Amy Downs, Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer at Lifesize explains first-hand about corporate culture and the importance of placing customers at the heart of all employee interactions.
We all know customers are the lifeblood of any organisation. Yet so many businesses still fail to grasp that ensuring their customers feel supported and heard is fundamental to making them happy and driving business success. In reality, within corporate cultures worldwide, organisations forget that customers are what they’re in the business for. Not only do they pay the bills and determine the company’s direction – they ultimately hold the cards, not just in terms of bottom line, but in relation to industry reputation too.
For businesses operating in fiercely competitive markets, customers can often switch vendors at the drop of a hat and move into the open arms of a company that may not be offering a product or service that is wildly different from their own, but is addressing what customers respond to best - attention to detail and an understanding of their needs.
Unfortunately, most companies are so focused on financial performance that they forget that there are interim stages between conceiving a product, making a sale and ensuring that the product works as promised. It’s ‘little things’ such as checking-in with customers to ensure they are getting the most value from the solution or perhaps adjusting processes that are crucial to building loyalty and reassuring them that they have a voice within the business.
Discussions around financials will only be productive if organisations consistently evaluate how customers drive the financial backend as well. Loyalty, retention, upgrades, and referrals should be the bottom line for employee focus.
Adapting company culture
Transitioning to a customer first approach and making the necessary adjustments to company culture is easier said than done. If employees do not understand how their immediate corporate culture connects to buyers, there’s no way they can align their daily activities to the overall goal of creating an exceptional customer experience.
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The first key step is to find a way of placing customers in the hearts and minds of the employees – to turn them into customer advocates. Many people forget that employee happiness has a direct correlation with customers, when it’s actually the starting point to sustaining customers who not only continue buying, but who also want to become part of the family.
A clear mission and vision that powers a values-driven ethos the entire company can get behind is an important part of creating a new culture. That’s where the role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) comes in – to educate the rest of the C-Suite on the importance of customer obsession, put customer metrics at the front-end of business strategy and help all departments cultivate positive customer relationships.
Becoming metrics and tactics driven
Working with management, CCOs can ensure that customer happiness and loyalty is a constantly measured and motivating force at the heart of every department’s daily activities. That way, non-customer facing pockets of the organisation such as engineering, manufacturing or finance will acknowledge their impact on customers.
Identifying a metric to support this process to make it simple, tangible and rewarding for everyone involved is essential. At Lifesize, for example, this involves using Net Promoter Score (NPS), the customer loyalty metric correlated with revenue growth. It works based on responses given to a single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” Using NPS requires a change in operational rhythm and that’s where the changes in culture become important to encouraging employees to overhaul the way they serve customers based on the data that becomes available. The CCO’s work with the C-Suite lays the foundation for them in supporting this shift.
Other means of engaging customers can be done through simple changes to communication methods, such as using video to interact with them over challenges they are facing or to resolve issues. Body language is such an important of communication and video allows us to have a more human connection, making it much easier to build a connection with customers. It’s allows employees and customers realise the person on the other end of the video call is human and creates that personal connection that is lost when using email or the phone.
Direct conversations can be supplemented by company posts and newsletters, which are a great way to let individuals know that their unique observations have been addressed, as well as showcasing the changes to the wider customer base. While companies always find it easy to take positive feedback, celebrate it internally and then forget about it, they need to find ways to share feedback with current and prospective clients to drive new revenue.
Additionally, organisations should be thinking about creating customer focused communities and advisory boards which help provide useful information and commentary on products and services, as well as bringing them closer to the company to help use customer input to create experiences that will make users as passionate about the brand as the employees.
Embodying the Chief Customer Officer
To fully embody the CCO, executives have to develop an understanding of not only the metrics, tactics and tools that can be applied to support customer interactions but also the employees who are essential in making them a success.
For those starting their journey as a customer experience executive, identifying those who have customer service in their DNA is a critical first step. This will make the process of encouraging role models within the business much easier, to coordinate teams that share the same goals and values. If employees are able to depend on mentors to support them in championing the customer first approach, this will accommodate the overarching cultural shift.
As the company ethos begins to transform, it’ll be equally important to identify naturally customer-centric candidates during the hiring process. There are hundreds of potential employees out there with a natural desire to serve others and picking up on this early in the recruitment process is something senior team members need to be educated in. After all, if service is in a person’s DNA, they wake up asking themselves how they can help others which the fundamental trait of being customer centric.
Recently I interviewed someone who candidly told me he had the worst customer service ratings at his previous employer because he’d been judged based on how quickly he could turn over his ticket to a third party vendor in order to close the transaction. This candidate was more concerned with staying on the line with the customer to resolve the issue, regardless of the consequences. This is service DNA and this candidate was hired on the spot.
Ultimately, that’s the type of candidate that will support the CCO in their ambition to transform the workplace and its commitment to customers. Striving to find and nurture these supporters is one of the top priorities to gain staff buy-in and drive initiatives forward.
About Amy Downs
Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer
It's not every day that you see a business leader whose professional title includes the words, “customer happiness.” But for Amy Downs, our Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer, there are simply no better words to describe her critical role at Lifesize.
Amy joined Lifesize in 2014 to evangelize the importance of our customers throughout the organization and ensure that everyone who interacts with our company has a smile on their face. From support, service, training and renewals, Amy drives the strategy and execution of programs that benefit our customers and partners to bring successful video collaboration to their companies. For example, introducing Net Promoter to Lifesize now propels the voices of our customers and partners into all areas of our business and is driving great organizational improvements. Just as video builds community within an organization by fostering stronger relationships irrespective of distance, our partners and customers also have a welcoming community within Lifesize that they can call home.
Prior to joining Lifesize, Amy led Voxeo’s industry-leading customer support and service organization and oversaw all post-sales interaction with customers. She previously led professional services at Voxeo and before that, Fiserv Corporation.