Culture Matters: Customer Obsession: The Key to a Values-Driven Workplace

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It’s not surprising that when employees are happy and fully engaged, that customers will be too.

What is at the foundation of employee happiness is a strong culture grounded in core values that not only resonate with your employees but are carried out by them in their everyday work. When you live the core values of your company, customers can feel it because they sense when an employee genuinely cares about the company they work for and believes in the products and/or services they offer.

For this reason, focusing on creating a strong positive culture as the foundation of your business is a much needed first step towards building and sustaining better customer relationships. These strong connections lead to customers who not only continue buying, but want to become a part of your professional family. People do business with people and more specifically, they do business with people they like, trust and can relate to.

It’s not enough to be customer centric … you must be customer obsessed.

Transforming a corporate culture to be customer-obsessed requires a deep commitment. You must be in it for the long haul, as cultural transformations do not happen overnight. While the path is long, the reward is absolutely worth every second spent. The underlying foundation of a strong corporate culture is the establishment of a clear mission and vision and a values-driven ethos that the entire company – across all departments – can rally around. When an employee has five competing priorities, for example, the ability to immediately evaluate how each of them stacks up against the mission and vision will help them determine which of those to tackle first. Having core values in place that provide a framework for decision making provide the tools employees need to be empowered to do great things for customers. When building a customer obsessed organization, core values serve as the guiding light and every employee should understand and believe in them … at every level and in every department. Even if the sales team interacts with customers more than other employees, when something goes wrong, it’s up to everyone to fix it. The customer doesn’t care who made the mistake. They just want to see it resolved. With a culture of employees who understand how to live a core value like customer obsession, everyone rallies around the fix. Everyone is in alignment.

To achieve this at Lifesize, one of the first things we did was hire a Chief People Officer (CPO), someone whose responsibility would be to help us to define our mission, vision and core values and provide the tools necessary to ensure we lived and breathed them every day. Ultimately the core values served as the decision-making guidelines that kept us focused and centered. Once the mission, vision and core values were launched and the processes to ensure these were woven into the fabric of recruiting and retaining the very best talent, we rallied around the things that were most important which helped to transform our culture from one where he-said, she-said politics that can drag the best companies into oblivion into one where all teams united around what was most important to Lifesize and our employees.

Along with establishing a set of core values, our CPO is jointly responsible for ensuring that the customer-service DNA we all share is present in the people we hire as well. These are the types, for example, who instinctively know that when they cycle through their daily responsibilities, they start with the most customer-impacting and end with the least.

Business luminary Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and in my experience this has rung true, time and time again. I’ve worked in poisonous corporate environments and I’ve also had the opportunity to work in really great ones, like the one we’ve built at Lifesize. Not only do customers actively avoid atmospheres they view as toxic – regardless of the product – there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing customers thrive on positive corporate energy. It’s only natural: they want to be part of something that makes them feel good. When employees aren’t happy at work every day, the best-laid strategies go straight to the shredder.

Landmark research from Gallup demonstrates that the top quartile in employee engagement, based on a set of established metrics, outperformed the bottom quartile by 22 percent in profitability, 21 percent in productivity and 10 percent in customer ratings. The surest path to engagement is creating a space where employees feel united in a common goal. To the extent that we can populate our organizations with folks who have customer obsession in their DNA, it only follows that their values-driven work ethic will lead to a culture of engagement on a fully infectious scale.

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