It was 1909, more than a century ago, when Harry Gordon Selfridge spread his renowned statement “The Customer is always right”, transforming the consumer into the exclusive heart of the business. Since the claim became popular, many companies made it a real mantra and it finds fertile ground in the modern age. In fact, today most business activities are modeled according to the customers’ needs. However, for most organizations, prioritizing people over operations is not enough anymore and unsurprisingly companies today are looking for new business approaches to unlock Customer Loyalty and increase long-term relations with the consumers.
What can companies do to stand out among their competitors and be the consumers’ first choice? Planning a solid business strategy is imperative for sustaining the market position but developing a competitive advantage and drawing out an efficient go-to-market plan is the real challenge. To be effective and to obtain long-term results, goals, and objectives must be clear and consistent with the target consumers’ demands. Nevertheless, the high level of competition and the risk of saturation place companies in front of a challenging context in which it is necessary to differentiate from the competitors in order to beat the market. For this to happen, organizations need to strengthen the customers' analysis and interpret correctly the buyers’ demands so that it’s easier to become thought-leaders in the sector in which they operate.
It would therefore be more accurate to speak of “competitive strategy”, as the company strives to reflect on the added value it can offer to its target compared to the competition. Since the 1950s, various schools of thought have taken turns and many different philosophies on Sales & Marketing have arisen, from the most conservative and product-oriented to the customer-centric ones.
The rise of the "consumer society" following the Industrial Revolution has certainly pushed companies to move towards strategies that could respond to the growth in demand for goods and services: the better the product offered, the greater the chances that the customer pays for it. At that time, many companies were not taking into consideration a crucial factor that would mark new boundaries in business starting in the 90s: the rise of the Information Age.
In the modern age, the changes in consumer behavior as a result of Digitalization are impacting the way companies plan their business strategies. Enterprises of any dimension deal daily with the influence played by buyers on the entire purchasing process. Managers and C-level employees are asked to offer products or services in line with the target consumer’s demands, which is why communication and cooperation with the buyers becomes vital. It is on these premises that a new branch of business management comes directly from Silicon Valley: business is no longer a finite activity whose ultimate purpose is the sale, but it’s an infinite event based on relationships whose goal is to bring value to the customer while always remaining relevant. In this new scenario, the concept of traditional competitive advantage (“My product or service is better than my competitors’”) is overturned and companies need to recognize and concretize the added value that customers can benefit from to gain success: it is Customer Success.
Overcoming the traditional Business logic, this School of Thought, very widespread in Software as a Service companies that tend to follow Subscription Economy models, defends the idea that the Customer Journey does not end when the customer buys our product/service; on the contrary, it is precisely from that moment that the company should assume the risk and responsibility of monitoring the results that the customer achieves thanks to the solution. This type of Customer Management process aligns the client's objectives with the company’s, seeking to generate beneficial results for both parties, shifting the focus from solving problems in progress to creating new opportunities proactively.
According to a study conducted by North Highland on 700 business executives in American and British companies, 87% of leaders consider customer experience to be the main driver of growth. This attitude found concrete confirmation during the pandemic that changed consumer habits, forcing companies to reshape the logic of engagement and customer loyalty. Think of Fashion Retail: stores that have been forced to close for months have worked hard to create seamless sales conditions, with the physical and digital worlds mixed in what today we call the “Phygital Customer Experience”.
According to the Customer Success model, ensuring a positive, original, and customized experience is only part of the work that companies must do to always keep up with customer requests. The next step is to take responsibility for their growth goals, making sure that they gain the greatest possible benefit from the product/service we have offered them. Fortunately, companies, especially well-structured ones, can count on a precious source of useful information: data.
For example, data collected during the Customer Journey must be interpreted and transformed into real strategic operations which, in addition to limiting the occurrence of problems, are able to improve the quality of the relationship undertaken with our customer. Therefore, the message conveyed by the communication with our client portfolio has changed: no longer “here's what you can do with my product”, but rather “here are the results you can achieve with my product”.
Applying the Customer Success Framework represents a challenge on various fronts: organizational, strategic, and above all cultural. The strong awareness that the success of our customers forges the success of our business does not relieve us of the commitment to grasp and emphasize the strengths of our interlocutors, and we will keep working hard to ensure them the best interpretation of technological solutions. This approach, if integrated into the daily workflow, will adequately contribute to the creation of long-lasting and satisfying relationships.
A special thank to Alberto Mattiello, Biusiness Futurist and Innovator, for his inspiring lesson at Dedagroup offices in Trento.
Product Marketing Specialist