Five key ingredients for a customer centric culture

Annette Hoher-Bauerle provides five crucial ingredients to any customer-centric culture.

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Customer-centric culture

CX Network Advisory board member Annette Hoher-Bauerle draws on her extensive experience to provide five crucial ingredients to any customer-centric culture.

Since working in customer experience I have always been fascinated with the topic of customer culture - what it is, how it is developed and most importantly, how it is lived and maintained on a daily basis. 

As with many topics, there is no one-size-fits-all or one version of the truth. However, there are indicators which show that when organizations truly put their customers at the heart of everything they do, the profits will follow.

Before I share some of these indicators, let’s define what we mean by the term ‘culture’. Culture is often referred to as a common set of values which unite an organisation and give all people (leaders and employees) a direction. It is the unwritten rule depicting how people think, act and react – and ultimately determines how staff collaborate with each other internally and with external stakeholders.

Corporate culture can make or break an organization’s focus on the customer. In many cases, the right customer-centric culture can accommodate for many CX slip-ups in an organization. For me, it is one of the most important factors to build on the journey to CX maturity.

Here are five ingredients that are crucial to building a customer-first culture.

  • Values are underpinned by a set of behaviors – Many companies have noble high-level values but how do they actually make sure those values convert into customer-first actions? Values need to come with a set of agreed and tangible behaviors that positively influence customer’s lives on a daily basis. A good exercise prior to roll-out is to get every team to reflect and define how the suggested behaviors translate into actions in their specific area.

  • Behaviors are role-modeled – Leaders must role-model the behaviors. Employees want to see that the right actions are demonstrated by the leadership team, otherwise customer culture remains a lip-service. Developing a culture involves all hierarchy levels and each tier should regularly reflect on whether their actions still align with the set of behaviors. A good example of this is seen when organizational leaders regularly work with frontline colleagues in their day-to-day contact with customers, without emphasizing the seniority gap.

  • The organization hires on mindset as much as it does on skills – Nowadays when organizations turn to a more purpose-driven leadership model they need to be sure that they bring people on board who share the same passion and the same set of values and thinking. Unfortunately, in many hiring processes companies do not put enough emphasis on the cultural fit of a candidate. Needless to say, due to this oversight building and maintaining a certain culture gets more difficult and the risk of dilution is brought into the organization.

  • Decisions are based on facts not gut-feelings – In an organization which puts customers first everybody knows who their customers are, their needs and the things they experience with your products and services because of customer insights and research. Employees and leaders base their decisions on these insights rather than on gut feelings. This customer feedback  data must be democratized and easy to share throughout the organization. 

  • Empowerment and trust lies with employees – If the right behaviors exist and data-based decision making is commonplace, it should not be difficult to give frontline employees the freedom, empowerment and trust to find the appropriate solution for customers every single day. Especially in difficult and challenging cases and situations, empowered and customer-minded employees will easily and fast turn customers into promoters of the organization.

Taking these five ingredients into consideration and implementing the concepts behind them will definitely be a good start to developing your business’ culture into a more customer-centric one.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels