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Customer-Centric Culture Does Not Happen Overnight 

Vidya Priya Rao | Jun 24, 2017 918 views No Comments

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customer centric culture, customer experience, customer focus, customer satisfaction, customer success

According to Einstein, creativity is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

And, Grayson Perry says, “The path to creativity needs to be built on a strong focus, attention to detail and the ability to genuinely challenge orthodoxies.”

The same holds while building a customer-centric culture.

In the digital era, embracing a customer-centric mindset across the organization is the need of the hour. However, a successful customer-centric culture does not happen overnight. The questions that come to our mind along the journey include:

  • Who will lead the effort?
  • What do customers want or expect from us?
  • Does leadership share the same vision?
  • What are the goals and objectives of this customer-centric initiative?
  • What does leadership want or expect from employees?
  • To what extent will employees be empowered to deliver unique service experiences?

Corporate culture is the assortment of values, beliefs, and attitudes that describe a company and guide its actions. The employee behaviors that create wow customer experience across different touchpoints is the output. Moreover, to get there, it requires ongoing effort and commitment, as each issue, each project, each technology enhancement, and each action, will get you closer to your end goal. However, this also will expose new projects, new problems, and new measures. Hence customer-centric culture is the result of much-focused work.

Here’s how you can build a customer-centric culture in your organization and reap its benefits.

1.  Define and disseminate what is customer experience for your organization. Get leadership to commit to change

Customer centricity has to be a part of your company philosophy. You need to sketch, a company-wide understanding of your customer experience goals based on the moments of truth across the different touchpoints to ensure every employee provides consistently positive service experiences.

It could be as simple as:

  • response time to resolve L3 complaints in 30 mins, L2 in 2 hours and so on
  • personalized communication
  • greetings on their anniversary and birthday etc.

It needs to address your values and commitment towards both the internal and external customers, i-e your clients, employees, and vendors. That means every employee and department’s action will eventually affect the customer experience (CX)  even though they may directly never deal with the customers. So it is essential that they understand this and use this knowledge in the way they work. How the leadership approaches reviews, take timely action, and support employees can make or break the entire effort. Instead of hiding behind glass offices, the leadership team needs to spend time with frontline staff to stay in direct contact with the customers. By walking the talk, they commit and lead by example.

 It is important to aggressively market the customer satisfaction success stories and its impact on the company performance, thus reiterating the fact that customer satisfaction is on top of your priority list.

 2.  Decide on your customer and know your customer

The products or services you offer cannot be everything to everyone. You need to focus on delighting the primary customers and satisfying the secondary users. In others words, you need to know who your best paying customers are, what their pain is, and how you can help and make their experience hassle-free.

Also, the key is you want to get to know your customers and find out their inquiries. You can also derive some insights based on their preferences, past purchases, and knowledge of customer needs.

This step is vital on your journey to customer-centricity.

3.  Be transparent while gathering customer insights and close feedback loops

To get a 360-degree view of the customer along the buying journey, you need to collect feedback. It can include surveys, interviews, focus groups, analyzing when they unsubscribe from an email list, web insights on the online behavior before, during and after purchase on your website, at events, interactions with customer care, and so on. It arms you with data points to address minor issues immediately, and enough insights to identify larger, complex problems and trends by analyzing aggregate data.

While understanding the client’s perspective, some of these insights may come as a shock, but you will know what working and where you are going wrong. Being honest and humble, it will help you redefine some key goals and objectives.

4.  Outline expectations for employees and make learning new skills a part of their training calendar

Employees are not minded readers of what leadership wants. So be explicit while setting the KPIs of employees:

  • The preferred attitudes or behaviors employees should exhibit when engaging with customers
  • The rules of the engagement and to what extent they are empowered to make decisions to satisfy the customers

Also, as they interact day-in-day-out with clients, it is important to involve them in developing ideas for what they can do to deliver excellent customer service. Encourage everyone to contribute and share their perspectives.

  • Use design thinking tools and techniques to help employees to see customers as human beings and empathize with them by putting themselves in their shoes and experiencing the users’ pain points and state of mind, analyzing the services offered strictly from their perspective
  • Figure out what processes are preventing them from serving customers well and fix it
  • Show every employee their contribution in helping the business to achieve your customer vision.

Irrespective of their role, every employee needs to get involved and commit to providing what the customers want from them.When your employees own the problem of the client, they will own the solution, design the rules of engagement to build the trust and the magic happens as they make every effort to retain the customers.

At every single encounter, interaction, and confrontation across different touchpoints you need to keep in mind the customer’s experience, this can be overwhelming for employees who have not experienced a customer-centric company culture.Therefore, you need to design learning programs so that they can put into practice straight away.

Devoting time and resources for learning shows your commitment to a customer-centric culture shift, and it offers employees to start sharing ideas for improvement, and it is a morale-boosting opportunity to improve their skill sets.

5.  Celebrate  customer success as a fuel to build your customer-centric culture

Unlike traditional organizations, the relationship of a customer-centric company like yours goes beyond service/product delivery. What matters is the actual value you deliver to the customers.

The only way to confirm whether culture is working is when your company measures retention rate, renewal rates, cross-selling, complaints, referrals, positive sentiments. You will require the support of technology tools to gather relevant data and make sense of it.  The right metrics also will reveal where you should focus your efforts for maximum value.

Let employees know when they are doing a great job and call them out to everyone. A real payoff to an employee is making them feel appreciated and recognized. By acknowledging small victories, every accolade, every success story, and every lesson learned when a customer finds extra value from your services to motivate your employees – to continue, or even better, to take it to the next level.

It also helps break departmental silos and embrace shared ownership as employees learn how every individual/department is influencing the customer experience. A rewards or recognition program also contributes to ensuring customer experience stays top of mind.

6.  Maintain organizational focus as customer-centric culture does not happen overnight

To relate it to creativity, each action to being a cultural change is a new project. In the early stages of the cultural transformation, it is easy to take actions and see radical improvement. However, mid-way through the journey, each action might not have the same visible impact. Here is where the leadership teams “Commitment to Change” comes back to play. Moreover, this will involve time, work and discipline.

By placing the customer at the center of everything you do in your design-thinking journey, you bring in a human-centered approach that always focuses on customers needs and experiences across different touchpoints, including those that are unarticulated or unknown.

Starting from your company values, hiring the right talent, you need to create an environment where every employee in your firm takes customer experience into consideration before making any decisions. By embedding this in your employee appraisal and reward system, and senior leadership walking the talk, you will be all set to creating a truly customer-centric organization.

Article was first posted in People Matters

Image source: CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson

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