Business vs Customer

As many are already aware, by looking after the customer, you are looking after your business. So why does the day-to-day running of businesses usually neglect this practice? Business priorities are almost always about the business, not the needs of the customer. So, considering the ultimate position for businesses is putting the customer first, how can businesses that are not ‘quite there yet’ balance their priorities against the needs of the customer? Another way of positioning this question is how immediate vs longer-term priorities are balanced within the business and for the customer.

 

Sales, Profits & Repeat Custom

Typically, businesses are focused on their sales metrics, profit margins, and achieving the cheapest acquisition possible – the repeat customer. And from a business perspective, all of this makes sense to measure and consider important. A very real danger here is the divide that can establish and grow between business focus and the ideals and expectations within the wider market. Establishing a business and maintaining a business in isolation not only risks missing the mark with customers, but it risks exacerbating negative effects over time as trends change and competition adapts. When a business focuses directly on sales, profit and repeat customers they essentially put on the short-term blinkers – to the detriment of longer-term success.

 

Impression, Experience & Loyalty

Customers on the other hand are most often concerned with the reputation or perception of a brand before engaging with it and what their experiences are with that brand when they do engage. Customer loyalty is fostered through the positive management of these factors. When a business focuses on the customer, the longer term is also considered alongside short-term planning. Quick wins for improving the customer experience tend to be prioritised in the short term, and larger schedules of work can put the building blocks in place for ensuring the business heads in the right direction over the long term. It also ensures that through regular checkpoints with the customer base, these parameters are adjusted as required to ensure that any planning is adjusted as customer needs change over time.

 

The Balancing Act

Acknowledging the fact that by prioritising the customer businesses can achieve success operationally and experientially, how can businesses realistically and simply merge these two thought processes together? There is more to simply balancing a short and long-term approach. There is an awareness and consideration for how business and consumer needs change over time, and how businesses must react to these needs. It also becomes relevant to digital and in-store shopping experiences, communications and customer exchanges, and even reputation and social proof. Below we take a look at IKEA at how they offer a real-world example of a successful approach to balancing business and customer focus.

 

IKEA

The impression IKEA would like in the market is that they are a discount furniture retailer across a number of product and design sets, with a sustainable focus, and this has been found to be accurate against customer’s opinions. IKEA marketing campaigns have always been customer-centric, clever, quirky, and supportive of this message. When you consider the customer experience of IKEA, they attempt to balance in-store and online shopping. Online they were one of the first retailers to adapt and offer virtual reality to allow consumers to test products in their own home environment, through the use of their mobile app. In-store, IKEA are renowned for their considered and clever flow of foot traffic from section to section to introduce shoppers to their product range in a way that they have designed for maximum impact.

But they also cleverly offer fast-track or ‘cut through’ routes through this maze, so for the loyal customer looking for a quick shopping experience or something specific, there are options available to them to shortcut the larger experience. This is a very well-balanced but subtle consideration of both business and customer. IKEA also offer a 365-day return of items, giving customers an enduring safety net that offers reassurance around the purchase. In terms of sales and profit, IKEA was recently ranked as the 8th most valuable retailer in the world. IKEA’s mobile loyalty programme has also ensured that customers are included in a wider community that keeps them coming back.

 

Summary

When it comes to business and customers, it’s well known that the two cannot be separated. But increasingly, businesses are putting their heads in the sand and ignoring advice and common logic to focus on sales, profit and repeat custom instead of considering impression, experience, and loyalty. For those businesses that fall into this category, the assumption is that business culture within those organisations is failing to realise or consider the impacts of this negligence.

So, for those in this position, how can a realignment between business and customer begin to be achieved? In this article, we suggest a balancing act between immediate business priorities, and quick wins and longer-term projects that can improve the customer experience as a starting point. We investigate how IKEA has demonstrated this balance in practice, and why continuous improvement to this balance over time leads to better business, happier customers, and shared success.

 

Further Reading:

On the most recent series of our podcast, 15 Minutes With, we talked to Vineeta Anuj from Mindful Chef about how they incorporate the customer into their business at every step. You can listen to the episode right here.