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How many times have you heard a company brag about providing value to customers? And how many followed through?

Customer service is more important now than ever before. As industries become saturated with competition, genuine customer service and relationships are what will separate great companies from the rest of the pack.

Read our guide below to learn more about the most important customer-centric business concepts and examples from real-life brands.

 

Customer empathy

Ask any leader about how to build a great brand, and they’ll tell you about the importance of customer empathy. All the research, analyses, and expert opinions in the world mean nothing if a company lacks a basic understanding and respect for the customer.

The data cannot be ignored. Companies that prioritize customer empathy have repeatedly been shown to perform better and deliver better experiences. In HBR’s study of 170 brands, the top 10 most empathetic companies “increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more earnings (defined by market capitalization).”

So how can a company become more empathetic? It starts by genuinely listening to what your customers are saying and how they behave. Here are a few examples of customer empathy:
 

Segmentation

Companies tend to think about their customers as one giant mass. But each customer is unique in their own way. Segmentation allows companies to think more accurately about their customers by organizing them according to certain traits: age, location, income level, and so on.

 

Customer personas

A customer persona is a representative sample of this segmented audience—complete with hypothetical name, location, age, desires, pain points, and more. Check out this post from Brafton to see a few examples of effective customer personas.
 
Tobi Day Persona example

Credit: Suttida Yang

 

Empathy map

An alternative to the customer persona is an empathy map. This model focuses more on the feelings and sensations of a customer—what do they see, hear, say, and do? What do they worry about? What excites them? Filling out this empathy map can help businesses better understand the disposition and mindset of their customers.
 
Empathy Map

Credit: Solutions IQ

 

Customer journeys

Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can now see the actions taken by customers online. This is invaluable data that provides actionable insights on how your customers discover, learn, and use your product or service. Put simply: data helps you trace a customer’s journey through your brand experience.

By understanding the frustrations and discoveries within your customers’ journeys, your team can learn more about which specific product aspects to focus on.

 

Customer orientation

Despite the importance of customer empathy, only a handful of companies will ingrain the value into their employee training. Those that do, however, tend to find richer and longer-lasting relationships with their customers. For those who don’t, empathy becomes just another word on the company website.

Early during development, every person on the team should be able to understand the total value the brand can provide to customers, otherwise known as the customer value proposition. Is it faster delivery? High-quality customer service? Or simply top of the line craftsmanship?

To gauge your team’s cohesion and understanding of the customer value proposition, consider sending out a few employee surveys. Ask them about the company’s goals and vision, and the desires and pain points of customers. Ask about the value the brand offers that the customer can’t find anywhere else.

The answers could be startling. C-level executives might fail to answer the most basic questions, while developers or customer-facing employees may question their overall role within the grander scheme of things. This is the first step in understanding your company’s present situation with customer orientation. Because whatever trait, feature, or quality it may be, you need to have total executive and employee buy-in.

 

Customer orientation examples

Hotels are prime examples of how training can make all the difference in customer engagement. At the Ritz-Carlton, leaders and new employees are trained on what the company calls “The Gold Standards.” This means creating unforgettable experiences and defining moments during a guest’s stay.

Even after orientation, employees are reminded of their training each day. Every 90 days, there is a test to see how they perform on service scores. This level of service is what has garnered the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as being one of the most luxurious brands in the world.

 

Customer insights

Listen closely to what your customer has to say, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to improve your product. They won’t tell you what to do or build, but they’ll tell you how it can be better. Remain open and respond to customer feedback.

In the tech industry, developers and designers refer to the customer’s beliefs and behaviors as the voice of the customer (VOC). The concept covers everything the customer wants and needs out of the product, then organizes it based on importance. For example, in testing an app for food delivery, the most important need may be to be able to see the different restaurants on the app and place an order, while additional features such as transitions and sound effects may be considered stretch goals.

In today’s online world, customer insight tools can be found almost anywhere. For web development, Google Analytics can show you the actions users are taking in finding and using your website. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer similar analytics for user engagement. Brands that spend the time to look through this data can find startling new ways of providing value to customers.

 

Customer insight examples

Brands today need not only cater to customers but to engage with them on a personal level. That’s exactly what make-up brand, Glossier does through its social media. More than just a platform for advertising, Glossier’s social media demonstrates the importance of building a community.

Founder, Emily Weiss had previously written a blog, Into the Gloss, while she worked at Vogue and before starting her makeup brand. “As I interviewed hundreds of women,” Weiss said, “I became more and more aware of how flawed the traditional beauty paradigm is. It has historically been an industry based on experts telling you, the customer, what you should or shouldn’t be using on your face.”

That same investigative spirit has carried Glossier forward—Weiss continues to interview hundreds of customers and feature their stories, beauty routines, and even customer reviews on their social media. Glossier’s Instagram account has nearly 3 million followers, and the company is valued at $1.2 billion.

 

Customer interactions

What customers say does not always align with what customers do. In reality, you won’t learn much about the customer’s behavior unless you interact with them directly.

For example, product developers may have assumptions about how customers will end up using a product. Still, all assumptions could be shattered once they see the product being used in-person. That’s why retailers like Target, Best Buy, and Apple typically have sales representatives standing in the electronics department—to both observe how customers engage with the devices and to assist customers with questions.

Because of this discrepancy between the designer’s intentions and the user’s actual behavior, there is a potential for products to fail, break, or be misused. This is where the concept of feedback loops come into play.

In its most basic concept, the feedback loop is a way to provide users with real-time information (feedback) after they take a specific action. With enough feedback for positive actions, you can encourage behaviors and discourage undesired actions.

 

Customer interaction examples

T-mobile has demonstrated to other brands how to engage their customers through social media. A 2012 study found that the brand responded to 86% of the questions it received on social media, which was well over 2,500 over three months. Besides customer support, T-Mobile used social media to find new employees.

T-Mobile’s approach to social media also had a more personal touch than other large corporations. Whenever a member of the team responded to a question, they signed their replies with their real names, indicating a true human interaction and not a bot. These interactions are what make T-Mobile one of the most reputable telecommunication companies.

 

Customer service

It’s easy to believe that the customer journey ends upon the purchase of a product, but the engagement continues long after, years even. Maintaining that relationship with the customer is essential to building a brand and audience.

What are the best practices for customer service?

1. Respond promptly – Customers don’t like waiting around for a response. Even if all they hear back is a simple response, customers appreciate an acknowledgment.
2. Personalization – No one enjoys an automated response. What matters is when we feel that we are speaking to a real person.
3. Offer a solution – All the excuses in the world won’t matter if your brand can’t find a way to rectify an issue. Whether it’s a legitimate fix or a credit towards their next purchase, customers want to know what you will do to help them out.
4. Go the extra mile – While most businesses will do the bare minimum to keep their customers happy, the ones that do the extra work to make a customer happy will keep them for life.

 

Customer service examples

Warby Parker has a famous example of customer service. During one train ride, a client had accidentally left their pair of Warby Parker glasses behind. By sheer luck, Warby Parker Senior Executive Anjali Kumar happened to find them. Kumar reached out to the client and sent them two pairs of the same reading glasses, a copy of “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, and a personalized note.

 
The story became a hit and remains a classic example of how to go above and beyond a simple act like returning a pair of glasses. Not only did Warby Parker earn a customer for life, but they cultivated a following unlike before on social media.

The customer should be at the forefront of every single business action. If nobody buys your product, your business is doomed to fail. Through careful training, research, and meaningful interactions, a customer can go from a simple buyer to a loyal brand advocate. It all starts with treating the customer as a human being, with desires and pains just like anyone else.