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Building a Customer-centric Brand

Association of MBAs – By Mike Massaro

Over the years, I’ve witnessed companies come to the realization that in order to create a solid foundation for success and continue thriving, their brands need to be built around their customers’ needs. Growing a company to center around current and anticipated needs goes hand-in-hand with having a stronger understanding of customers and how to better serve them, but leaders need to take a multifaceted approach to achieve this.

1. Know your demographic . . . then get to know them better

Knowing your demographic goes beyond identifying them; it means establishing their main needs as well as their secondary, tertiary, and unexpressed needs. In the case of my company, Flywire, a cross-border payment provider, the founder knew the original core demographic well. He was an international student who had encountered a multitude of issues when trying to pay his tuition payment. When he decided to create the start up, it was with the personal experience that the global payment process could be streamlined, faster, and more secure.

Although we had this first-hand knowledge from the founder, we wanted to dive deeper. The wide-range of tools we employed — such as user testing, interviews, and surveys — reinforced that the delivery of a payment was the customers’ primary concern while also revealing the importance of security, speed, cost, currency rates and options, and tracking.

Our core demographic consists of global citizens, or people who invest internationally in experiences that bring diversity and culture into their lives, like education or healthcare. To appeal to global citizens, we have sought to make the international payment process as seamless and borderless as international travel is for this group.

2. Be all ears while lending a helping hand

Another aspect of consumer-centric brands is having direct lines of communication with customers. Flywire utilizes its multilingual customer support team and various feedback channels to address concerns, field questions, and learn if we’re meeting or failing customer needs. We’ve built out our customer support and social media presence because we want to hear from customers; positive or negative, feedback is prized.

Because our core demographic are global citizens, the our customer support team has evolved to offer immediate and convenient best-in-class support regardless of time zones. This team, which has been integral in setting the company apart from competition, is available round-the clock via phone, email, and Live Chat. Small decisions, like adding WeChat as a customer support channel to better serve our Chinese customers, ensure that people who pay through Flywire receive individual, personalized care.

3. Think ahead but don’t leave your customers behind

Successful leaders know that in the business world standing still doesn’t exist, at least not for long. Each day, my coworkers and I come to work with the understanding that if we’re not moving forward, we’re already backsliding. Flywire’s success in the education payments market served as a catalyst for expansion into other verticals, such as healthcare, and helped inform our approach to solving different needs of the global citizen demographic.

As much as the industry discusses the need for innovation, it should also be noted that the innovation must be purposeful, accessible, and customer-focused. I’ve witnessed countless application redesigns that promised to impress their users, only to be met with criticism upon launch. Reasons behind this failure could be any number of things, from the company attempting to fix what was never broke to making too many drastic changes at once, but the underlining issue can be boiled down to not building the product, design, etc., around customer needs.

4. Keep evolving with your customer

The needs of global citizens are complex and always changing, but our understanding that customer needs are constantly evolving has contributed to the company’s ability to keep up with, and ahead, of these needs. We’ve learned the importance of re-evaluating company’s goals and how they incorporate new or evolved customer needs.

Sometimes the new consumer needs can feel trending, but writing it off can mean falling behind in the market. By the time the business makes the move to catch up with its competitors and fulfill the consumer needs, it’s often already too late. The bottom line is that customers, through their choices, help to lead and influence markets as much as companies.

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