Building a Customer-centric culture

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Here is the final post in a series about building a world-class CX program in your organization.  I introduced the component parts here, expounded on aligning your CX strategy here, delved into the Voice of the Customer here, and showed how to put it into action with your Process Engineering program here.  Now it’s on to building and supporting a Customer-centric culture.

“Well, culture’s a tricky one.”  So a guru once said to me about this ever-important aspect of corporate success.  And it’s obviously true.  HR departments and ‘climate committees’ spend lots of time and energy spinning up theories and ideas about how to improve and foster a great corporate culture.  It’s one of those things that’s easy to identify if it’s absent, but it’s challenging to identify steps toward achieving.

When it comes to fostering a Customer-centric culture, that overall “tricky” nature is compounded by the specificity of what we’re trying to achieve:  Not just good and healthy and constructive culture, but also one that’s centered on bringing the Customer the best possible experience.  To some degree they’ll go hand-in-hand, which is to say that if you have a good overall corporate culture, members of your team will likely be more inclined to better take care of your Customers as well.  As they say, take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your Customers.  That’s true to a point, but as we Operations Research types say, ‘necessary but not sufficient…’

I have a theory, though, that sometimes we miss the forest for the trees.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  How do you build a Customer-centric culture?  Some may feel it’s intangible things, but I disagree:  I think you can actually do things that will, in return yield a culture that’s not just amenable to putting the Customer first, but there’ll be no other way to operate.  The tools themselves will bring about a more Customer-centric culture.

I break it down into three concepts:  Enablement, Empowerment, and Encouragement.

Enablement is about providing your teams with the tools necessary to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.  Have you ever been on the phone with someone in Customer support and heard the agent say something like, “okay, hang on a second, I’m waiting for my computer”?  Or better yet, walk through your own contact center and marvel at the myriad windows your agents have open as they navigate the byzantine nature of your internal “support” systems.  If your tools aren’t effective and efficient, there’s less chance your agents will be either.  Foosball and beer on tap in the break room is great for morale, but you know what’s even better?  Work that’s made easier to perform because management invests in the right tools.  No amount of flex-time or stock purchase programs or perks is going to make it more enjoyable to go to work at a place where everything’s just a hassle.  And that hassle won’t be isolated to your team…they’ll pass it on to the Customers.  And not just because they’re ticked off about it or otherwise have a bad attitude because you’re not taking care of them…it just literally takes longer to do things for the Customers if your tools aren’t adequate to the task.  Step one:  Give your teams what they need!

The other part of taking care of your front-line team members is to Empower them.  Say you’ve gone to the trouble to streamline all your processes and tools, as I just alluded that you ought to.  So your front-line team members are headed into work with a slick, smooth, and efficient set of tools and procedures, ready to assist your Customers at every step with no hassle.  Except that, even for the most minor of situations, they’re required to escalate in order to solve an issue.  It’s not even that they’re not sufficiently trained or experienced enough to know what to do:  you’ve not given them the authority to do it.  This sort of atmosphere degrades trust and pride in work (and there goes your morale again).  But what’s more, it means that your Customers won’t be helped nearly as quickly and easily as they should be.  That’s more time they spend in resolution, and so a worse experience.  Step two:  Once you’ve given your team what they need, let them do it!

When you look at these two aspects (Enablement and Empowerment), you can see how they positively impact your team members’ attitudes.  Enablement with better tools and processes makes work more easy and enjoyable.  Empowerment fosters trust, pride, and enthusiasm about the work.  These are good from a morale perspective, but even if you weren’t interested in boosting your team’s attitudes (which, by the way, you should be anyway because it’s a good thing when it comes to the Customer-facing parts of your team), consider that both of these are good for business regardless of how they impact your culture:  They both drive a better Customer experience which is good for the bottom line.

Now for the third part of this plan:  Encouragement.  Enabling and Empowering your front-line employees goes a very long way toward fostering a Customer-centric culture.  If that’s where you are, you’re to be commended for putting your money where your mouth is and not just offering up idle chatter about CX.  Good for you.  But there’s even more you can do to help build out a truly Customer-centric workspace.  When everybody in the organization sees the boss walking-the-walk it has a huge impact.  Here are a couple ways you can show your Encouragement for your team (besides the obvious vocalization of how important Customers are to your organization…let’s assume you’re talking-the-talk already):

First, you can walk that walk in the Customers’ shoes.  I’m a big fan of this approach, and it should be part of your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.  If you’re not experiencing what it’s like to be a Customer of your organization, you’re missing that wonderful learning opportunity.  Taking things out for a spin is good for your perspective and as the leader, it shows you’re also invested personally in the improvement of your company’s Customer experience.  (Plus it helps knowing that at any moment, that Customer may be you on the phone with the contact center…)

Another way to encourage your team members to be more Customer-centric is through your Process Engineering (PE) program.  As I wrote in the previous<link> article of this series, if you’re doing it right, you’re leveraging the insights from your VoC to help identify where you can fix processes and systems within your organization to boost your CX.  By deliberately prioritizing your PE efforts in line with what your Customers are telling you, you’re emphasizing how important those experiences are to you.  In fact, it’s driving your biggest efforts.  And if that’s what’s going on in the highest levels of the organization—if you’re using the Customers’ voice to choose how you improve things, and what you improve—then that priority will reflect in the daily work of everybody interacting with the Customers as well.  So, Step three:  Show it matters to you and support the Customer-centric atmosphere.

Culture is more than ping-pong tables and tuition reimbursement and time off for family issues.  Your HR lead will tell you there’s more to it than that.  You can use these three tools:  Enablement, Empowerment, and Encouragement to build and foster a Customer-centric culture in your organization.

 

(Originally Published 20200819)

– LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM
– Principal, Zeisler Consulting

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