The importance of customer culture – an interview with Chris Brown

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This year, Ian Golding (that’s me), will officially become the author of a book. A lifetimes ambition, I am beyond excited!! However, I would never have got to the point of being on the brink of achieving my ambition without the support of many people. A significant amount of support came via my crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. I feel genuinely blessed that so many people believed in what I am doing enough to pledge their support to make my dream come true.

In pledging to my campaign, five wonderful people were rewarded with an interview feature on my blog – what you are reading is the second of the five (you can read the first – an interview with James Dodkins – here). I am absolutely delighted to share my interview with Chris Brown – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed doing it…

I have known Chris for a couple of years now. Apart from being a lovely chap, like many people in the global Customer Experience (CX) community, he is as passionate and enthused about developing knowledge and education around CX competencies as I am. Chris is also someone who spends as much time in airports, aircraft and hotels as I do! As CEO and co-founder of MarketCulture Strategies, he, like everyone he associates with, is on a mission to get companies to understand the importance of customer culture:

Ian. Tell me a little about your background?

Chris. My first full time job was with HP as a 19 year old, joining them initially on a one year contract. Although I was studying accounting and finance at the time, I started out in sales and marketing. It did not take long for me to start becoming interested in the customer service elements of the business. After a while, my role developed more down the sales route, looking after relationships with retailers. This led to me spending a lot of time in my clients stores, observing customers and how they interacted with both the products and the employees. My fascination with the ‘customer interface’ was born!

Ian. Was HP a customer focused organisation at that time?

Chris. In the 90’s, I can definitely say that HP was a very customer centric organisation – that is despite it essentially being an engineering business. Their focus on the customer at the time, defined my thinking around what a customer centric business looked like – my experience then has had a huge influence on the direction of my career. However, towards the end of the 90’s, HPs leadership changed. Like many organisations, the focus switched (almost overnight), from being customer focused to being commercially focused. Inevitably, HP ‘lost its way’ as the company became obsessed with ‘sales’. 12 years after I signed my 1 year contract as a 19 year old, it was time for me to move on.

Ian. What happened next?

Chris. I became a marketing consultant!! More significantly, I left Australia and moved to the west coast of the United States. At that time, I became more and more interested in the work of Linden Brown – who also happens to be my dad! Linden founded a company in 1988 that was aimed at developing the marketing discipline. The time was right for us to go into business together – MarketCulture was born!

Ian. Tell me more about Linden and MarketCulture…

Chris. Linden has always been a true believer in marketing being recognised as a professional discipline. Like me, he wants people to understand that one of the core purposes of marketing is to understand customer needs – and to determine how to deliver against those needs better than anyone else. Over time, Linden recgonised that whilst it is relatively easy to develop great marketing strategy, best laid plans fall apart when an organisation does not believe in creating value for customers. Ultimately, the marketing strategy will only be effective if the culture of the organisation is aligned to creating customer value.

Linden started to use assessment methodologies to assess marketers – he wanted to know if CEOs had the ability to determine if their organisation had a customer focussed culture or not. At that time, the only way to assess this was to ask people what they thought. Although it was effective to a degree, Linden’s experiences proved to be the genesis of an idea to create a way of actually measuring customer culture. Linden consulted with many CEOs to determine if a measurement tool like this would be of interest – thankfully the feedback was extremely positive!

Ian. Is it really possible to measure customer culture?

Chris. We spent a long time developing the measurement tool. It was vital to get it right. In 2008, when the tool was being developed, we were very early to market with a concept along these lines. As a result, we have seen more momentum in the last two years than we did in the last ten! Even now, the fact that culture can be measured is still not understood as widely as it should be.

The tool we developed – the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) measures three factors – mindset, behaviour and process – all looking at assessing the difference between customer focus and internal focus. It provides quantitative measurement and qualitative feedback from employees on the factors that we know drive future customer advocacy and business performance. The intention of the MRI is to enable and integrate customer thinking into all roles across an organisation.

Ian. What difference does a measurement system like the MRI really make to an organisation?

Chris. We have proven that the MRI aligns culture with business performance, customer perception and employee engagement. If the MRI measurement goes up, business performance and customer perception are both positively affected. The MRI has helped everyone in the companies using it to integrate customer thinking across the business.

Ian. How long does it take to implement the MRI?

Chris. It takes approximately six weeks to put in place. It can take as little as twelve months to see the effect across the organisation. However, the larger the organisation, the longer it can take – in some cases several years. Changing culture is a long term business strategy – the MRI is proven to make transformation a reality.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can inspire your organisation to make customers a central part of its culture,
access some free resources on the Market Culture site here:

http://www.marketculture.com/resourcegateway.html

Also get a copy of their Award Winning Book, The Customer Culture Imperative here:

http://www.marketculture.com/the-customer-culture-imperative.html

My book, Customer What – the honest and practical guide to Customer Experience – will be published early in 2018. I look forward to publishing the other four interviews in the next few weeks.

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