A customer-centred culture is an asset

Company culture can be defined in multiple ways. According to one definition, a company’s culture consists of actions and decisions taken based on jointly agreed values.

In a customer-centred business culture, the customer’s need directs all of the operations, from the design of a product and service offering to the customer experience, communications and actions. The customer is the genuine focal point of all activities, not just in speeches and company presentations on websites. At its best, a customer-centred approach is the prevailing attitude and way of operating.

Young companies and start-ups have an advantage when it comes to being customer-oriented. It is considerably easier to build activities around the customer from the outset than to change an established company culture.

A change is a process, and it too must be designed. Cultural change is often about redesigning a more favourable atmosphere, practices or structures. Service design is a means of identifying and amending operating models, processes and structures that hamper customer orientation. Design is the customers’ voice in a company.

When building a customer-centred culture, customer understanding must be made part of the company’s strategy, product development and management. It is not enough for a company to know what the customer wants. A customer-centred company can identify its customers and knows them inside out. By gathering and analysing continuous customer feedback, a company can learn to understand how to keep on improving its products, services and customer experience. A customer-oriented culture is inseparably linked to good customer experience.

A sustainably designed product and service offering

Consumers are increasingly better informed and expect companies to assume greater responsibility in solving global challenges concerning the environment and society. A responsible company designs its products and services from the start to be financially, ecologically and socially sustainable.

The role of design is pivotal whenever the aim is to ensure that products have as long a lifespan as possible. In turn, the extension of the lifecycle provides an opportunity for the company that manufactures and sells the products to create completely new services around the product.

Digital marketplaces for used products are a good example of the extension of a product’s lifecycle. When a product is repaired, maintained and updated before being resold, we are already close to a new service and business model. At the same time, a used product will find a new owner and its lifecycle is extended.

Design choices that can help ensure that a product has the maximum lifespan:

  • The different needs of various end users have been taken into account as effectively as possible.
  • The materials, chemicals, surface treatments, etc. are environmentally friendly and durable.
  • The product is designed to be easily maintainable and repairable, rather than disposable.
  • Modularity enables the product’s parts to be repaired, replaced or updated.
  • The product is easy to recycle at the end of its lifecycle.

The aesthetic and visual form of a product can also affect the length of its lifecycle. Timeless design makes it easier to maintain a product’s lifecycle.

A good customer experience is a prerequisite for competition

In a traditional value chain, from procurement to the consumer, the customer arrives at a service guided by advertising. However, in the value chain of the digital age, the consumer usually encounters a business or brand for the first time digitally, either on a mobile device or online. A poor or problematic customer experience will drive customers away in no time. Social media provides positive and negative feedback faster than an enterprise is able to react to it. A good customer experience is a basic feature and a prerequisite for competition, regardless of a company’s size and sector. Even in peripheral markets like Finland, customer experience must reach the level of international super brands.

In order for a company to provide a seamless customer experience, it must understand the customer journeys of its main target groups. Service and UX designers can identify the problem areas and key moments along customer journeys, where customer expectations can be exceeded by creating a positive memory. Key moments should be unique to the brand and speak to a specific customer.

When problem areas are known, the company’s processes, operating models and responsibilities can be formulated to support the desired customer experience. Utilising customer data at different stages of the customer journey is an essential part of customer experience design.

Furthermore, employee experience contributes to a good customer experience as well. A satisfied employee equals a satisfied customer, as a satisfied employee is more prepared to exceed the customers’ expectations, time and again. A good customer experience is about addressing the customer’s problem and solving it completely across all the organisation’s silos, regardless of the boundaries between processes, systems and employee responsibilities.

A brand is a company’s most valuable asset

Contrary to common misconception, a brand is not the same as a company’s name or logo. While these are both elements of a company’s brand strategy, a brand is a much broader concept that consists of all the aspects and operations of a company.

A brand is a mental image of a company, product, service or individual. A company can influence its brand image through its actions, but ultimately it is the customer and the surrounding stakeholders that decide what the image will be.

A strong brand is a company’s most valuable asset. It tells the personnel, customers and stakeholders why the company exists (purpose), what sort of a future it believes in (vision) and why its objective is worth striving towards (mission).

A brand is also one of the best management tools. It sets the direction and provides a shared framework for all operations. It also demonstrates what the company is about, what it does, who it serves, how it communicates and how different things within the company are linked to each other. Engaging the personnel in the change through an inspiring brand story allows even a large-scale transformation to be accelerated and led with shared goals.

The managers of every company should consider the operating logic based on which their company is run. For example, a food company easily sees itself as a food production enterprise, even though it would be better to run it as a brand house.

The values at the heart of a brand are linked to the company’s reputation and employer image. A good employer image helps recruit the best talent.

A strong brand image gives a company a distinctive position amongst its competitors, engages customers and creates pricing power for products and services. Pricing power, in turn, is reflected directly in the company’s performance. A well-known brand with a strong image will also allow a company to expand to new business areas.