By Josh Stern, Chief Revenue Officer at Vatica Health
How you treat your customers matters. Every successful business knows this and is intentional about consistently adding value and exceeding their expectations.
It’s why Starbucks, for example, created a mobile ordering and personalized rewards program that makes it simple for customers to order exactly what they want and pick it up with a minimal wait. It’s why the meditation app Calm gave away content and meditation exercises for free during COVID-19. It’s why Target expanded its drive-up option with more spots at stores and provided customers with the ability to scan self-checkout items with their phones instead of a communal scanner.
It’s all about customer centricity and not just for the employees that have direct interactions with customers. It’s about ensuring and committing to have the entire organization think this way, customer-centricity is a cultural mindset. That is, building your business from the ground up with customers in mind—to let customer satisfaction drive strategic decisions. It’s about clear communication, trust, and accountability. It’s about asking this critical question: What can we do to deliver value, build partnerships, and contribute to customer success? Simply put, it is about being able to answer, “our business and relationship matter” through the lens of the client.
Achieving the Holy Grail: Partnership
In many industries, services are commoditized with very little collaboration between vendors and their customers. Vendor products and/or services meet basic specifications, and that’s about it. The decision to partner with a particular vendor is usually based on price or availability, and customers aren’t necessarily loyal when better opportunities present themselves.
However, thriving customer-centric companies know that this transactional level of engagement isn’t enough. For both organizations to thrive, they must become allies and partners. Organizations must strive to meet each customer’s deeper needs and help them solve business problems. They must invest in relationships and provide close personal attention.
How do you know if you are at or working with an organization that is truly customer centric, as opposed to one just saying the right words? The following are five attributes you will be able to consistently observe:
1. Transparent communication. Customer-centric companies communicate directly and truthfully. They give customers all the information, both good and bad, they need to make informed decisions. They keep customers abreast of changes industry-wide or within the organization that affect them directly or indirectly. No secrets. Nothing withheld. They communicate in a way that says: I value you and want to be as open and honest as possible. They provide invaluable context, roadmaps to the “who,” “what,” “why,” “where,” and “how” so you as business leaders can make informed decisions for you and your company with all the relevant information at your disposal.
2. Belief that trust is earned, not freely given. Customer-centric companies know that trust is personal and that it develops over time. Customer-centric companies work hard to build that trust with each and every customer through each interaction, and they don’t ever take it for granted. They do this through consistency, openness, and dedication.
3. Alignment. Customer-centric companies take the time to understand how each customer defines and measures success. Alignment is about collaboration and truly listening to what customers have to say. It’s not about thinking you know what’s best for the customer or assuming they measure success in the same way you do. It’s about understanding their unique challenges and goals and trying to figure out how you can truly offer value.
With that said, customers themselves may not be aware of or be able to articulate the best solutions to address their needs. Customer-centric companies help them figure it out by asking questions for clarification. What will this product or service provide to the customer? Is it what the customer really wants and needs? Does it solve their problem or help them reach their goal? If they can’t define a direct or indirect customer benefit, a customer-centric company won’t recommend the product or service – even if it’s to their financial detriment.
4. Accountability. Customer-centric companies consistently strive to follow through with commitments. When they commit to things – they do them, no babysitting necessary. When they fail, they own it. They admit mistakes and oversights, and they identify a clear plan to do better in the future.
5. Agility. Customer-centric companies are nimble and able to quickly adapt to customers’ needs. They’re also willing to implement novel strategies to improve the customer experience. For example, they might use cultural index surveys to match employees and customers based on behavioral attributes to increase the effectiveness of communication. They provide leadership training and commit to ongoing professional development. They’re constantly brainstorming ways to be better and do better both for their own employees and the customers they serve.
In any industry, selecting a vendor/partner can be daunting. Every candidate has a value proposition and some will say whatever it takes to get your business. If you are having trouble sorting through the noise, consider asking these questions:
- How do you build trust with clients?
- How do you approach client partnership and collaboration?
- How will you help us meet our short- and long-term goals?
- What is your process to ensure accountability?
Their answers may surprise you, and they’ll bring you one step closer to making an informed decision. And don’t forget to ask for specific examples and references to validate their answers.
How Vatica can help
When health plans partner with Vatica Health, they ensure a comprehensive, collaborative, and results-oriented prospective risk adjustment program that’s a win-win for everyone – health plans, physicians, and patients. To learn more, visit https://vaticahealth.com/.