What are the best ways to engage with your customers for the long term? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

When I meet with companies, I like to start by asking a simple question, which usually sparks some very interesting dialogue. Here it is: Are you product led? Or are you customer led? It is always interesting to listen to a leadership team default to 'customer-led' until we start to unpack what that actually means in the context of growth. Most times, not always, they are in fact product led. Enamored by what they make. What they sell. Why their products are different than the rest of the market. And they believe, their products are what makes them who they are as a brand.

When a company is truly customer led, they start with how they improve the business or lives of their customers in some way. They tell the customer story. They share who they are from the outside in. Today, people do business with brands they trust, with companies who they feel a connection with. Those companies that are customer led have one thing in common, the customer is at the center of all the decisions they make as a brand. Why is that important you might ask? Just take a look at these stats to help you understand why working for your customers over the long term has value to the business in the short term too.

  • In a recent study, 68% of C-Suite executives expect organization to emphasize customer experience over product in the future.
  • 86% of customer are willing to spend more for a better customer experience.
  • Analysis shows that companies that excel in the customer experience grow revenues 4-8 percent above their market.

There is a famous quote from Steve Jobs which says "You've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology." Another from Jeff Bezos, "We're not competitor obsessed, we're customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards." One might argue that both of these leaders were able to completely disrupt entire industries and use the maniacal focus on the customer as a powerful competitive differentiator. Who they are is about how to add value to their customers lives over the long term. Not just sell to them once and forget about them. It is about how can they earn their business every day, every month and every year.

Now if you agree with that philosophy that is when the hard work begins. Engaging with customers is no longer a one-way channel. You no longer have the power in the relationship. The customer is in full and complete control of their own engagement journey. How they want to engage. In what channel they want to engage. When they want to engage. You don't have to be everywhere all time, but what you do have to do is ensure that you capture as much of the engagement as you can in a responsive, personalized and real-time manner. Your customer will thank you by advocating on your behalf and staying loyal to your brand. In the end, the experience a customer has when they engage with you can make or brake any chance of earning new business from them in the future.

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