Delivering consistently in Customer Experience: Work deliberately to build a customer-centric culture

digital marketing strategy

Steve Jobs was a phenomenal individual (bless his soul). He won the admiration of many – not only for his mastery of technology, but more crucially, for his belief in people. Note this statement attributed to him: “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them”.

Employees attuned to the needs of customers reflect a customer-centric perspective as a result of deliberate interventions from leadership. Every organisation’s culture emanates from its leadership. They live the culture and by that token influence their followers to align with it. Through ongoing education, communication and recognition of their contribution to the mindset of customers, focus is gradually ingrained in them.

Delivering consistent Customer Experience to your loyal customers must be a deliberate endeavour. As much as you may have in your team people who by virtue of their training and upbringing, have qualities that endear them well to customers, the fact remains that your customer agenda needs a template that fits organisation-wide needs.  A few things to note on your menu are: the role of culture in customer experience, benefits of a customer-centric culture, how the elements add up and, your recruitment strategy.

The Role of Culture in Customer Experience

As always, we define culture as the behaviours and ways your employees communicate with customers. This is best achieved when you provide guidance. Failing that, employee wander around on their own. The interactions among them hardly create or grow relationships. The effect of this is simply this: that what should be a standard behaviour when dealing with customers is largely non-existent.

Many experts bemoan the lack of connection: “Without that connection, there is no emotion. And without emotion, there is no memorable customer experience”. Your employees will put so much into caring for your customer when they feel cared for. They will respond to you when they are convinced that you regard integrity as non-negotiable and hold the highest moral standard.

When the history of your organisation espouses noble aspirations for its employees, it triggers a positive domino effect that reaches employees and customers. The fact is, when you find yourself in an organisation where no one tells you how to do something, what will your perception be? Perhaps like everyone else you will think the most important thing is to get the job done. Period! The how to get it done will not even occur to you. The outcome of this is obviously poor customer experience – one that does not make a connection with the customer. Your customers feel how your employees feel. Ultimately, they are the ones who deliver those feelings, and not you.

How the elements add up – employees, customers, leadership

Author and inspirational speaker – Simon Sinek, states profoundly, “100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business”. Ian Golding, the Customer Experience guru, affirms this when he opines: “employees, customers and leadership – in that order!” According to him, it does not matter where the experience is delivered.

Whether it is delivered in a real-time human interaction (at the store or shop floor), over the phone, by web chat, or indirectly through a document, a smartphone app, or an artificial intelligence interface, all interactions between your organisation and customers are delivered or designed by people. Making sure that your work environment promotes great experiences will pave the way for employees to replicate that positive energy (they benefit from) to your customers.

To deliver an integrated customer journey you need connectivity encompassing a human chain enabled by engagement, technology and processes all working in synergy for goal attainment. If one link in that chain breaks, it will show in your customer experience. To treat your customer right you must be a customer yourself.  Take time to walk through your journey. Support your back-office teams and help them get close to colleagues who are interacting with customers every day.

Step into the world of the customer and try to understand their motivations. Do people buy or shop online in laboratory conditions? It usually is when they are sitting by the TV (watching the Premiership or Black Stars) or chatting with family and friends, painting their nails or jogging or walking for health that they find time to muse about health, weight, refrigerator, car and everything else. Work hard to understand the context and you will be in sync with your customer.

The pivotal role of leadership in all this is not debatable. As Professor Eddie Obeng of Pentacle UK often points out leaders’ ‘Lead-er-Ship’. Just try out that pronunciation on your own and think of its effect – A massive ship on the high seas with one dependable leader.  Leaders by their orientation can make or unmake a good customer experience. On the positive side, having emotional self-awareness is key. Understand your own emotions; as leadership literature informs: lead self and lead others.

How many times have you heard the words achievement, positive outlook, adaptability and flexibility being used to describe a positive environment? People emulate their leaders; it’s not just about listening to what they say. Followers are also happy to observe and imitate their leaders.

Recovering from bad experiences is part of the experience agenda. Good leadership responds to such incidents with aplomb.

My personal experience in a Supermarket in the UK attests to this. I am dealing with a faulty self-checkout machine after scanning my items in an attempt to pay with my Visa-card. I get an error. The shop attendant comes in to help me and is unsuccessful, so she calls in the manager. She (the manager) in turn faces the same predicament so I suggest to them, can I use the next machine? The manager says: “No! We’ve wasted enough of your time. Just take the items home, you don’t need to pay for them!” What empathy!

The benefits of a customer-centric culture

A customer-centric business strategy has the outcome of increasing customer satisfaction. Knowing what customers like and don’t like is a plus for every business. As I recall the hotel experience of Michael Geber, where some of his habits were quickly learned by a hotel. He visited such that without his asking, they knew what paper he read, what he took for breakfast, and so on; thus, made sure they provided all these for him.

Additionally, a hotel might offer high-speed wireless Internet connections in each room to allow customers free access to the superhighway, thus, many of them can work as though they were back home or in the office. Such high customer satisfaction makes them more likely to come back in future. The Englishman I met on the flight back home from the UK, who had been offered a bouquet of services by a hotel in Elmina – including a pickup service at Kotoka will tell his story to someone.

Researchers have proved that a customer-centric business enjoys the advantage of lower churn as they maintain product relevance and a strong relationship with the customer. A customer-centric business is constantly monitoring the daily realities of the customer experience, ensuring that the customer is always receiving the value they desire from its product or service.

If you invest time and effort into monitoring metrics known to have a direct impact on customer business success, it yields significant dividends. So, for example, a software development company will closely monitor license utilisation, feature adoption, and more to help it implement proactive customer engagements. Years ago, during my IT career years, we saw it play out as the multinational we worked for influenced a software developer to acquire another business so that they could integrate a business Enterprise Resource Planning system with production-oriented Materials Resource Planning system.

Subsequently, they bought licenses for all their Africa operations. Strive to understand your customer’s business goals so that you can determine which features will add value for them specifically. Customer-centricity will position your team for success in a variety of ways. By keeping customer data at their fingertips, they develop the capability to communicate early and often with customers.

Such capabilities enable you to determine at-a-glance how a customer is doing through setting up automatic engagements triggered by certain key events, such as an important goal completion. The key is to commit resources to make this happen. Lord Denning, the famous English Lawyer and Judge, summed it all up when he said: “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand”. When your experience strategy is carefully planned and executed, you will see the results in various ways. But this will only happen when you have the commitment to it as a business and are deliberate about your execution.

Recruitment strategy

The most customer-centric organisations view their customer orientation with fierce pride. One may ask at this point, is being customer-centric a skill? Understanding the impact of your decisions and how you communicate is a skill that can be honed.  By intentionally hiring self-aware individuals who understand that their every interaction can make a measurable difference for the organization, you are building a customer-centric culture.

When you recruit top talents with a focus on customer-centricity, they will actively bring in more top talent to create a customer-focused team. They only invite someone into ‘the family’ if they know they will be an exceptional fit. This way, you build a continuous cycle that actively attracts the type of employees that will have a strong desire to serve customers uncommonly well from day one.

Your quest must be to find the candidates who will be intrinsically motivated and excited to make your mission a reality for customers. Driving a culture of customer-centricity can best be achieved by fostering an army of ‘Customer Advocates’. These are individuals, hand-selected across the business and taken through intensive, ongoing training. These ambassadors bring that evolving CX strategy back into their functional groups.

It is a brilliant way for you to extend your customer experience roots, and to drive meaningful change throughout your business!

Rethinking your experience strategy to step-up growth: Keep doing what works best and aim to improve   The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], Manuel


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