Searching for "customer centricity " on Google generates 15.8 million results. So, it’s important, right? It is how an organization generates value, how it earns money. The concept of putting the customer at the heart of key organizational decisions is not difficult to understand. Everyone is subscribing to it. At the same time it’s a buzzword many of us have gotten tired of.
The bottom line however is that customer centricity is difficult to achieve. It is one of the toughest strategic challenges that companies are confronted with. Here are three golden rules to help meet that challenge.
Admittedly, leadership has a key role to play in the quest of customer centricity, however there are three further key enablers that should be considered: digital, the creation of value propositions and humility and empathy within leadership.
Key enabler #1: Leveraging customer-centric digital capabilities
While almost all life science companies are exploring the opportunities that digital technologies can offer, many have yet to make sustained and bold moves to take advantage of these new capabilities.
A meaningful digital marketing strategy
A meaningful digital marketing strategy plays a key role in costumer centricity. We have been playing with “digital transformation” (435 million results on Google) for over a decade, with the objective to connect and engage better with customers, whether B2B or B2C, to increase customer engagement, user experience and satisfaction. This is fantastic news, and the COVID pandemic has contributed to an acceleration of this trend.
But here is the rub. If you go on the other side and actually audit customers themselves – real customers - you often come to realize that they are not getting the experience they want. They often report that they are confronted with digital solutions that are anything but intuitive, that do not deliver pertinent content or address their needs. This presents a significant quandary for life science companies that have put immense effort and investment to get customer centricity right, but are not achieving a better customer experience. And remember, customer experience drives user satisfaction, which in turn determines your overall success.
A meaningful content management strategy
In the information-rich world of life sciences companies, there’s an almost limitless opportunity to capture your customers’ attention by feeding them the most insightful and relevant content possible, exactly when they’re ready for it.
Behind every communication a clear and consistent plan needs to be developed. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand exactly what makes them tick and what will make them engage with you. What answers are they searching for? What’s making them read on? What will motivate them to act? And most especially, what will make them come back for more?
Key enabler #2: Co-creating your value proposition
When new life science companies start operating, the customer demand is, per definition, not so high. Younger firms thus have to be genuinely customer centric, because if they are not, they wilt and die. As a result, their customer centricity is usually pretty high. But then what happens?
While generating more growth and revenues, the company will typically hire more people, develop more and new offerings along with better products and services, put new processes in place, increase scale and generally turn the company into a machinery of efficiency. This is often when companies gradually become more inward oriented, which leads to the fading away of customer centricity.
At this stage, time after time, companies become overly proud about their products and the customer has no seat at the table anymore. Crucially, life science companies have to shift from being mesmerized by “product features” and re-focus on “customer benefits” and their value proposition. Very important here is to make the distinction between functional benefits (what the customer gets) and emotional benefits (how the customer feels when using the product).
Frequently life sciences communications become saturated with challenging technical messages and details that are alienating and hard to absorb. Such content rarely engages customers. Good science and strong value propositions should never hide behind nor puff itself up with dense, hard-to-penetrate language. Positive messages with the power of emotion move more people to take action. You need to touch the people who count: your colleagues, scientists, clinicians and patients. Your brand needs to inspire real people.
Developing a value proposition in a co-creative and multi-disciplinary way, helps bring the customer back to the table.
Key enabler #3: Humility and empathy
2 essential leadership skills for customer-centered organizations
Of course, the willingness to be audacious and take bold (yet calculated) risks to drive innovation is paramount to challenge the norms and remove the constraints in your industry that are driving you away from your customers. However, there are other key leadership qualities that deserve specific attention in the quest for customer centricity.
The humility to listen and learn from your teams and customers is a key leadership skill. Often it is not about how much you know as a leader but merely how much you are willing to learn from your teams and from your customers. This is so much more effective than being a narcissistic or charismatic leader, traits that tend to be over-represented in life science organizations, but which steer them away from the reality “in the field”.
Empathy is the quintessential quality that leaders should have and instill in their teams, because it is the skill that will allow you to build a solid connection with your customers. It is not a “soft” skill. Anything but! I’d call it a “wise” skill but one that needs nurturing. As a leader, it starts with genuinely connecting with your teams before actually taking it out to your customers. Empathy-led organizations are enabling themselves to find out if the core audiences they are trying to reach are actually reached. This allows them to predict the effect of their actions and decisions on their main audiences and strategize accordingly. Empathic leadership helps creating outward-oriented company cultures. However, it starts with ourselves, in the C-suite and the team around us.
So: three golden rules. We’ve worked alongside many life science companies to help make it as easy and simple as possible to follow them.
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