Experiencing a Customer-Centric Culture in Action


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Last week, Ronni Marshak and I had a unique opportunity to watch the inner workings of a company during one of its busiest and most stressful times. Although I can’t tell you the name of the company, it’s one you may have interacted with. What I found truly amazing was the degree to which customer-centricity permeated ALL the operations of this organization. Everyone understood what mattered to customers and why. Very complex decisions were being made to optimize difficult and challenging choices in real time. Yet everyone was completely grounded in the same ethos: We don’t disrupt our customers’ lives, unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. And we don’t have to charge a premium to make money. We just have to optimize around what matters most to customers and keeps sales volume and execution quality high.

I am often asked whether it’s possible to change an inwardly focused company culture to a customer-centric culture. I still don’t know the answer to that question for sure. But I now know what such a culture looks and acts like. It’s really very simple. You optimize decisions and operations to deliver what you promised to customers. You think about anything that might adversely impact the customer experience and try to mitigate it before it does. When something unavoidable gets in the way, you do what it takes to make it right. You apologize and you explain what happened and why. You make amends. And you remain friends.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


  1. We did change the company to a customer centric organization from one that was more focused on the bottom line. The result was that the bottom line grew as a result of more customers coming through the door. Here is what we did.

    1. Management team decided this is the way we wanted to go, and each manager committed to building a customer centric department

    2. Set the expectation – we held an initial 4 hour training session on what the expectation would be, for EVERY employee in the organization. From senior managers to the housekeeping staff.

    3. Remind once a year – 1 hour of reminding of expectations. Sharing what we have learned this past year.

    4. Critical Incident Review – whenever a customer is less than happy with the service we provided, we sit down with the people involved in that interaction with the customer and discuss how it could have been done better.

    5. Ask the customer – what could we have done differently to make the customers experince with the organization better. We ask the customer what is fair to them to make it right, and most of the time we follow their recommendation.

    6. Employee counseling – Any employee not meeting expectations are counseled as to expectations. The three strike rule is in effect. Meaning if you have three negative experiences with a customer you’re out the door. No matter seniority, efficiency or job will hold a position for you if you do not treat customers in a manner that is to expectations

    7. Review with customers – How are their expectation of us changing in light of currrent economic times and/or other factors. Customers value proposition changes over time and expereince and we have to keep up with those changes to continue to be customer centric.

    That is how we did it. We retail several major brands in the US. In 2009, 5 years after working at making the cultural change, we were awarded one brands highest award, which is based on customer satisfaction.

  2. I like the prescriptive actions you guys took–particularly for a service organization. I particularly like the “3 Strikes, you’re out” rule, even for highly placed execs!

    Patty Seybold


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