What’s a customer cause? And should organisations have a stated one for their customers?
According to Oxford Dictionaries, a Cause is defined as a ‘principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate’. To be truly customer centric and deliver the best customer experiences that they can, shouldn’t organisations be clear about their ‘deep’ commitment to their customers?
Leadership by cause, not by objectives
Successful businesses are run with clear objectives, a stated vision and a strategy in place to deliver these.
Our experience when engaging with corporates, suggests that it is surprisingly rare to find anything that resembles a clearly articulated Customer Experience vision or in many cases, CX strategy in place. Rightly or wrongly, Customer Experience departments or roles have been established to be responsive. They focus on fixing pain points, streamlining the experience, taking on board feedback from customer transactions and measuring how they are ‘doing’ via net promoter score (nps).
The customer’s experience is the ‘reality check’ of the brand i.e. it’s where the brand directly meets the consumer. The acid test of the brand, where the expectations that the brand has set, are either met or not. This being the case, shouldn’t there be a greater focus not only on establishing exactly what the customer experience is trying to achieve with a direct link to corporate and brand strategies? Moreover, shouldn’t there also be a ‘deep commitment’ by organisations to what that experience will then deliver for the customer?
With a customer cause, an organisation can unite together and done well, the combined efforts can not only ensure that the basic customer experience is delivered against customer expectations; but it can also propagate a vast amount of innovation.
From corporate vison to customer cause
Many successful brands have well known and published visions, but few have articulated or shared a customer cause.
Familiar examples of visions and missions:
- Google – “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
- Amazon – “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online.”
- McDonald’s: “McDonald’s vision is to be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”
They are focused on what they provide for customers via their brand. The next two are more about the experience that they will deliver.
- IKEA: “Create a better everyday life for the many people.”
- Ritz-Carlton: “The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”
Now let’s look at Airbnb. They began with a mission: “to make people around the world feel like they could “belong anywhere,” which has moved on since they first began in 2008 providing customers with ‘unforgettable travel experiences.’
The Airbnb story is: “For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.” This feels more like a cause or a deep commitment. It doesn’t mean that the other great companies mentioned don’t have a cause, they are implicit in their missions and not necessarily overtly articulated or shared, but the Airbnb narrative focuses on why rather than the what in a human way.
Not ‘what’ but ‘why’
The conviction and aspiration that stem from a shared customer cause can help shape the customer experience that the organisation wants to deliver. Then, the organisation can employ it to not only inspire, align, and guide, but also bring innovation, energy, and a human face to what would otherwise, just be strategy.
We explain to our clients, that the cause should be ‘The why?’ or the why behind the brand wants to deliver a better experience, rather than the what (that comes next). It’s definitely not things like increasing its nps, or making more money – these things are the outcomes of delivering upon the customer cause.
Examples might be ‘to make memories ….’, ‘’to make dreams come true by …’, ‘to enrich the lives of customers ….’ ‘to empower…’, ‘to delight and value with …’, ‘to enable …’. The customer is at the core.
The customer cause becomes a guiding force for change – but getting it right isn’t easy.
Arriving at your Customer Cause
The process of establishing the customer cause is straightforward.
- Identify the most influential leaders within the business
- Listen to the voice of these influencers to shape a shared view of the ‘WHY’?
- Use examples from elsewhere, insight and feedback from customers to guide direction
- Get alignment and commitment amongst the leaders from the start
- Keep it simple and use human language
- Establish principles or standards to bring the cause to life in day to day operations
- Establish the outwardly facing behaviours that positively endorse and underpin the experience principles
- Get engagement within the wider business in the form of communication and training
- Help people see what it means for them and help them see how they can contribute to the cause
Creating a customer movement to build internal momentum
One of the major reasons that Customer Experience initiatives are failing and the experience gap is growing, is the lack of engagement throughout the organisation. Creating a customer cause, helps create a customer centric ‘movement’ in the organisation. A customer cause can inspire employees by giving them something to work towards. It’s more motivating than another strategy or a dry vision that can be hard to relate to. Given the cause is linked back to the corporate and brand strategy, it helps humanise these as well.
It is well recognised that people want to be part of a community and to spotlight themselves as individuals at the same time. Employees in an organisation are no different.
- Employees want to be part of the customer community.
- Employees want to be actively involved in something.
- Employees want to know what’s in it for them.
- Employees often want to make a personal statement.
If an organisation can create a platform that effectively harnesses both the need to be part of a community and the need to be an individual and align it around the customer, it is sure to have a successful customer centric ‘movement’ on their hands with a better employee experience than it had before.
Connecting Customer, Company and Employee by way of the cause
The customer cause should be used to guide the Customer Experience strategy – it provides a consistent framework to guide the organisation, focus resource and to deliver against what matters most to customers.
Once the cause, principles and behaviours are established, natural follow-on questions are:
- What experience must we create to ensure that we are committed to the customer cause?
- How do we do this seamlessly across channels?
- How does everyone in their role ensure that they exhibit behaviours that support the cause?
- What skills do we need to deliver the experience?
- What process & technology will enable us to deliver it?
These are questions that organisations may already ask themselves but they are usually done in isolation without the framework or guidance of the customer cause.
From an organisational perspective, the cause can help unite the independent silos and departments whose role it is to deliver the customer experience. It elevates the value of Customer Experience and brings customer to the fore rather than individual objectives and territories.
With a Customer Cause, organisations can better establish a prioritised sense of direction for their Customer experience; experiences that customers will value and which are true to the brand promise. The biggest gain of centring in this way will be in getting the wider organisation to lean in so that they want to be part of the customer cause rather than spectators.