For my first column of 2017, I continue to explore my tips to create a
customer-centric culture. Experiencing both your employee AND customer
journeys is a vital component that contributes to an organisation
developing and sustaining everyone’s focus on the customer and each other.
Last year, I said the following on this subject (among other things):
“If a business wants to transform its culture, then it is vitally
important that its people at all levels understand how it FEELS to be a
customer and to be an employee. The over used phrase of ‘walking in the
customers’ shoes’ is one that must not just be said – it must be one
that is genuinely and authentically applied.”
Be honest – when was the last time you met and chatted to a customer of
your organisation? If you can honestly answer positively to the question, I
take my hat off to you. As with so many elements of Customer Experience
‘theory’, the very fact that I am asking the question seems almost
Yet, in reality, many business people may well stare
uncomfortably at the floor or ceiling when reading this. I personally have
met countless people who have NEVER met a customer of their company –
NEVER!! Astonishing – or maybe not. In a world where so many are focused on
completing tasks and processes, it is all too easy to lose sight of the
fact that a customer actually exists.
If you never take the time to meet, talk to and listen to customers, it is
very difficult, if not impossible, to have any comprehension of how your
company and the experience it delivers, actually makes the customer feel.
Allow me to give you an example.
An Example of What NOT to Do
I recently visited a very well-known hotel and golf resort in the UK on
business. Invited by a client of mine, they asked me to check in to my room
at 3pm while they continued their meeting to discuss confidential business.
When I asked to check in at reception, I was greeted by an emotionless,
unsmiling lady, who simply barked ‘NO’ at me. I kid you not!! ‘Your group
is not due to check in until 5pm’, she continued to say in flat monotone. I
asked if the room was already vacant and ready for use – the lady repeated
her previous statement – ‘your group is not due to check in until 5pm’.
With my tail between my legs, I had no option to retreat to the safety of
the hotel lounge. I all my years of traveling on business, I have never
experienced anything like it. I guarantee that the management team of this
hotel have not either. At 4:50pm, I tried again — same lady, same brick
wall. Looking at her watch, she asked me to come back in 10 minutes. I was
too amused/appalled to argue. At 5pm on the dot, I was literally handed my
room key. However, this is not the only example of what can happen if
employees do not know what it is like to be a customer of their own
business. In this example, things got even worse.
Having received my key, I went about the simple task of finding my room…..
or what SHOULD have been a simple task. I could not for the life of me
locate it. The hotel was akin to a maze — with awful signage. I wandered
around like a lost sheep for thirty minutes!! Eventually, a member of the
housekeeping staff bumped in to me. She asked if she could help – I begged
her to help me find my room. She laughed and said, ‘Guests get lost around
here all the time!’ – I kid you not!
This kind of customer experience is not uncommon – but it should NEVER
happen. If employees experience exactly what customers are expected to
experience, they would know what it feels like to be unable to find a room.
They would be able to put themselves in their customers’ shoes – literally!
Customer Face Time
One of my clients, an Indian pharmaceutical business, recognised that they
needed to spend more time ‘face to face’ with customers. Selling ‘over the
counter’ products, they realised that they had never actually walked in
their customer’s shoes. The leadership team did not meet customers, nor did
they really understand the actual customer journey.
What they decided to do
is as committed an approach to addressing the issue that I have ever seen.
One day a month, each member of their leadership team spends a day in the
home of one of their customers. One day a month!! They observe what their
customer does in every aspect of their lives. Amazing. Their decision
making is now completely driven by their understanding of what the business
wants AND what their customer wants.
I and many other customer experience commentators also believe that it is
just important for colleagues to experience what it is like to be each
other. So often we live in the little bubble of our function, or job. Failing to understand what our colleagues do in other parts of the customer
journey leads to a lack of appreciation for each other, as well as a lack
of understanding of what the customer is going through across the end to
Experience the Experience
To drive a customer centric culture, I strongly encourage the following:
- Encourage all employees to experience your products and services as a
customer would — even if you are in a B2B environment.
- Encourage employees to share stories of the good, the bad and the ugly
things they experience as customers themselves.
- Leaders should be speaking to customers at least once a month.
- Invite customers to meet senior leaders and describe recent experiences
throughout the year.
- Encourage all leaders to ‘do what their teams do’ throughout the year –
you need to be prepared to roll your sleeves up!
- Encourage teams to talk to and shadow each other – cross functional
collaboration is key to driving a customer centric culture. Getting teams
to experience what their colleagues do daily will greatly enable this to
become a reality.
It is too easy for us to hide behind the walls of our ivory towers and our
computer screens. Doing so will never enable the organisations we work for
to become sustainably customer centric. Get out there and start talking and
listening. It may not be completely comfortable, but it will be the most
rewarding this you have ever done.