Customer Orientation: What it Is and How to Implement It [+Examples]

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Rebecca Riserbato
Rebecca Riserbato



In "Pretty Woman," Julia Roberts' character Vivian goes shopping at a department store that won't assist her because of how she's dressed.

The department store sales women assume that Vivian can't afford the clothes in the store and tell her to leave.

The next day, Vivian, who found somewhere else to shop, comes back to tell them they made a big mistake.

This store clearly wasn't using a customer orientation approach to business. That was a big mistake. Huge.

With a customer orientation approach, your business would focus directly on solving for the customer. It all boils down to helping people.

As a business, this tactic is useful because it's more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain current customers.

In fact, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. Additionally, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new product and spend 31% more than new customers.

If your customer support team is focused on helping your customers, you can make more sales and grow your company.

Below, let's dive into what customer orientation is, how to implement it, and examples that can put it in perspective.

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Rather than implementing a customer orientation approach, some companies choose to use a sales orientation methodology. This means that your business would value the needs and wants of the company over the customer.

The sales orientation approach doesn't align well with the inbound methodology. With inbound customer service, your support team is focused on providing helpful, human, and holistic solutions to your customers.

That's why approaching business from a customer orientation works well with an inbound philosophy.

A customer orientation approach is useful for several reasons. For one, as mentioned above, it's more cost-effective to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones.

Additionally, the happier your customers are, the more likely they are to become ambassadors for your brand.

For example, when you calculate Net Promoter Score, you're hoping to have as many promoters as possible. Promoters are loyal to your brand and will tell their friends about it.

Plus, in this day and age, customers know what they want. They're highly knowledgeable and have more resources than ever before.

Now, you might be wondering, "How do I implement a customer orientation approach in my customer support team?"

Below we've outlined eight steps to help you get started.

How To Implement Customer Orientation

1. Recruit the right people.

Who you hire is of the utmost importance for your customer service team. Instead of hiring for skills, which you can teach, hire for attitude and friendliness. Plus, look for empathetic people who can problem solve. Finding the right people can make or break a customer support team.

2. Value your employees.

Customer support can often be a thankless job. But it shouldn't be. Don't forget to treat your employees well. If they're happy coming to work, it makes it easier for them to focus on the customers.

3. Provide excellent training.

Your entire team needs to be trained on the customer first approach. In regards to customer support, training should focus on product knowledge, troubleshooting, and customer care.

4. Lead by example.

The entire leadership and management team needs to fully embrace a customer orientation approach. If they don't, your team won't feel comfortable to implement this strategy. For example, you can't punish employees for solving for the customer. This means that the company culture needs to follow through on what you say your values are. For instance, support staff shouldn't get punished for making product suggestions.

5. Understand the customer.

It's important to understand your customer. For customer support, this means empathizing with customers who are upset. Listen to them. It's important that your customer support team truly understands your customers needs.

6. Iterate your process.

Keep in mind that your customers' needs are always changing and evolving over time. Your company should evolve and change with them. With a customer orientation approach, your business should always be focused on figuring out how you can accommodate changing needs, and hopefully anticipate them.

7. Empower your staff.

Your customer support team should have the authority to resolve most customer complaints. Plus, your support staff should be empowered to suggest changes to management that would benefit customers in the long run.

8. Receive feedback.

Since customer needs are always changing, you'll have to talk to your customers about what they need and want. Customer support is in a unique position to do this. Your customer support team will have a pulse on what customers are upset about and what changes can be made.

Ultimately, you have to be steadfast in your philosophy, teach it, and implement it. A customer orientation approach only works if you walk the walk.

In customer service, you can show a customer orientation approach by responding promptly and respectfully to customer complaints. You can help customers and solve their problem, even if it doesn't directly benefit your company.

Let's look at some examples of how companies have successfully implemented a customer orientation approach.

Customer Orientation Examples

Implementing a customer orientation approach is all about walking the walk. Let's look at how these companies have successfully done this.

1. HubSpot

At HubSpot, solving for the customer is one of the guiding principles for its employees. It's painted on the walls, it's in the culture code, and it's visible throughout the entire hiring and recruiting strategy.

In fact, HubSpot created a Customer Code to figure out what matters most to customers. In this document, HubSpot listed the 10 things that are most important to customers. Those include:

  • Treat your customers like people, not personas
  • Solve for your customers success, not your systems
  • Ask for feedback, and act on it
  • Do the right thing even when it's hard

Additionally, HubSpot discusses actionable ways to implement a customer orientation approach. But this company doesn't just talk the talk. They also walk the walk.

For example, HubSpot offers consistent company wide messaging, provides instructions for how to adopt certain strategies on your team, asks customers for feedback, nurtures customer relationships, and solves customer needs.

2. Zappos

Although Zappos is an online and clothing retailer, it's really focused on providing excellent customer service. Founder, Tony Hsieh, built the company on its customer-centric strategy.

In fact, on its about page, Zappos says "We hope that in the future people won't even realize we started selling shoes online. Instead, they'll know Zappos as a service company that just happens to sell…"

For Zappos, this approach starts with its employees. The company ensures that employees have a flexible structure and that everyone works on and with a team.

Additionally, Zappos has a customer research group that researches what customers need and want. They use usability testing, customer surveys, and in-depth interviews.

The company prides itself on this approach and this is what sets them apart.

Plus, their support staff is available 24/7 and calls can even just include friendly conversation rather than being business focused.

These actions help Zappos forge a bond with its customers.

3. Apple

A great example of customer orientation in regard to products is Apple. In fact, Apple is almost always coming out with new products that solve customers wants and needs before they even express them.

Apple has become known for anticipating and even dictating customer wants. As a retailer, they have to be in tune with what their customers want.

For example, Apple developed the iPod before people knew they wanted a smaller device that could hold all their music. Imagine a world where we still had to use portable CD players or MP3 players.

Without Apple's customer orientation approach, technology might not be where it's at today.

Customer orientation is an important strategy for retaining customers and growing with a conscience. Ultimately, focusing on your customer will help your business grow, the right way.

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