By Colbey Pfund, Co-Founder of LFNT Distribution.

We didn't take Beard to where it is today without being customer-centric. The flavors that made us famous were first given to customers as samples so we could get a better sense of what worked -- and what didn't. We rewarded them for their input, creating new flavors and dispensing with those that didn't quite catch on.

Our customers liked the fact that we respected them and their opinions. In turn, they respected us. They returned. They told friends. The friends returned. And the friends told friends. And so on.

So what constitutes great customer-centricity? I'd suggest focusing on the following: price, promotions, rewards, range and service, communications, affinity and ease.

After all, isn't brand affinity one of the key pillars of business? That personal connection you form with your customers is crucial to a customer-centric success. And a great way to achieve that is to focus on the above seven items.

But being customer-centric isn't just about putting the customer first -- that's a mistake some businesses fall into. No, it's also about putting their needs at the crux of your business. Here's where we get to the crux of the issue: the formula you need to employ for a great customer-centric business.

Understand Your Customer

Who is buying your product? I mean, really: who? You'll need to truly understand your customer: their wants, needs, desires, their age, sex, their everything. Because if you can't get in their heads you won't ever really understand what they want. You'll need to employ a variety of ways to do that including, interviews, surveys, focus groups, a customer advisory board, sales and CRM data, web data, customer loyalty data, reviews and feedback, employee anecdotes and social data.

Enable Customer-Centric Touch Points

Businesses no longer exist as just high-street/mall operations. They're online, on social media, on radio and television commercials, in newspapers, etc. And all of these are considered touchpoints -- so ensure that you know what's going on on each and every platform. If someone's responding to their experience with your business on Yelp, ensure you respond positively. Let them know that you're listening. If someone feels like a number, you've already lost them.

Customer Service

It's the most obvious element of the customer-centric approach, yet it's the most abused. If people reach out to you, respond in a timely manner. They might not be waiting at your counter but you need to treat them like they are. Because if they wait too long, they're never coming back -- and they're telling their friends not to either.

Delivery

If your company delivers its product, then make sure that you spend time ensuring this process runs smoothly and without hiccups. If you trust the USPS (or whatever you're using to ship goods) without checking on everything, you could lose business.

Community

You might want to think about creating a community around your business that's all-inclusive and gives customers a chance to talk to like-minded people. Your customers and they all have at least one thing in common -- and that's you. So be a leader, bring people together, give them topics to talk about and give them reasons to come back again and again. Listen, understand what they're saying and act on it. Then keep repeating that formula.

The best ways to becoming customer-centric can be described thusly:

Believe Customers Come First

If you for one moment think your product is more important than your customer, it's all over. Literally. Ego has no place in business. Without the customer, you have nothing.

Focus on the Customer

Focusing on the customer from all possible angles can only enhance both your product and the way you market it. And both those things spell success.

Build Relationships

Use all those touch points I discussed earlier to develop great relationships with customers. With all these tools under your belt, you can be sure to stand out in your industry. Because at the end of the day, being customer-centric is the only way to go.

Colbey Pfund is Co-Founder of LFNT Distribution, a leading international distributor of premium e-liquid.

Published on: Jul 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.