The three foundations that foster a customer-centric culture
What can an organisation trying to transform the culture of their business consider doing? Ian Golding shares three best practices.
I speak and write regularly about the increasing addition of the word ‘customer’ to the typical vocabulary of business leaders.
Customer service, customer experience, customer focus. These are just three examples of words that are becoming easier and easier to say – in whatever industry a business leader represents, or wherever in the world their organisation operates.
Another use of the word ‘customer’ is in the context of culture – a word that businesses are often not too enamoured about discussing, but one that is vital should there be the intent to genuinely put the customer first. The underlying culture of an organisation will determine how it lives, breathes and behaves – the organisation itself and the people that make and represent it.
Many business leaders find it easy to say that their intent is to be customer-focused; that their intent is to deliver world-class service and experience. But actually being able to make this a reality is far more of a challenge.
The well-documented reason for this is clear – just saying you want these things does not automatically make it happen. All businesses have a customer experience – whether they are conscious of it or not. So simply talking about customer experience means nothing. To be a customer-centric organisation requires something completely different, something that completely changes the mindset of people within a business. To be a customer-centric organisation requires a business to have a customer-centric culture.
"Putting customer focus at the heart of everything you do, in order to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty."
The above definition is a simple way of understanding what it takes to be customer-centric. Every single time you make a decision, whether it be tactical or strategic, you do so considering the effect that decision will have on your customer. I ask this question of CX professionals all over the world – is that really what you do? The answer is overwhelmingly no. Not because people do not want to, but because in general, employees say that the culture of the organisation does not make it possible for them to actually do this.
Changing the culture of an organisation is not easy. If a business has historically had a sales-focused culture, then changing behaviours and mindsets is challenging. This is why ‘customer-centric culture’ is one of the six competencies that comprise the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) accreditation. CX practitioners need to possess the knowledge and skills to help their organisation evolve the culture so that the definition of Customer Centricity becomes a reality.
So what exactly can you do? What can someone trying to transform the culture of a business consider doing? Let me take you through just three ideas:
- Educate – if you want people to behave in a way that truly puts the customer into the centre of everything they do, you need to teach them how. In my opinion, not enough businesses are investing in educating their people into what this means. Everyone in an organisation should possess a clear understanding of who their customers are and ow the purpose of the organisation meets their needs. All employees should understand the customer journey and the role they play in delivering it. A great CX professional should be able to educate and inspire all levels of a business to focus more on the customer.
- Communicate – you cannot over-communicate when it comes to demonstrating the desired culture in an organisation. If a continuous stream of messages is not translating its way across all floors, corridors, smartphones, tablets and PCs, then it is unlikely that the intent to become customer-focused will become a reality. There is no right or wrong way to communicate – it just needs to be consistent, engaging and to a degree fun. Last week I judged the inaugural Gulf Customer Experience Awards in Dubai. One entrant, the Dubai Islamic Bank showed how powerful the right level of communication can be.
Every member of staff in the organisation – from the CEO down – wears a badge that represents their focus on the customer. The customer first badge is worn on the left-hand side of their bodies. Close to their heart. It is pretty powerful stuff. This type of ‘internal marketing’ continues with the regular distribution of customer first branded ‘treats’ – from chocolates to games. The purpose is to continually remind everyone of the importance of the customer.
- Relate - Storytelling is one of the most powerful way of changing a culture. The more everyone in a business starts to talk about the customer and experiences of the customer, the more likely that the behaviours of that organisation will change. When a CEO opens a meeting by talking about a recent experience of their own – with passion and sincerity – it is an incredibly powerful message to everyone listening that ‘we do not want to be doing this to our customers’. Continually sharing stories and examples of what you want and do not want to see helps every employee understand the direction that you are going in – culturally. Have you ever seen this:
Whilst comical, it is a brilliant example of how you can allow people to understand the reality of NOT having a customer-centric culture.
Customer-centric organisations deliver greater financial returns to shareholders. It’s a bold statement, but one that is now backed up by publicly available fact based research. Having a customer-centric culture is one of the six core competencies required by customer experience professionals – if your business intends to be more customer centric, you need to consider whether or not your business possesses people with the skills, knowledge and ability to make it happen.
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Ian Golding is a Certified Customer Experience Professional. A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, telecoms and pharmaceuticals...