Tips for Transforming to a Customer-Centric Company Culture
I have been asked a lot what it means in practice to be customer-centric and how to get everyone on board in the company?
Customer-centricity can’t be achieved overnight – it requires dedicated commitment from everyone in the organization as well as shifting mindsets and behaviors. It’s not a project that you start and finish nor just about offering great customer service. Customer-centricity results as an outcome offering a great experience to the customer across all touchpoints: from the awareness stage, through the purchasing process and finally through the loyalty process. It’s a companywide mindset and strategy that’s based on putting your customer first, and at the core of your business.
As per my experience working with several companies that have gone through transformation, a customer-centric culture is essential to deliver consistent, delightful customer experiences. It is the customer experiences that drive customer satisfaction, customer retention, customer life time value, enhanced brand image, recommendations and revenue. At most companies the culture remains product-focused or sales-driven, or customer centricity is considered a priority only for certain functions such as customer service or marketing. However, believe it or not, a shift can happen!
To successfully implement a customer-centric strategy and operating model, focus first in your company making sure you have and build a culture that aligns with them.
These following 10 tips will help shifting to a customer-focused environment across your company:
1. Establish customer centric values
Start with the goal and outcome in mind: identify what customer experience should feel like for your customer, and then design and execute the needed steps to meet this goal. Ensure empathy is a value among your employees. Empathy is the ability to understand the customer’s needs, identify the emotions and reasons behind those needs, and respond effectively to solve their problems.
2. Drive awareness
Once your target on customer experience is established, you will need to drive awareness in putting customers first. You cannot over communicate the importance of the customer experience and work being done across the organisation around it. A customer centric business talks about customer experience regularly. Additionally organize training sessions for new and existing employees and distribute your values visibly to ensure that customer experience is given priority.
3. Prioritize customers and their experience
Customers are critical to run a business and they will be the most important stakeholders in your business. When it comes to addressing customer issues, employees should prioritize customer satisfaction above everything else. This may mean sometimes sacrificing profits or rescheduling meetings to manage and/or respond to customers.
4. Make everyone accountable for CX
Everyone in the company is in charge of ensuring CX success. Make sure every department and every role is empowered to deliver consistent and enhanced customer experiences. Motivating incentives are extremely efficient in redirecting your personnel’s focus too. If you want all your employees to improve the customer experience, reward them for doing so. People tend to focus on the metrics that will bring them benefit. This is particularly important for employees, who face customers only indirectly, but still, have a significant influence on their experience.
5. Measure customer outcomes
You can’t improve if you don’t understand what’s not so good. As an organization, you should be able to measure the impact of your customer experience efforts and your customer’s satisfaction on these. Share the results with everyone in the company. Link customer success to employee incentives and compensation programs. When employees have personal stakes in customer satisfaction, they will be better aligned to deliver better customer experiences.
6. Listen to your customer and make feedback available for everyone
Facilitate customer interactions to gather feedback and suggestions to improve services and products. Understand customer data and enable interactions between employees and customers to identify their successes and challenges. Share e.g. a customer case of the month or distribute notes from customer meetings to everyone. This will enable your team understand customer requirements better. Knowing that the top level also reads customer comments helps in the customer-centric cultural transformation as well. Make sure feedback is always complemented with a shared understanding of what really drives customer satisfaction, people can then focus on making improvements.
7. Empower employees
Essentially, customer empathy is the ability to identify a customer’s emotional need, understand the reasons behind that need, and respond to it effectively and appropriately. Empower your employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve the customer better. Employees should feel confident making on-the-spot decisions to exceed customer expectations and not feel restricted by policies. Support your employees delivering tools, guidelines, and the space to solve customer problems.
8. Promote empathy and people-centricity
The employees who run your day to day operations have a significant impact on how customers perceive your brand. When hiring, evaluate your future employees for their skills, attitude, customer orientation, and personality that sync well with your culture.
9. Improve the employee experience
No secret that if the employees are treated well, they’re more likely to share their happiness and loyalty with customers. An empowered employee that feels to have a purposeful work, is a happy employee. When you expect your people to deliver, it is important to treat them well. In fact, it is crucial to help them with the right tools to drive more delightful customer experiences. Great customer experiences begin with great employee experiences!
10. Reward and Celebrate Customer Success
Sharing employee wins and praise from customers will help you set the tone for the rest of the team, so employees can understand which direction you’re going and what kind of goals they should follow. When an employee goes the extra mile to exceed customer expectations, recognize, and reward them. Recognition and reward will serve as the motivation for everyone to do better in the future.
By establishing customer centricity and customer empathy as core values in your company by aligning to leaders who practice these values in the organization and empower employees to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Only when customer-centric strategies are supported and advanced by culture will a company realize its customer-centric vision.
The shift towards becoming truly customer centric may sound long, but do not be put off by this as my experience is that even the smallest changes to processes can have a significant benefit for both employees and your customers. Or what do you think – shift can happen, right?
As a CXO Kirsti is a Customer Experience Management executive, a board professional, advisor, partner, thought leader and a keynote speaker with extensive international experience in building customer centric brands, leading cross-functional teams, managing SaaS business and product portfolios for both B2B and B2C data and tech brands. She has been living and working quite some time in various countries and has a practical understanding of what it takes to work with people with various cultural backgrounds.
Kirsti has a proven track record in leading successful companies through internationalization and profitable growth, developing superior omnichannel customer experiences with additional focus on employee experience as well as transforming organizations to be more customer centric and cost-effectively experience driven – from sh*t happens to shift happens!
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