Customers today care deeply about who they do business with. In fact, more than 80% of people cite being able to trust a company as key in making a purchase decision, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.
In today’s digital economy, people want to buy from companies that have a clear purpose that goes beyond just making a profit or providing great products. They expect a corporate purpose to align with their own views and beliefs. And they also expect every experience with the brand – across every touchpoint, channel and step of the customer journey – to be personalized and memorable. Brands that can combine a commitment to purpose and superior customer experience will be the winners in this age. From this perspective, the purpose of technology is to drive this positive change for companies and their customers.
Being customer-centric is not just about meeting customers’ needs – it’s about understanding how they see the world. That means leveraging data to create a positive impact on their everyday lives. Close alignment between corporate purpose and customer beliefs builds much greater customer-centricity, which delivers deep insights that can power product and service innovation.
For example, the American Customer Satisfaction Index this year reported a fall-off in satisfaction with carmakers, driven by rising prices and the increasing use of ride-sharing apps. Toyota responded to this trend by investing in Asian ride-hailing app Grab, reasoning that it will sell cars to its drivers even if its passengers don’t want to own one anymore.
Here are six business strategies that have embraced the need to articulate a clear purpose while understanding the needs and motivations of their customers. The companies involved have all created a superior customer experience that’s driving business success.
1. Propelling positive change
Enterprises with purpose can sometimes underestimate the role they can play in driving positive change in the communities in which they operate. For some, like healthcare providers, the impacts can be immediate and dramatic.
Unlike pharmacies in many other parts of the world, US drugstores have a long history of selling cigarettes. Although the city of San Francisco banned tobacco sales in pharmacies as far back as 2008, CVS Health took a ground-breaking step when it banished tobacco from all its pharmacies nationwide five years ago.
It cost the company in the short-term, losing sales of 100 million packs of cigarettes a year. However, there has been a significant rise in its customer approval ratings, more than making up for the decline in sales.
CVS was quick to embrace technology with a purpose to build on the business impact of the policy by launching a Minute Clinic app, which uses AI to triage patients and Attain, a wellbeing tool that uses the Apple Watch to deliver personalized health advice.
2. Customizing service with people-led empathy and emotion
Putting people at the heart of what you do means not just empathizing with customers but empowering your people to help solve their problems. A customer-first approach is proving profitable in the cellphone market – another sector that struggles with low satisfaction rates.
CEO John Legere says that across all industries in the US, 80% of people are not satisfied with the service they receive when things go wrong. “If you take care of your customers and your employees you will succeed. It takes a deep-rooted connection. We have a love and a trust and a bond,” he says.
The US National Customer Rage Study found people value their time highly. So, waiting on hold for customer services or finding it hard to get answers on interactive services causes people to lose trust in companies. T-Mobile ensures the purpose of technology investments is to connect customers quickly to the people who can help them.
3. Responding to customer needs and priorities
Successful businesses listen to their customers. And when customers’ priorities change, companies must change with them if they want to thrive in a changing world. Sometimes that means getting ahead of a trend.
US grocery retailer, Whole Foods broke the mold by focusing on organic food when it was still a niche market. But by staying true to its principles, and refusing to engage in practices like discounting and voucher offers, it won the respect of its customers and grew its revenues.
By aligning itself with people who prized quality and traceability of their food, Whole Foods built a business that customers love and drove business impact through positive change. It later introduced lower prices to address perceptions of it being a “whole paycheck” brand.
The company entered the e-commerce arena when it was acquired in 2017 by Amazon, which has made its ethically sourced food available to a wider market. Today it is still pioneering sustainable foods , for example by using non-traditional seeds in its flour production.
4. Offering immersive experiences that foster collaboration and inclusion
Many companies recognize the power of immersive experiences – from recreating iconic moments to enabling wider access and fostering inclusion across all segments of the customer base.
For many people, running the TCS New York City Marathon is a great accomplishment and reflects their strength, motivation, perseverance, and determination. The TCS Marathon City: Sprint to Win game offers a glimpse of that experience through technology-based simulation and inspires people of all physical abilities to get active and experience the thrill of the run. Designed as an immersive two-person game, it simulates the last 100 m sprint of the TCS New York City Marathon and the crossing of the finish line at Central Park.
What makes this experience special is that it allows people of all ages and ability, including wheelchair athletes to compete fairly against each other. From fostering greater inclusion and empathy to driving better health outcomes, this game delivery on TCS’s purpose.
In a less complex age, customers may have been satisfied with a manual showing them how to use the tools they purchased. Today it’s important to collaborate with customers to help them make the most of the most advanced technologies.
GE’s Additive Manufacturing division is making pioneering moves in 3D printing technology. 3D printing has multiple applications but it can be hard for some companies to integrate it into their processes.
So GE has built two global Customer Experience Centers at Pittsburgh in the United States and Munich in Germany to allow customers to experience the power of additive manufacturing first-hand, with access to 3D print manufacturing examples and expert support.
The emphasis is on collaboration, from initial design to production. Each center has a lab in which designs can be analyzed to determine how best to take concepts to full-scale production.
The centers deliver training in additive design, machine operations, materials, and software, with hands-on instruction. The Pittsburgh facility is also home to GE’s global additive manufacturing research teams.
5. A focus on ethics
Enterprise purpose in action means going beyond fine words. It’s no longer acceptable to simply hope the technology you create will be used ethically. In the B2B space, Salesforce’s software is used by a wide range of companies to automate and improve every stage of the customer journey.
It recently became the first global company to appoint a Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer to develop strategies to ensure its software is used in an ethical manner. The appointment followed criticism of the way some companies in the space were allowing their products to be used.
“We know that technology is not inherently good or bad, it’s what we do with it that matters,” says Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO. “And that’s why we’re making the ethical and humane use of technology a strategic focus at Salesforce.”
The company’s success in developing technology with a purpose has helped it to win almost 20% of the global customer relationship management software market – twice the level of its nearest rival.
6. Fostering growth through engagement and empowerment
Engaging partners and employees is the foundation of business success. It means getting buy-in to enterprise purpose that translates into walking the walk in every business interaction.
US investment broker Edward Jones is a company with a clear enterprise purpose. It wants to make a positive difference to the lives of its clients and their families by helping them achieve their financial goals through high-quality investments.
It also prioritizes engagement in the communities it serves, encouraging volunteering by its 4.3 million employees. Founder Ted Jones was an early environmentalist, turning disused railroad land into a state park in Missouri.
Edward Jones says the purpose of technology in its business is to enhance the customer experience. Its app-based systems allow customers to monitor their investments and transfer funds using their smartphones.
The central purpose of technology to the business is illustrated in its surveys, which show that it’s not just younger clients who expect to interact with the firm using tech. Some 80% of Edward Jones’s baby boomer clients check their portfolios online, and 90% of high-net-worth clients engage with the business through social media.
All of these companies recognize that the purpose of technology is to make them more customer-centric. As their stories demonstrate, by putting the customer first, technology with a purpose can deliver positive change and increase a business’s impact.