Customer Centricity Isn’t Just For Big Businesses
BY MICHELLE THOMAS – DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
In the state of Washington, youth soccer is a big deal. It’s highly competitive, with thousands of kids working hard to secure spots on the coveted A and B teams across a handful of respectable clubs. Which club you belong to becomes a source of pride and provides a sense of community and belonging. As a parent, I’ve seen soccer become a key part of who my children are. It isn’t just a sport they play—it’s their passion—which means it sorta became my passion.
Recently, my passion for work converged with my passion for youth soccer. The club that my two daughters belong to is experiencing growing pains, trying to find its position in the soccer world. In their quest for figuring out where they want to go, I find myself as a passenger on this journey, waiting to see what will happen. A few observations so far:
- The club is prioritizing their business decisions over the best interests of their parents and athletes
- Many decisions have been seemingly uninformed and without a full understanding of the ramifications of those decisions
- They have essentially turned their backs on some of their most loyal families, who have wholeheartedly put their faith in the club
- While communication is frequent, there is a lack of transparency and disclosure as to why situations are shaping up the way they are
In my professional life, this is what you might call an #epicfail. My job is to consult businesses to NOT do these things. Combined with the personal and emotional connection I have with the club, you can imagine how difficult this is to sit back and watch. I may not be able to influence the club’s journey, but I might be able to provide some advice for other businesses that find themselves building out their own journey.
Consideration #1: Lean into your brand
As you find yourself at that crossroads, take the time to figure out what makes you unique and different. While you may need to bring a certain level of parity to your business to compete in a space, don’t try to be something you are not. Figure out how to build from what you have to transform your business, not ignore it. When brands prioritize their wants and needs over that of a consumer, they will fail.
In the case of this soccer club, there are reasons we chose it in the first place—the coaching is top notch and they genuinely have my kids’ best interests at heart, my children are developing both soccer and life skills, and the community surrounding the club is something that other clubs can’t compete on. It’s disappointing to see them chase the traits of other clubs, who put winning over everything. This decision is having an impact on the one thing that makes them different—the development of the players.
Consideration #2: Use data to make an informed decision
Research should be viewed as an investment, not a cost. It has the ability to influence decisions and guide the course of action that a brand takes. As you find yourself at the point of making a decision, consider using research and data to help guide your way.
This club made decisions based on a short-term gain without considering the long-term impact on players and parents. Despite the degree of impact on their customers, they didn’t give their customers a voice.
Consideration #3: Don’t let loyalty suffer in your journey
Entrepreneur and Forbes contributor Beth Doane says: “You have to love your brand, your product, and your service if you are going to create a love for it.” As a business, you should strive to build a passion brand and do everything in your power to unleash the value that comes from that. It means building customer relationships based on trust and creating engaging experiences that reinforce that passion. Loyalty becomes a byproduct of creating such positive customer experiences.
This club has the passion part down, but with more recent actions, I question whether or not I’ve made the best brand choice. I am seeking affirmation from the club that I chose the best place to invest both of my daughters’ futures, plus the time and energy investments that come with the commitment of youth soccer. I want my loyalty to matter.
Consideration #4: INVITE CUSTOMERS ON YOUR JOURNEY
Customers are not dumb, so don’t treat them like they are. There is a co-dependency to recognize—brands need customers as much, if not more, as customers need brands. So why not treat this as a partnership and invite your customers on the journey? By being kept informed customers will understand the vision, know how to support the journey, and how to help evolve it. Most importantly, they will help propel it.
While the club’s decisions might be well intended, perception and experience is everything. By not knowing why things are happening, it’s difficult to support the journey.
The idea of putting the customer at the center of your business decisions—otherwise known as customer centricity—shouldn’t just apply to big corporations. No matter the size of your organization, it’s much more beneficial to make changes based on what’s best for your customers, as opposed to making intuitive changes that you hope they’re ok with. If you’re implementing the latter more often than the former, don’t be surprised when customers tell you to kick rocks.