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Who would have thought that we would be cutting our own hair, working from home, buying everything online and exercising in our garages this time last year? The world has turned on its head and, if you are not paying close attention, your current offers might be completely missing the mark with your customers.

The importance of customer-centricity isn’t new. Staying close to customers and knowing what is most important to them is essential to building a thriving business. But you don’t need me to tell you that a lot has changed over the last 18 months. And what was important to your customers before, may now have changed. Similarly, new customer frustrations, expectations or needs may have emerged or intensified.

Now is the time to ramp up your customer focus. If this isn’t something that you have previously been disciplined in, then it’s time to start. Below are four things that you can do to drive customer-closeness in your business.

  • Create frictionless customer feedback loops

Having fast customer feedback loops is critical to ensuring that you can react quickly to your customer’s changing needs. Lots of companies have customer service teams, however it’s not as common for this information to effectively filter back into the business, in real-time. And this is where significant gains can be made. Some of the world’s most innovative companies have systematised the way that they seek customer feedback. They make it simple for customers to share their feedback, and this feeds directly into product development and innovation processes.

Therefore, think about how you can optimise your internal processes to make sure that you are getting real-time, customer feedback and insights.

  • Get out of the building

As Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, famously said, the key to innovation success is to “get out of the building”. He states that many entrepreneurs wait too long to gauge real customer interest in their products and services, which often leads to failure. And the best way to do this is to get out of the building and talk to your customers. Steve calls it ‘customer discovery’, and he encourages all innovators to make a habit of getting out and speaking to customers early and often. But don’t mistake this for a sales pitch. This is not about selling your offers to customers. As Steve says, “customer discovery is a lot of listening, not a lot of talking.”

So, make sure that you are regularly listening to your customers and that you understand what’s most important to them.

  • Try dog-fooding

Dog-fooding is the process of stepping into the shoes of your customers and experiencing your products and services as they would; the good, the bad and the ugly. This process can often, very quickly, shed light on glitches in your customer journey or experience. It’s important that you not only explore the customer’s ‘happy path’ but also their ‘unhappy path’. As often businesses will have a brilliant ‘happy path’ when everything runs smoothly, however the unhappy path is not considered with the same degree of emphasis.

Make it a habit of experiencing your products and services first-hand and importantly, explore the customer experience when things go wrong.

  • Run experiments

At a time when you can’t rely on past experience or data to base your decisions on, experimentation can help. The best way to determine if new products and services are hitting the mark is to get them in front of your customers as early as possible. Experimentation requires you to apply scientific method to test and de-risk your ideas. It’s designed to help you learn quickly, before you have over invested, which aspects of your ideas are working, and which aren’t.

Don’t be afraid to get new products and services in front of customers early, to experiment and learn. Many of your customers will value progress over perfection in the current climate.

Whichever approaches you adopt, make sure that customer-closeness is an ongoing and regular habit across your business to survive and thrive in 2021. And feel free to email me at [email protected] if you’d like to chat more.