Five steps to building a customer-focused culture in your company
You can't deliver a winning customer experience with a culture that doesn't embrace the concept, says Henning Hansen.
Businesses are increasingly adopting customer-focused business processes to gain competitive advantage. Especially prevalent in industries where product offerings and price no longer provide sufficient differentiation, this new focus offers a myriad of benefits. Customer experience is the battleground and you can’t win with a culture that doesn’t truly embrace the concept.
Talking to customers at regular intervals is not simply about monitoring progress; it is a core part of becoming a business that listens to its customers. If you don’t listen to them, you cannot possibly be focused on them. And listening is only the start. You must act upon what they tell you. Following up an interaction with a survey is a great start, but if your customer tells you they had a poor experience, then you must do something about it. A simple 'Thank you for your input' adds insult to injury. Create a process through which you can share feedback with the right people in your organisation and put things right.
Customer feedback is not always welcomed by employees so get buy-in from them. Too often feedback is understood to be a euphemism for 'complaints' and creates only fear and disengagement. When listening to the Voice of the Customer, remember to include and share the positive feedback. While acting on negative feedback may strengthen customer engagement, sharing and acting on positive feedback will strengthen employee engagement. Use feedback as a carrot, not a stick and feedback will become a welcome motivator that underpins your culture.
The changes you make may be internal or external. For example, feedback may identify a new business process that makes sense to internal stakeholders, but confuses or frustrates customers. Alternatively, you may find that some employees don’t feel equipped to resolve certain customer queries, which you can address through tailored training and coaching. Share the changes you make with the appropriate audience. The first changes may be hard but they will speak volumes and start to build a culture which embraces improvement.
Whatever metrics you settle on, make them accessible and use them to create common goals. You don’t have to share every piece of data with every person in the company, but share the right data with the right people. Use your intranet, reporting dashboards or a portal to show them how their actions affect the customer experience, even if they don’t see or talk to customers on a daily basis. If you’re basing metrics on feedback data that you’re regularly collecting, then your data will always be changing. Show people what’s changing and give them the tools they need to check on the data so that it becomes part of their day.
The customer must not be seen purely as the domain of the customer service team so it is crucial to have buy-in from the top level of your business. Not only must executives take the issues seriously, but they must be seen to take it seriously. Some companies have sped the process along by tying financial rewards to the new customer-focused metrics, and having senior executives, as well as front line staff rewarded on the same numbers. Few things say 'commitment' like senior people pegging their success on the same figures as the rest of the business.
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.