Managing a culture of customer centricity by delivering out-of-world experiences consistently


 – keep your eye on the ball and stay attuned to the needs of the customer

The past week has been very eventful for me. I was privileged to be part of a team of facilitators delivering to the leadership of a client organization in a 3-day intensive workshop out of town. During our sojourn in the hotel, we made some interesting observations about the hotel and its culture worth emulating. For us, as customers, it was great to feel pampered although I must add that they still have a few more boxes to tick. This notwithstanding it was heartwarming to be in a hotel where the customer experience was obviously on the minds of the Hotel management team.

Where CX is a deliberate strategy you sense it and can smell it everywhere as you engage the business touchpoints. The polite demeanour of the hotel staff, the regular check to see if you were doing okay, the safety drill that preceded the start of our workshop, the chef’s willingness to adjust following a special request for additional condiments, and the last hurrah of having to order our takeaway on the final day on our way out. It turned out that there wasn’t a provision for takeaway as they assumed that we were going to take our meals at the restaurant.

That notwithstanding they still found a way to give us takeaway packs. I checked to see if they had a CX Manager and my check revealed the affirmative. My colleagues and I agreed that although there was room for improvement they appeared to be focused on delivering exceptional experiences to customers as best as they could. For example, I dropped my room key (smartcard) somewhere at some point when we were letting our hair down however they had made provision for any such eventuality so there was no need to panic we got a replacement in good time.

It was a relaxing and enjoyable experience as much as we had to work hard through sessions we couldn’t help noticing the great effort by the management and team of the hotel to deliver unique experiences to customers. There is so much more to share about this experience such as the willingness to greet exhibited by all the staff, I never saw an angry team member, they all had a smile on their faces and were quick to respond to client requests. I am telling the story to ensure that other service providers notice the effect of great experiences and respond to this call to change the Ghanaian story of a persistently poor service culture.

The behaviours demonstrated by the hotel team I believe were not accidental. That the friendly engagements with customers were deliberate is clear with no iota of doubt whatsoever. A customer-centric culture is pivotal to the successful delivery of an experience culture. The following traits are significant in this regard. First, empower employees to be aware of the need to bend backward to deliver a great customer experience. Second, when things don’t go to plan be quick to fix the issue, plan for failure, and expect failure sometimes but be ready to learn quickly and make amends. It’s called smart failure.

Third, invest in your internal customers (employees) to ensure that you have an army of willing hands to support your CX drive. Fourth, resist the silo thinking frame and focus on building a common platform where all energies are aimed at ensuring that the customer agenda is well-supported across the business.

Empower employees

One thing you must do frequently is to gauge employee sentiments to help you understand their mindsets and more importantly develop empathy with them. In doing that your goal is to maintain a posturing that sees you sell for customers as opposed to selling to them. Instead of applying the traditional approach of educating them about your product features and benefits and focusing on the superior features you offer in comparison to your competitors aim instead to try and understand them intuitively and make them realize how much value you place on their services.

The traditional approach when dealing with our employees is to focus on systems and tools as opposed to cultural transformation. The truth is if you want to treat your customers right then ensure that your employees who are the ones to engage them are treated right themselves. Simply put you cannot expect employees to treat customers better than they are themselves treated. What you see is what you get. A well-bred team will demonstrate the positive values imbibed in them to the public they deal with.  When you are deliberate about the employee experience you ensure that the entire business keeps customers at the forefront of their planning, decision-making, and daily execution.

Here are 3 ways recommended by experts to help us drive the employee experience productively. According to research companies with best-in-class experience have 60% more customers and are highly engaged. Invest in customer-focused training and development in areas such as customer empathy and engaging difficult customers. Encourage employees to share customer insights cross-functionally, and do not restrict customer information to sales and marketing. Encourage leadership involvement. A genuine commitment to customers results from full engagement from C-level right across the company.

Respond quickly to issues

Our world today is complicated. Every other encounter presents unique challenges making customer engagements much more difficult than in the days of IBM, Toyota, Microsoft, and Apple, – just to name a few – when business plans had long shelf lives. Today we are confronted with an era where change is happening faster than we learn. Failure is o longer the end of the road. The key now is to fail forward and learn faster. My point here is that in human situations things do go wrong however hard we try to stay the course. The key is how you learn and deal with setbacks.

Work tirelessly to turn a bad experience into a great one at every opportunity. Note that when you succeed in one instance the task is not finished yet. You need to keep working to ensure that you prevent the same incident from occurring again. Leverage the learnings from the bad encounters to install a robust process that will ensure that you don’t go down that road again. Here are a few tips for recovery recommended by CX advocate Katie Stabler. First, identify the root cause of the problem. Was it a communication failure or was it a bad product delivered? Try and understand the cause rather than the symptom.

