Customer Centric Culture

In my exclusive column for CustomerThink last month, I shared my “top tips” for creating the right culture to enable an organisation to become genuinely customer centric. Whilst the list of seven things is by no means exhaustive, in my experience, together they provide a remarkably solid foundation to embedding the right environment and supporting behaviours to turn talk of customer centricity into reality.

For the next few months, I am going to explore each one of my seven tips in a little more detail, starting with tip number 1 – how to make Customer Experience a priority for the whole company. This is what I said in last month’s column on this subject:

“Now it may sound obvious, but if an organisation aspires to have a customer centric culture, then it MUST make customer experience a priority for everyone. It is not exclusively the domain of the customer experience team; or marketing; or customer service. It is not a project or an initiative. To transform the culture of a business to one that is focused on enabling everyone to THINK and ACT in the interests of the customer, then everyone must be clear about the role they play in making that a reality. In practice, linking performance objectives and remuneration of every single employee to a continuous improvement of customer experience is the most effective way to achieve this.”

Let me start with a question – is Customer Experience really a priority in your company? In my seventeen years as an employee of a variety of large corporate organisations in Financial Services, FMCG and Retail, I can categorically say that much of the time this was NOT the case. Business leaders may convince themselves that the Customer is a priority, but 99 times out of 100, the only priorities that get traction and attention are those related to things that their businesses are actually interested in – sales and profit.

I make no secret of my opinion that too many organisations around the world subconsciously (and often consciously) believe that they exist to make money. In my opinion, they do not – they actually exist to fulfill a purpose – the better able they are to fulfil that purpose, the more money they will make. A very subtle difference of language, but a hugely significant difference. The reason why it is significant, is that if ‘making money’ is the overriding reason for an organisations existence, then the only thing that organisation will prioritise are those things that will allow the business to make more money for itself. It will only focus on what is important to the business.

The problem with this scenario is that by focusing on what is important to the business alone, what is important to the customer (and also its employees) becomes secondary. In fact, what customers want from the business does not even enter the conscious thought of boards of directors determining how ‘double digit growth’ every year will benefit themselves and their shareholders. This may sound provocative – but there are not many who disagree with it (except perhaps for the men and women and suits sitting on the boards of companies who put the business interests way above those of the customer and employee).

The thing is, the most effective way for the decision makers in organisations to realise financial success, is to ensure that their businesses get ever better at meeting the needs, wants and expectations of their customers. By doing so, not only will they be elevating Customer Experience to the forefront of everyone’s thinking, they are far more likely to achieve long term sustainable growth. The growing body of publicly available fact from Watermark Consulting, Forrester, KPMG Nunwood and Temkin Group to name but a few, is proving beyond doubt that the more customer centric an organisation is, the greater the financial return to the shareholder – this is a fact.

So how should a business go about doing it – making Customer Experience (CX) a priority for the whole company? Consider the following:

1. Talk about it – if you want CX to be a priority for everyone, then everyone needs to be talking about it as being so – from the CEO down to the front line and back up again. Talking about CX must be continuous and infinite if it is to remain a priority indefinitely.

2. Show it – if your organisation has a vision statement (a subject that could have an article written about it in its own right!), it is imperative that you show how CX is a priority for the company by making it one centred around the customer.

3. Recruit for it – if CX is going to be a priority for everyone, then you need to consider changing or implementing a recruitment policy that populates your organisation with people whose own value systems are focused on customer centricity – this may also mean moving others out of the organisation who do not have customer centric values.

4. Create the conditions for it – if you want your people to continuously THINK and ACT with the customer interests as a priority, then you need to enable and empower them to do what is right for the customer.

5. Reward it – linking the performance objectives and remuneration of every single employee to the continuous improvement of CX is the most effective way of getting everyone in the organisation to understand just how important it is. Making the rewards related to CX on a par with the rewards for achieving the businesses financial priorities makes this even more powerful.

I am sure that readers of this column will be able to add to the list – and I encourage you to do so. Making CX a priority for the everyone is the only way a company will stand a chance of actually delivering an experience to its customers that it WANTS its customers to have. A customer centric business is one of balance – marrying what the business wants with what the customer wants. By creating this balance and educating everyone as to the connection between both priorities, not only will business have happier customers, they will make more money as a result!

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