7 powerful habits of Companies that have built customer-centric cultures


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Companies today want to delight customers at every interaction. However, little do they realize that great customer experiences start from the inside. Yes, the experience you provide your customers is only as good as the culture you build within the company. So, are you investing enough time and effort to create a culture that values both employees and customers? If yes, how well are you doing it?

Research from Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable than companies that weren’t focused on the customer. Econsultancy conducted a survey to find out the most important characteristic needed to establish a truly ‘digital-native’ culture. The most chosen answer, with 58% of respondents agreeing to it, was to be customer-centric.

The customer-centric mindset is one of the main reasons companies like Apple, Zappos, and Amazon have been able to ‘WoW’ their customers and eventually earn their lifetime loyalty.

So, aren’t you curious to find out where to start in order to create a successful customer-centric culture?

Here are 7 habits – practiced by the best of customer-centric companies – that can turn your company culture around and ultimately lead to happier customers.

1. They have defined their culture precisely

What do you want your company culture to be like? You need to create a vision and then breakdown this vision into cultural values that all your employees can understand and action on a daily basis. Take Zappos for instance. Their vision of “delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors” is made actionable through their 10 core values:

1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

Write down your company’s cultural values, figure out whether they are in line with your vision and propagate this throughout your organization so that every employee knows what they’re working towards daily.

2. They hire only the right people

Having clearly defined values alone won’t do. You need employees who can gel with these values. This brings us to hiring – something customer-centric brands are good at. They don’t choose the best people. They choose the right people. People who would fit into their culture – employees who can be trained, improve, and will work with a focused customer-first approach.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had this to say when talking about the company’s culture

The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select,” he wrote. “Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another.” He added, “We never claim that our approach is the right one — just that it’s ours — and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people; folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.

There’s talent everywhere. Look instead for employees who would champion your culture and be truly passionate about working for your company.

3. They capture and take action on Customer Data

To be customer-obsessed means you need to understand your customers and their expectations. The most customer-centric companies make it a point to capture customer data (both experiential and transactional) at every opportunity available. Based on the data collected, they create strategies to personalize experiences for different customer groups, and drive loyalty and retention rates.

It’s important to leverage different touchpoints such as Email, SMS, Websites and more to listen to what the omni-channel customer is saying today. And acting on this feedback shows customers that you care and portrays to the world the customer-focused culture you’ve instilled.

Also, incorporating this feedback into the everyday routine of employees aligns your internal culture with evolving customer expectations. This makes it easier to drive customer-centric change across the organization.

4. They recognize and reward employees

While hiring is an important part of building a customer-centric culture, so is retaining your employees. But making sure your best employees stay with you long-term isn’t as easy as it seems. You’ll have to create a system that constantly recognizes and rewards your best employees. Yes, we’re talking perks here!

For instance, Nordstrom, which is one of the global brands that is at the forefront of CX, incentivizes its salespeople to help customers and delight them across every interaction. The recognition that you give employees doesn’t have to be monetary all the time. On a daily basis, select employees at NetApp receive calls from Vice Chariman Tom Mendoza who recognizes them for doing their job ‘right’.

Such initiatives go a long way in boosting employee morale. After all, who wants to show up at work daily when no one cares about how you do your job!

5. They train employees to deliver delight

As important as it is to hire the right people, it is also important to provide them with the necessary guidance and direction to help them maximize their potential. Companies that are appreciated for their customer-centric cultures are the ones that train their employees the right way.

Again, using the example of Nordstrom, their employee handbook is effectively a bible. Employees at Nordstrom are trained based on this and are expected to follow it religiously. These aren’t complicated processes, but rather simple small steps—even simple gestures that can make a huge difference for the customer!

Here are some of the points from the handbook:

• Salespeople are taught to walk your bagged purchased around the counter to you vs. just handing it across the counter.
• A Nordstrom salesperson rarely points. If you have a question about where something is located, they walk you there.
• 1 to 1 service. In most departments, if you indicate the desire to shop, there is a salesperson designated to helping you find sizes, etc.

What tops it all is the one most important rules: “Use good judgment in all situations”.

How do you view training at your company? Is it a routine exercise carried out for the sake of it? If your end goal is customer delight and higher revenue, then your training programs have to empower employees, maximize their potential and make them constantly push their limits.

6. They drive new initiatives and are constantly evolving

You should know that your customers are constantly evolving. And in the daily scheme of things, it is not surprising to find employees settling into their comfort zone and losing motivation. This signals the time when you need to come up with exciting initiatives and plans that give the employees something to look forward to.

Prescription eyewear brand Warby Parker has an entire team dedicated to promote the company’s unique culture – setting up fun lunches, events and other programs. They ensure that there is always something scheduled that the employees look forward to. This not only contributes to the employee’s overall well-being but helps employees feel more energetic, collaborative and willing to share knowledge between themselves and get a sense of belonging as part of a larger company culture.

7. They go the extra mile for employees and customers

What are doing for your employees and customers? And what are you doing for your employees and customers that your competition isn’t doing for theirs? These are very important questions you need to answer if you’re looking to build a unique, differentiated company culture.

Oil and gas company Chevron conducts regular health check-ups, offers personal training and massages for their employees. Nordstrom immediately shipped out a new pair of shoes to a customer when it a delivery person had left the package outside, in the rain, at the customer’s house. Zappos even delivered a pizza to a customer once!

The question is how much do you care? It’s all about the small stuff. Everything adds up to eventually something far bigger — an amazing company culture and delighted customers!

Ganesh Mukundan
I'm a content marketer at Hiver. I've been writing about customer experience for the past 5 years. I'm passionate about narrating delightful customer stories, researching CX trends, and deep-diving into concepts such as VoC and Customer Journey Mapping.


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