction as an operational imperative.

And as consumers become savvier – largely thanks to digital tools that allow easy access to information and product variety – customer satisfaction is more important than ever. It’s also more nuanced, with more factors contributing to a pleasant transactional experience.

More than simply allowing for the customer to always be right, there is growing pressure for organisations to be “customer companies” that place the needs, interests, goals, and presences of the customer – the human being – at the centre of their strategy.

Practically, this looks different for different companies in various sectors, but the golden thread that binds the approaches of the companies listed below is the importance of relationship building and personalised experiences at all interaction points.

Data to support customer centricity 

“Our experience, research and data tell us one thing: Brands that want to increase customer loyalty must leverage real-time, intelligent, and automated technology solutions that support seamless connected experiences and personalised journeys,” says Zuko Mdwaba, Salesforce Area VP, Africa Executive & South Africa Country Leader. He adds that  being a customer company means understanding where the pain points are for customers and ensuring they are addressed in an impactful way.

Importantly, the rising cost of living hasn’t lowered consumers’ expectations for top-notch service. Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report found that 52% of customers expect a better experience from their favourite brands as a result of the current economic climate, while our Connected Customer Trends 2023 report found that a disconnected experience is the number one frustration customers have when dealing with organisations.

Real-time data is the antidote to this frustration, Mdwaba believes. “When pulled together into a single source of truth, real-time data offers rich and actionable insights that can help deliver the kind of intelligent and connected customer experiences that underpin customer centricity.”

Exceptional service, always 

Today, customer service requires the creation of personalised experiences for consumers, in addition to the provision of goods and services. Even with a standardised product offering, it is essential to understand how your product meets the specific needs of each consumer and business. In this environment, customer education plays a crucial role in rendering exceptional service.

Ingrid Ndlovu, Customer Success Manager at payments company Paystack, says, “By prioritising the customer experience, businesses can establish stronger connections, foster loyalty, and differentiate themselves from competitors.”

“Companies empower consumers to make informed decisions and maximise the value of their offerings through proactive education. This not only builds trust but also strengthens the customer-business relationship, which ultimately contributes to business development and success in a highly competitive market like South Africa,” Ndlovu explains.

‘Put the market back into marketing’

With greater access to abundant information and product knowledge, customer satisfaction has become paramount.

“Instead of trying to do what you can in order to make a quick buck, being customer-centric means utilising customer data to better serve users and enhance their experience. By doing so, companies can foster lasting relationships and thrive in today’s competitive landscape,” says Glenn Gillis, CEO of Sea Monster Entertainment. He adds: “Putting the market back into marketing and putting the customer first should therefore be the natural and constant approach for all of us.”

The solution-loyalty link 

Customers want to know that companies offer service to their needs individually so they can form a bond with the products and services.

“We ensure that whenever we iterate or evolve a product we do so in a way that is easy for the customer to use, meets their specific needs and is an expression of their lifestyle,” explains Keletso Mpisane, Head of MiWay Blink. She continues: Loyalty, then, is the brand’s reward for offering customers solutions that seamlessly fit into their lives.”

Loyalty (also) drives social impact 

The increasing commitment to making a positive social impact is driving customer and company relationships, even in the philanthropic space.

“A strong non-profit brand is synonymous with social impact, transparency and creating positive change in the world. This has helped us to attract and retain customers who share our values and are committed to making a difference through their purchases,” says Dalit Shekel, brand consultant at Relate Bracelets.

“With us, our customers are not just buying bracelets, they are investing in a mission and a vision that they believe in. They are part of a community that is making a real difference in the lives of people and communities in need,” she shares.

In 2023 and beyond, companies need to stay focused on transforming and adapting their customer experience. Customers today need compelling reasons to engage, trust, share, and come back