Business leaders today love leaning into buzzwords: Big Data! Synergies! Omnichannel! They come and go, but one that we should all buy into, 100 percent of the time, is “customer centricity.”
That’s because getting into the heads of the people who use your products and focusing completely on serving their needs benefits both buyers and businesses.
"You must attain information to understand who is buying, and why. It’s that simple. Then, you can create messages and experiences with those people in mind"
According to PWC, 73 percent of consumers say their buying experience influences purchase behavior more than price, and 32 percent say they’ll walk away from a brand they love after one bad experience. Meanwhile, Forrester reports that companies with better CX (yep, we’ve got jargon for our jargon) have higher stock values.
Most companies start out with good intentions, customer-wise. And why not? They are the lifeblood of any business. But time passes, priorities shift, and sometimes we start viewing people as dollar signs.
It’s a fate that befell us at Monster, which was founded nearly 25 years ago, with the noble purpose of helping people find jobs. Part of the problem was that the industry stopped seeing job candidates as customers in the first place—they became a commodity that could be sold to employers. It became apparent quickly upon joining as CMO in December, that we – quite unintentionally – also hadn’t been as customer-centric as we should be. And it was costing us and everyone else in our category.
So, we’re fixing it, and are steering the company back to being not just customer-centric, but customer obsessed, along with both sides of our two-sided marketplace but especially for job seekers whom we’d really betrayed. It’s challenging, of course. But an energizing and ultimately rewarding endeavor, for all stakeholders.
Along the way, I’ve learned three key lessons that may help you turn a platitude into something profound.
Figure out where you’re weakest—and own up to it.
It’s easier to gauge your level of customer centricity if you can see your customer right in front of you—think happy Traders Joe’s shoppers. But for those of us who don’t get much face time with the people we serve, we must find other ways to see what our customers really think of us.
A good place to start is with the Net Promoter Score (NPS), the percentage of customers who would recommend your brand to their friends. When we looked at Monster’s NPS, it was terrible. But, we’re not alone in this, so are our competitors’ – a clear sign it’s time to evolve on an industry-wide level. For us, we learned we have a great opportunity to improve things and make good on what we started nearly a quarter-century ago.
Quantitatively benchmarking customer experience is important. Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer is even more so. I asked everyone on my team to go through the customer flow as if we were job seekers and that included me too, there were no exclusions.
When I stepped into the shoes of the customer, I saw why we received such poor ratings – we were broken. Our pages took too long to load. Many prompts weren’t intuitive. And worst of all, our job results didn’t always feel relevant. It was painful but motivated us to make a serious commitment to do better.
There’s something refreshing about acknowledging what’s wrong. Sometimes, like when Wells Fargo tried to regain trust after account scandals, you do a public apology tour.
In our case, we’re focused on fixing what’s broken.
Really understand—and really speak to—the people you’re serving.
Humans are tribal, and our natural bias is to think that the world is just like us. Previously, I was CMO at a solar panel business started by people who wanted to save the world. They thought their customers wanted to save the world, too. But our data showed they were primarily motivated by saving … money on utility bills.
The point is: your customer is not necessarily who you assume they are. Monster, for example, had fallen into the trap of creating messaging for people who sit in front of a computer all day. But only 30 percent of our core audience sits in an office. Here’s where another buzzword – Big Data – can really help. You must attain information to understand who is buying, and why. It’s that simple. Then, you can create messages and experiences with those people in mind.
Along with data comes listening. We’ve built a social media team here that’s paid to listen to, respond to and escalate the real issues consumers raise every day. We’ve also engaged a customer insight firm that creates communities to help us get feedback in real time; to make sure the pain points we’re validating are real, this was extremely important for me.
Make the product as frictionless as possible.
Look at what insurance companies like Geico or Progressive—full disclosure: I used to work at the latter—have done to overhaul the quote process. Basically, you can get a quote without ever having to type anything. You take a picture of your driver’s license. So easy.
Customers want to do as little work as possible. You can’t survive with slow, multistep, outdated UI—which is where we were with Monster. So, our product teams have begun increasing page load speeds, introducing dual-pane job result pages, removing paid results from job listings, and more.
But making it easy just gets you to baseline. People expect personalization, like recommendations based on your previous search experiences. So we’re working on AI and machine learning capabilities that will help us get there.
Today’s customers demand – and deserve – to be heard. So you’ve got to listen, with every tool available. But then comes the hard part. You need to respond accordingly, by obsessively placing the customer at the forefront of every business decision.
Customer centric can’t be a platitude for us. It’s our only option.