Josh Linkner: 4 Steps To Being A Customer Centric Company

Think of the world’s greatest brands over time, only a few are still relevant today. What set theseJosh Linkner: 4 Steps To Being A Customer Centric Company image 20131016 SAP METLIFE 02571 300x199Josh Linkner: 4 Steps To Being A Customer Centric Company companies apart? Was it a focus on operating margin? Or ensuring they had the right leaders in place? It’s true these things are essential to business success, however when it comes to a top tier brand it is a strong focus on the customer that truly differentiates the leaders from the rest.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Josh Linkner, entrepreneur and author, speak on the topic of Customer Centricity. He kicked off his keynote, like all good ones, by sharing a story. This one was an example of the market disruption one large Goliath of a brand is seeing.

David and Goliath

Gillette owns 70% of the market share of razor blades, with this beefy share it is seemingly logical for them to not worry about engaging with their customers with the confidence they’ll buy from them anyways.

However, what they weren’t expecting was a man, a camera, and a radical way of telling his company’s story to produce a a new, and worthy, competitor.

DollarShaveClub.com is taking the market share by storm. His viral video engages with the customer in a humorous and catchy way. Although a bit quirky, and unlike the high-res production commercials Gillette pumps out, it is resonating with customers.

While we’re only starting to see this disruption happening, the occurrences are growing and can happen to anyone. So how do businesses stay relevant to their customers? According to Josh, there are 4 steps.

One: Creative Thinking with Courage

There is a myth that many creative ideas come out perfect and ready for production. The biggest lessons learned comes from setbacks and mistakes, but the biggest failures come from ideas that were never even brought to the table.

Josh made this the first step for a reason; fear is our largest internal blocker, one that prevents creativity from flowing. It keeps new ideas from the table, because many are too afraid their idea will be rejected.

Josh advised the crowd to create a culture without judgment when it comes to discussing ideas, even if the idea is a bad one. Instead of saying “that was a bad idea”, sit down with the employee and begin to question the idea. “Where do you see this idea going?”

Then, instead of feeling discouraged, the employee will think deeper and their next version may be a game changer.

“What’s the risk? Irrelevance, mediocrity, and getting passed by…so many organizations and people play it safe only to see that’s the biggest risk of all” – Josh Linkner

Two: The Need To Shed The Past

Many companies are defined by their successes. They also let these past successes hold them back from trying something new. Josh talked about the classic example of Polaroid. Consultants warned of the transformation happening in the photography industry and internal executives refused to listen, for fear of “cannibalizing” their core business.

“You need to flip it upside down, be the cannibal. Put yourself out of business in a proactive way,” Josh advised. By transforming with your customer, rather than forcing them to accept your mold, you will truly be a customer centric organization.

Three: Reject Bureaucracy

What holds many large companies back, Josh said, are the layers within an organization. Businesses cannot let bureaucracy get in the way of the constructive disruption. Need a reason why? Scroll back up to the Dollar Shave Club example, then put yourself in Gillette’s shoes. Be proactive in thinking “how could a hungry start up take us on?”

Four: Be Distinctive

“Run your own race”, Josh advised. Standing out is more productive than playing it safe. By standing out and standing up for something in your industry, like Dove did with their Real Beauty Campaign, you are creating a customer experience that’s profoundly different from your competitors.

Customer Centricity Is A Journey

In many organizations for this to become a reality requires a significant cultural shift, as well as a shift in the way you and your employees ideate. Throughout his keynote, Josh shared invaluable advice and examples of brands that go beyond the data and into whom their customers really are, creating an experience for them that satisfies all 5 senses.

Here are the examples he shared:

What other steps, if any, do you think a company should take to become truly customer centric? Let me know by commenting on this article.

Photo Credit: Joe Wallace Photography

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