For all the talk about customer-centricity, most companies have yet to adopt a holistic customer-driven strategy.

Making people happy is one part of the equation. But so is a deep understanding of their wants and needs. It’s also important to have processes in place to resolve customer issues to ensure long-term loyalty.

It’s a comprehensive process but it’s not complicated: It’s just about keeping the focus on building human relationships.

Just ask customer experience expert Shep Hyken.

Hyken, a best-selling author, motivational speaker and Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, said customer-centric businesses win because they keep the customer at the heart of every system and process they run, and everything they do.

So how can you advance your customer-driven strategy? Here are five strategies to get you started.

Invert the Experience

What’s it like to do business with your company? How does it feel to search for a product or service on your website, contact your call center, visit a retail store? Those are the kinds of questions usually answered by journey maps.

By understanding how your customers interact with your brand, you can gain better clarity about their pain points and can identify ways to make the customer journey easier, faster, and more convenient.

In fact, the customer journey and the process of mapping it out for your organization is the foundation for all of the technologies, processes, campaigns, and talent that comes after it.

But before you map the customer journey, invert the experience. Be a customer. Experience the journey. Feel the joy, feel the pain. What are you doing right, and what needs to change for a better customer-driven experience?

Exceed Expectations

Little things matter, and promises count. But it matters even more to exceed expectations. So include a hand-written thank you with your delivery order. Offer your repeat customer a surprise loyalty discount. Provide a free sample at the checkout counter, and thank your customers for social media mentions.

If your customers are also business owners, consider referring one of your clients to their business if the occasion presents itself.

Be human.

Emphasize Empathy

In an era of bots and automation, it’s never been more important to understand how your experiences make people feel.

As Arke CMTO Chris Spears likes to say, “Businesses not only need to walk in the shoes of their customers, they need to be empathetic enough to feel the pain caused by the pebbles in those shoes.”

Empathy— the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is a cornerstone of brand excellence. Successful businesses relate to their customers on a personal level. They show they understand their customers’ problems and are also willing to solve them.

Address Anger

The worst thing a company can do is to deny the credibility of a customer’s complaint.

  • Don’t tell an angry customer he’s the only one unhappy with a product or service.
  • Don’t minimize his frustration or annoyance.

Instead, listen attentively. As Arke VP of Strategy Margaret Wise explained, focus your attention on the speaker.

Pay attention not only to the speaker’s words but to everything being communicated nonverbally. “Don’t let your mind race ahead to what you want to say back to someone before they’re finished talking,” she added.

Validate the customer’s concerns. Then find a way to resolve them.

Connect the Dots

Today you have to think broadly and boldly about everyone who interacts with your company on all touchpoints, physical and digital.

As Chris Spears, Arke co-founder and Chief Marketing Technology Officer, explained, your digital presence has to complement and amplify your physical channels. You want to create smooth, seamless, and engaging omnichannel experiences.

This means your brand has a presence across channels — and all of those experiences are integrated in a way that makes things easy and convenient for your customers.

At Arke, this holistic approach is the foundation of brand experience excellence.

Brand experience is a more complete, complex concept than customer experience. Rather than focus on isolated touchpoints or interactions, brand experience prioritizes the end-to-end journey.

Brand experience tracks and maps both online and offline interactions. It considers a person’s interactions with your brand as well your competitors. And it focuses on a bigger vision of the overall impact your brand has on the people associated with it.

About Arke

Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.