Second, assess the impact – is it a one-off or recurring issue? Has it impacted the few or many? Third, work with your team to fix the problem – here collaboration is the key to ensure that the wider team is involved in identifying and fixing the issue fully. This is where sharing knowledge and experiences can be valuable. Fourth, throw in some additional quality assurance to ensure your ‘fix’ has worked – and monitor that experience, map the journey your customers are taking to make sure the experience you intended is now the experience they are getting.

How we plough back lessons into our operations is crucial to improving customer engagement. For example, the aftermath of the lockdown has seen the emergence of technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx to name just a few offering great platforms for virtual engagements. One of the hardest hits by the effects of the pandemic is employees and this has occurred across all industries. Many have been displaced by the crises impacting the way organizations operate and engage with customers. We can turn this on its head by ensuring that we collectively own the experience and are committed to fixing points of failure regularly.

Invest in your internal customers (employees)

To build a culture of customer-centricity you need to work hard at delighting customers. Your efforts to achieve this goal cuts across functions and departments. To make this happen in your organization you need to encourage your employees to “fall in love with” customers’ issues. You want to avoid the tendency where your company’s customers work with you primarily because they lack a better current alternative because they feel like they have to, not because they want to. How to make your business their preferred choice is to invest in your employees who deliver to them at your journey touchpoints.

By deliberately investing in employee training programmes you will convert your employees into active participants in your quest to cultivate a customer-centric culture. You will be encouraging customer-appropriate behaviour and gradually enriching employee conduct within the business. Employees will be abreast with and understand the latest trends, tactics, and strategies required to create sustainable value for customers. In sharing my weekend experience at this hotel I can only wish for more of the same and perhaps even better anytime I pay them a visit going forward.

When the management of a business is well acquainted with the practicalities that come along with being a customer-centric organization, they are well-placed to treat customer satisfaction and experience as a well-thought-out endeavour with the obvious impact of creating long-lasting business value. Customer-centricity is the need of the hour for corporations. When the organization is committed to customer-centricity it will reflect in the making and implementation of decisions. The goal of management must be to ensure that every decision implemented within the organization places customer issues at the top of its pile. Customer-centricity is at the heart of customer experience and must be the guiding force for every facet of the organization.

According to digital marketing giant HubSpot, the statistics for successful customer engagement is compelling. More than 80% of companies that prioritize customer experience are reporting an increase in revenue. 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs. Customers will spend 17% more for a good experience. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t. $1.6 trillion is lost each year due to poor customer service. There is a strong case for inculcating customer-centered values in the hearts and minds of your employees.

Break the silo thinking mindset

When your organization is set up such that people think more along departments or units or regions you are in a silo thinking mindset. In such organizations, the focus is on narrow goals in favour of thinking across the whole organization. That culture makes it difficult for coworkers to share information freely. I can relate to this from my years in corporate where you consistently hear the phrase “head office has no idea of what we do in our unit” bundled around frequently or, “we can’t get anything out of IT” and so on.

While this is happening internally the customer suffers the severe brunt of the effects of silos. To break this tendency leadership must be quick to identify the problem and commit to actively working to reduce or eliminate it. Cross-functional teams work better if the organization wants to interact within itself and more importantly represent its customers effectively at all touchpoints. According to Stephen Goldstein a consultant who advises CEOs and businesses the following 3 approaches to help break up silos.

He recommends firstly that we declare War on silos by letting everyone know from top to bottom in the organization why we must collaborate in favour of building silos. As the leader, your ability to change this mindset will depend on the kind of model behaviors you exhibit for everyone to follow. Leadership must focus on developing behaviours that focus less on what you say and more on what you do. Not only do we need to speak about this very important topic but we must also reward good behavior.

Next, he recommends that we promote transparency. Find opportunities to share more information such as newsletters, and other company communications including financial updates and other information to enable everyone to have a greater understanding of what the company is doing, how it is performing, and what is next. Furthermore, we must organize informal meetings, such as lunches and outings or retreats where a leader from the marketing department for example can explain to others in the company what they do, how they support the company’s goals, and answer questions.


The more everyone communicates, the better each individual may be able to contribute in his or her way. Finally, he recommends that we practice what we preach. Transparency starts at the top. If you want your company to value open communication and transparency, you as the leader need to set the tone and embody these values. A key lesson from the effects of the pandemic is the need to match our experience agenda with a work environment that enhances employee performance and growth.

According to Rowena Westphalen, Vice President, of Innovation, the Asia Pacific at Salesforce “You can’t give your customers an optimal experience if you haven’t given your employees an optimal experience”.

The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],

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