Surprise! Your company is not the center of the universe.

Unfortunately, too many companies think of themselves as being the center of their customer's universe. While this “may” be true for some products and services (but I doubt it), it certainly is not true when it comes to customer communications and a company’s website/portal strategy. An inward-looking rather than a customer-centered focus will rarely result in the desired outcome.

Consumers regularly transact with dozens of enterprises and businesses and have hundreds or thousands of interactions every month, making visiting each and every website rather cumbersome. Yet, why do so many businesses expect their customers to accept the inconvenience of visiting multiple websites to retrieve their mail? 

What makes your business the center of the universe?

Gravity and customer communications

Last month, I wrote about the insanity of eBilling. Today, I’m writing about the insane approach that companies take in their communications, placing themselves as the “center of the universe.” As an analogy, the sun exerts a gravitational PULL on the earth, and the earth has no choice but to circle the sun. But in business, PULLing customers to your website only goes so far. Applying this communications approach–pulling your customer toward the message instead of pushing it to themcreates an inward-looking rather than customer-centered focus. Inevitably, this handicaps companies, keeping them from delivering the best customer communications experience and continuing the very definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Recently, I met with a client, and they brought up the same concern I have heard from countless businesses–“I can’t disrupt our portal strategy. We want all of our clients to come to our portal to access all of our communications to them.” From a business’s point of view, what could be better than having customers register and log on to their websites to see interesting articles or take advantage of all of the self-service opportunities and product offerings? It reduces distribution cost, promotes the brand and lowers servicing costs. Unfortunately, this strategy only works for a minority of the client base–the tech savvy or "early adopters."  But what about the rest?

Pull only strategy = a barrier to success

This inward-looking approach is symptomatic of the malaise of corporate America. We spend so much time talking to and strategizing with our colleagues, we forget to ask the customer what they want. 

If all management cares about is lower cost, and they do not care how many years it takes to grow portal registration and paperless adoption, then keep pretending that a singular approach will work and that they care most about the customer. 

Sure, if you are a utility, the ratepayer is going to pay anyway, so, “Let’s give the customer a (one) choice, a great website/portal experience, and if they want to keep their paper, so be it.” After all, the only way to switch electric companies is to move to another state or install solar panels, and even then, you still need your utility when the sun doesn’t shine.

But most of us operate in a competitive environment. Customers have choices, so why not ask them how they would like to receive their bills and other communications. Don’t try to fool them into opting in by defaulting to paperless (that causes distrust and extra cost, as many will opt back for paper).

Ask your customers:

  • How do you prefer to receive your bills, statements and marketing communications?

  • What content do you want to get from our website?

  • How would you like to learn about new products and services?

  • What can we do to make your lives a little easier?

A little surveying will go a long way towards delivering a great customer experience, and maybe in the end, your company will have a stronger gravitational pull on customers after all.