Are you obsessed enough with your customers? A truly customer-centric business is one which turns data into rich insights that help it understand, anticipate and serve customers’ needs better and more quickly than its rivals. Some companies look to the latest data software or digital marketing technologies to give them the edge. They’re looking in the wrong place. It’s having the right people on board, together with a culture that drives customer focus throughout the company, that makes the biggest difference.

The world’s most customer-focused companies grow faster than their peers. Of the businesses that took part in our recent Insights2020 study, 79% of those with above average revenue growth said they embraced customer-centricity across all functions, compared with just 36% of all the businesses surveyed. By exploring what these high performers do that their rivals don’t, we’ve been able to isolate the factors that contribute most to building a customer focused business.

Give insights a leading role

Half of all high performers allow insights and analytics to lead their business. If you want to maximise the impact of your customer data, you should rethink the role of your insights team or agency. Instead of seeing them as a support function that answers marketing questions, enable them to become a pro-active business partner that is available for the whole business to make use of. This could mean giving them a direct interface into every department, or even having them report into the CEO or MD. If your insights provider is in a position to influence all kinds of business decisions, the voice of the customer will be heard whenever a decision is made.

Drive customer obsession from the front

Customer-centricity is a priority for business leaders at almost twice as many of the highest performing companies as the lower performers. Customer focus needs to apply to all internal processes and decisions, as well as to all external relationships, and if leaders are modelling the right behaviours, mindset and approach this will help to ensure they permeate the entire organisation.

Equip yourself with the right skills and capabilities

To fully leverage all available customer data, you need a combination of maths (the skills to make sense of the data) and magic (the ability to tell a meaningful story about that data). This means you should be looking to hire whole-brain thinkers: people who have great analytical skills, as well as a talent for bringing data to life with actionable recommendations that compel stakeholders at all levels to do things differently.

Use insights to create a total customer experience

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the highest performers personalise their offer based on what they know their customers think, do, need and want. This could range from personalising the actual product to customising service, pricing, distribution or another element of the marketing mix. The next step is to make this tailored experience seamless and consistent across all touchpoints. Start by focusing on a select few touchpoints, then slowly expand into more ‘moments of truth’ along the customer journey.

Root everything in a strong brand purpose that goes beyond functional benefits

Eighty per-cent of high-performing businesses said they link everything they do to a crystal clear purpose for why the brand exists, compared with 49% of all the companies surveyed. This is not just about defining a purpose. It involves living it consistently across the whole organisation, and letting it guide all business decisions and actions – not just those to do with brand communications or marketing.

Splitting the survey responses by geography clearly highlights that there’s plenty of room for UK businesses to grab competitive advantage if they invest time and energy into improving their customer focus. The UK companies that took part demonstrate the critical capabilities and leadership commitment necessary to ‘live’ a customer-centric strategy, but they lag behind in other areas. Only 33% build their activities on a strong brand purpose, for example, while only 26% leverage insights to create a consistent 360° experience across all touchpoints.

We know more about our customers than we ever have, and the more connected consumers become, the more data will be available to us. The difference between drowning in this information and unlocking its full power to drive growth lies in our ability to derive rich, detailed customer insights and re-shape our businesses around them. We could all benefit from being a little bit more obsessed.

By Louise Ainsworth, CEO, Millward Brown UK