4 Tips for Adopting a Customer-Centric Mindset

August 30, 2015

David Saef

David Saef, the executive vice president of MarketWorks and strategy at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events and trade shows.

Especially if you’re taking an integrated marketing approach, your customers need to be driving the decisions your company makes. Otherwise, your brand could risk becoming irrelevant—or, worse, offensive—to your audience.

Just look at Puma’s promotion of its Italy jersey for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It set up “confessionals” across the US and encouraged people to kneel before the “altar,” snap pictures and share them on social channels with the hashtag #StartBelieving.

Unfortunately, the stunt coincided with Ash Wednesday, and Puma’s poor timing didn’t go over well with its audience.

Customer-Centricity Matters

When customers are embedded in your DNA—from customer service to marketing to product design—you start to think from their perspective. As a result, you gain insights into not only what you could do but also what you should do as a company.

By harnessing your customers’ wants and needs and infusing that knowledge into every marketing decision, you can establish lifelong relationships that will inevitably grow your business. The customer-centric mindset is actually similar to a brand-centric one—it just starts with the customer rather than the brand.

To get in touch with your inner customer, start with the following four steps:

1. Shift the customer to the center

Instead of asking, “How can we make more sales?” position the question as “How can we delight customers or overcome pain points?” By pleasing your customers and simplifying their lives, you can attract more business and brand advocates.

Simple changes, such as hiring people who work well with your target customers or providing translation services based on customer profiles, can help shift the focus toward the customer.

Take Southwest Airlines, for example. The company works under the philosophy “people first, profits second.” It understands that customers want prompt, hassle-free travel, complimentary checked bags, and a fun (yet safe) approach to travel. By doing everything possible to overcome travel woes, Southwest is rewarded with brand loyalty and repeat business that generates more profits for the company.

2. Join the conversation

Your customers are already talking about your brand, so why not join the conversation by soliciting feedback? Prompt them to voice their satisfaction and dissatisfaction freely and regularly to help your brand become more responsive to their wants and needs. If possible, invite them to brainstorm on improvements or prototyping. They’ll feel much more connected to your brand as a result.

Customers sometimes don’t know what they want, so gathering feedback is only half the battle. Conducting empathy interviews is a powerful way to tap into their desires, habits, and motivations; those interviews also enable you to uncover underlying needs and predict future ones.

It wasn’t until FedEx began conducting customer dissatisfaction research that it discovered new ways it was disappointing customers. Now the company closely monitors customer feedback and even holds monthly customer experience meetings to stay proactive in creating a pleasant brand experience.

3. Let customers feel the love

Technology can only go so far in keeping customers satisfied. Exceed customer expectations by providing a “human touch” with superior customer service. It’s one of the easiest ways to uncover new customer needs.

One of Zappos’s goals is to create personal, emotional connections with its customers. It encourages its customer service staff to spend as much time as necessary talking to customers on the phone and helping them with any difficult situation, company-related or not. In turn, it has established long-standing loyalties and it has become more responsive in the marketplace.

4. Monitor customer trends

Understanding how customers use your products or services isn’t enough; you have to adapt to their changing needs and lifestyles. Learn how they live their lives, how your product fits into the mix, and ways your product needs to change to remain relevant.

Empathy interviews can capture this information and enable you to get to know your customers, and they shouldn’t be treated as one-time events; they should be conducted regularly so your brand can remain flexible and astute enough to change as needs change.

The ability to empathize with customers is an essential component of design thinking, which values whom a product is designed for, not whom it’s designed by. Adopting design thinking principles not only makes your mindset more customer-centric but also improves your products to meet customer demands before they’re voiced in a more public forum.

Know What Your Brand Stands For

Before you can start putting customers first, you need to understand what your brand stands for and establish a company-wide goal of upholding that brand promise.

Mercedes-Benz has moved closer to customers physically and figuratively by opening inner-city stores to attract more foot traffic and lowering prices to appeal to younger demographics. By meeting the needs of its diverse audience, Mercedes has maintained a competitive edge in the marketplace and secured a reputation as a superior car company.

Once you (1) get to know your customers; (2) actively seek their feedback; and (3) understand how your products fit into their lives… you can segment customers and customize your messaging to truly resonate with them. In turn, your audience will respond by investing in your company not just once, but time and time again.

What are you doing to put clients first?

(Article originally published on MarketingProfs.com)

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.