By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do.
The big Culture misperception
This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet. It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.
Let’s imagine your leadership makes a public commitment to customer-centricity. The act of stating a commitment to culture is not, in itself, culture. This is probably the biggest misperception among leaders.
Even if you make a few posters and put them on your office walls, you still do not have a values-driven or a customer-centric culture. Culture is not something you say. It is all the things you do.
Lead by Example
Employees observe leaders. All their actions signal the organizational norms to employees. These become the “rules of the game.”
What is allowed/is not allowed? How are decisions made? Who makes those decisions? What actions (or lack of actions) are rewarded?
All of these questions define the boundaries of accepted behaviors. And thus, they define culture. So, if you are a leader who wants to build a customer-centric culture, you must have the self-discipline to be consistent. You must make leadership decisions driven by the customer.
What does that mean in practice?
If you do not have an internal customer insights team, build one as soon as you can. There is a difference between having an internal team and sourcing a vendor that charges you for every survey you may want to develop.
If you are serious about customer experience, you need an internal team that is accessible to the business and serves the business’ needs.
Currently, data is the least obvious side of customer-centric culture. In order for brands to build hospitality-infused experiences, they need to start with data and insights. These insights tell your brand your customers’ needs and preferences. As a customer experience professional without access to that information, you are blind. Or worse, you are biased to use a sample of one as a guide for the entire experience design.
Customer Data Informs Culture
In this sense, access to customer data is a defining part of customer-centric culture. When employees get to know customer preferences via surveys, they incorporate those preferences into their actions intuitively. Additionally, when employees are informed of customer actions from beacon and location data, they use that information to design spaces. Without democratizing customer data and insights, you can’t have customer-centric products and services.
Sharing insights across the organization is one side of the data coin for customer-centric organizations. The other side is how leaders themselves use these insights. If leaders do not study insights and implement them into their day-to-day decisions, they signal to employees that customer preferences are not important. Moreover, if leaders do not share survey insights with the organization, they are muting the voice of the customer.
In a customer-driven organization, leaders act on behalf of the customer. This is a pretty powerful statement, so let me repeat it. Leaders ACT ON BEHALF of their customer.
That means that leaders know the customer. They care about asking the customer his/her opinion. And they commit to acting in response to those opinions.
If you want to build a values-driven culture that focuses on the customer, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Keep in mind, it is not about one big thing you do. Rather, many everyday actions amount to one big FEELING of culture. That feeling motivates your employees to stay. And it motivates your customers to return for more experiences, co-created with them.
For guidance in building values-driven culture that focuses on the customer, learn more about our approach for CX Culture.