One of the attributes of Best in Class organizations that has always interested me is their ability to focus their energies so enthusiastically on being customer centric. I often find this is further enhanced by their ability to “walk the talk,” as they share this commitment among their employees and customers.
I’m convinced this happens when a company’s leadership truly understands their business and focuses on what is most valuable in delivering success to their customers. These leaders understand the value of customer experience and how it builds loyalty and grows profits. And, they recognize that a customer-centric culture can result in a better experience for customers and employees.
As leaders, must we recognize what is truly of value to our business, to our customers, and to the way we go about our business. But, just as important, we must work to make sure our employees understand and see it as we do. Remember, a customer-centric organization, one that delivers Customer Success, makes it a point to help customers find the right solutions for their needs wherever they touch the company.
The essence of a company’s business goals must be customer experience and growth.
So, I ask: Can you clearly express the value proposition your company offers? Do your employees and your customers see it as you do? To what extent are you and your team committed to this proposition?
Customer centricity must go beyond just short-term successes to the more strategic need of creating an environment and enthusiasm that will endure over the long term. It’s about transforming the culture and engaging employees to embrace the mind-set and passion of being a customer-driven organization.
We must put the good of the organization ahead of our own personal desires. This effort should become a single-minded purpose and will be one of the most important effort investments we make as leaders. And let us not be casual about this, as it’s often one of the most challenging efforts of leadership. But it’s worth the effort. Making this change assures we deliver value to our customers and our company is rewarded by continued loyalty, growth, and profitability.
What does the transformation entail? It’s about creating an environment that demonstrates the ability to execute and maintain the change. It’s about being recognized for results in a manner welcomed by our customers. To achieve this, we have to understand a great deal about our business and our people.
The following seven steps will help guide you in creating that “take charge and get it done” environment. This does not come without hard work. And, remember, once you have customer centricity pervading your organization, you need to maintain it, as momentum can easily fade away.
1. Know your people, especially those who are the informal leaders and key go-to persons. Make sure these people have and will “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” Coach them to where you need them to be. Remember, these are the people your team looks to, trusts, and follows.
2. It is also important to recognize employees, the individuals you can rely on to be there, participate, and execute. Take the time to profile your people into groups based on their strengths and weaknesses. Using a skills matrix is one way to do this. Then make the investment in shoring up those weaknesses. Take time to create an environment that inspires people to learn and keeps them well informed. This way, they will remain engaged.
3. Prepare a series of communications to introduce your vision and detail the cultural transformation. Approach the achievers with the plan early on so they recognize their roles. They have a great amount of influence over others, so it’s essential they understand and buy in to the value proposition, the transformation, and what is expected of them.
Then community the strategy, purpose, objective, expectations, etc. with clarity again, and again, and again. You must be clear on the connection to customer centricity at the employee level. How else will they understand its importance and value of their contribution?
4. Assuming you have measured the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you can map the transformation journey. For example, take-charge organizations empower their people. Have your people been trained to understand the importance of being empowered, when and how far to go with this responsibility, and the judgment required for maximizing results?
Once you map the journey, you’ll have identified the key touchpoints and barriers to success. Addressing these along with an empowered team is a formula for delivering customer success. Create a cross-functional team willing to overcome silo barriers. And, ensure that internal teams are connected to the customer teams.
Mapping the transformation journey should also include clear and concise measures of success.
5. It’s essential that you have a communication loop in place. This is a must for feedback, strategy revision, and alignment. Consider using Town Hall-style meetings, internal surveys, small group luncheons, etc. based on what works best for your organization. You can never over-communicate and, likewise, you should never stop listening. Don’t make the mistake of settling back and thinking, “Now that everything is in place, we’re OK.” In an energized organization, there is very little time to relax...further change is always on the horizon.
6. Check and recheck for alignment. This is critical. Rely on those people you can trust to be objective. As painful as it can be at times, we need a candid evaluation about how the transformation is evolving. Also, do not be afraid to make adjustments. The worst thing we can do is to recognize the need for change and then not execute accordingly. Ignoring a problem is rarely the proper approach to take in solving it. It usually just makes things worse and perpetuates a defense mechanism or feeling of denial that ultimately leads to unhappy employees and customers.
7. Finally, think about...
- When was the last time you spoke to a customer?
- What does your voice of the customer feedback tell you?
- When did you last check on how well your message is resonating with your employees and customers?
- How are you measuring the level of customer centricity?
- Do your customers achieve Customer Success?
- Is your customer’s journey seamless and easy?
As business leaders, we put processes in place and train our people to anticipate customer needs. Some of this is predictable and we are prepared. But there are customer events that are less predictable, and cannot easily be resolved in a routine manner. In either case, these are “moments of truth.” Understand how to optimize those moment to ensure customer delight. Excite and energize your organization and you and your team will be prepared for whatever those defining moments bring as you transform to a customer-centric organization.
About the Author
Dennis Gershowitz is founder and principal of DG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in driving service revenues and profits through the development and implementation of customer experience management (CEM) strategy and service operations improvements. Contact Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org