Being a customer-centric company means more than just offering good customer service.

The best customer-centric companies not only put their customers first – they design products and services to meet the customers’ needs, and create seamless experiences across the board.

Naturally, a lot of brands shout about being customer-focused, but which ones are practicing what they preach? Here are five examples of note.

(NB. Subscribers may want to download Econsultancy’s Guide to Customer Experience Management)

McDonald’s

Steve Easterbrook took over as CEO of McDonald’s in 2015, spearheading a culture of listening-to and acting on the feedback of customers. Before this time, the fast food chain was suffering from fierce competition from brands such as Chipotle and Taco bell, as well as the evolving tastes of customers.

By looking at different ways of capturing customer feedback, including social media and online surveys, McDonald’s began to identify what customers wanted from the restaurant. For example, it discovered a desire for healthier menu options, as well as longer opening hours. Similarly, McDonald’s also acted on the customer’s desire for breakfast items throughout the day, introducing its ‘All Day Breakfast’ in select US stores. It didn’t just take a punt, though, instead basing this on data sourced from its social listening efforts.

To determine levels of interest, it combed through customers’ digital conversations stemming back from 2008, eventually proving demand. The campaign launch also involved sending personalised tweets to every person that had ever requested it on social media, instilling the customer-centric notion that ‘if you ask, you might get”.

In more recent years, McDonald’s has continued to evolve its product and service based on customer feedback and data. Technology has played a big part in streamlining CX, with ‘easy order’ kiosks being rolled out across markets in a bid to reduce waiting times in stores. It has also partnered with delivery service UberEats, in a bid to make the brand more relevant to modern consumers.

Slack

Messaging service, Slack, has incorporated customer feedback into its strategy from day one. In 2013, it rolled out its product (designed to be an alternative to work emails) to just ten companies. As founder Stewart Butterfield told First Round: ‘The pattern was to share Slack with progressively larger groups. We would say, ‘Oh, that great idea isn’t so great after all.’ We amplified the feedback we got at each stage by adding more teams.’

This highlights how Slack puts its customers at the heart of its strategy, basing every update on feedback or user need. It doesn’t focus on sales or usage figures as a measure of success, instead focusing on metrics such as NPS or CES scores. This helps the company to gain an overall picture of how customers perceive the brand, which it then uses to delve deeper into specific issues and needs.

Slack also measures customer support teams on their ability to respond to inquiries in a human way, rather than based on tickets resolved. This is done so that people do not feel like they are numbers in a queue, but thought of as a valued and respected customer.

Elsewhere, Slack hones in on its brand advocates – asking people to give reviews or feature in case study videos – to fuel word of mouth marketing. Overall, it is a customer-centric approach that has undoubtedly contributed to the company’s now eight-million strong user base, three million of which are paid users.

Zappos

For online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos, its customer-centric strategy starts with its own employees. Zappos believes that organisational silos can counteract a customer-centric mindset, and so it gives all employees a flexible structure, where nobody has a formal title and everybody works within a team that they are passionate about.

Central to this is the Zappos Customer Research group, which uses various methodologies to gain insight into what customers truly need. Speaking at CX Innovation and Tech Fest, Alex Genov, Head of Customer Research for Zappos, explained how the company uses a mixture of usability testing, customer surveys, and in-depth interviews to gain a holistic view of the customer.

Interestingly, Zappos (which is owned by Amazon) also sees this customer ‘obsession’ as a differentiator from the competition. It prides itself on human-powered customer service – something that is evident on its website. For one, its telephone number is listed at the top of its homepage, alongside a prominent ‘Customer Service’ menu dedicated to key information for customers. It also ensures that each call includes friendly and conversational elements rather than being purely business-focused, helping to cement a bond between the brand and customers at every touchpoint.

Zappos

Glossier

Another characteristic of a customer-centric brand is the ability to build a community, and to use it bolster the long-term loyalty of customers. Make-up brand Glossier is one such company, using its social media community to steer product development and customer support.

A high level of involvement from online fans has been the case from the get-go, with founder Emily Weiss founding Glossier on the back of the highly invested and engaged audience of her previous blog, Into the Gloss.

This community of beauty fans plays a key role in the brand’s marketing and product-line – a strategy that Glossier calls ‘co-creation’. Essentially, this means it uses insight from social media (such as comments, direct questions, or Q&A’s with Emily Weiss) to create more relevant and targeted products. It does not crowdsource, but this strategy ensures that its audience feels listened to and important.

Glossier

As a result of this, Glossier thrives off social sharing and word of mouth marketing, also rewarding its most vocal fans with exclusive perks. For one particular launch, Glossier chose to send its new product to 100 ‘superfans’ instead of high-profile influencers, thereby fostering loyalty and further cementing the advocacy of its audience.

Hilton

Loyalty schemes can be a good measure of how customer-centric a company is, with the very best examples benefiting both the brand as well as the customers themselves. Hilton Hotels’ HHonors programme is one of these, with its rewards system continuously evolving based on the feedback of members.

In 2018, it updated the scheme to allow customers to earn more points with every stay, as well as gain an ‘Elite’ status for loyalty, and use rollover nights. The point here is that Hilton’s previous system was working perfectly well, generating consistently positive reviews from customers and an industry-wide reputation. However, keen to not rest on its laurels, the brand uses data and feedback to ensure it is continuously improving on the customer experience.

As well as being named in Fortune’s Top 100 companies to work for, evidence of Hilton’s customer-centric approach can also be found in its recently revamped pricing strategy. Offering customers more flexibility for a slightly higher rate, this also helps Hilton to manage inventory and meet customer demand.

It is an approach that appears to be paying off. According to reports, a test-run of the new strategy contributed to Hilton generating a 20% increase in bookings for Q1 2018.

If you want to learn more…

…about customer centricity, why not check out Econsultancy’s 3-day Customer Experience Masterclass.