Whenever you start to talk about the concept of a ‘customer centric culture’, you run the risk of doing the following:
- Sounding as though you have magic powers that can ‘change the world’
- Sounding ‘fluffy’
- Sounding like a ‘consultant’
Now there is nothing wrong with any of those things in principle. I have always aspired to be a super hero – sadly I am a long way from achieving that aspiration! You should also not think it wrong to talk about the significance of your organisation possessing a customer centric culture – or at least wanting to possess one.
The reason why some see customer centricity as a ‘taboo’ subject is that they are likely to be afraid. They may be afraid of change; scared to look at the world within their organisation differently; worried that by holding up the mirror, they may not like what they see.
A while ago, I looked up the definition of customer centricity. If you do a Google search, you will be greeted by a variety of words describing what it is to be customer centric. The definition I like the most goes as follows:
“Putting customer focus at the heart of everything you do, in order to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty”
I have put this definition in front of many customer experience professionals over the last 12 months – professionals plying their customer experience trade all around the world. I have not recorded every response, but I would approximate that only 20% of my colleagues said that ‘hand on heart’ their organisations lived up to this definition.
That is why I consider the 3 L’s to be a simple recipe to help a company to start the journey to becoming more customer centric. I highlight the word help, because when it comes to changing the culture of an organisation, or even just tweaking a culture, many factors come in to play. Becoming a customer-centric culture could sound a bit overwhelming too. Even a small amount of change is hard and when you talk about culture change that can feel impossible. The more help you can get the better!
So just what are the 3 L’s? Let us have a look at each one in turn:
LISTEN – any business that wants to start building a customer centric culture MUST start to open up its ears. It must LISTEN to what its customers are saying. It must LISTEN to what its employees are saying. It still surprises me how many organisations do not enable their employees to have a voice. They are the eyes and ears of any company. They know what happens every day, and they what works and does not work. Listening to BOTH customers and employees provides a business with unbeatable insight. A business that genuinely wants to LISTEN and ACT on what its customers and employees are saying is definitely one that is on the road to building a customer focussed culture.
LEARN – learning is something we start to do the minute we are born. Learning is what a brand new organisation does in the early days of its existence. Continuously learning is something that should be in the fabric of any customer centric business. The challenge for companies today is that the world around them is changing faster than ever before. If you stand still for too long, you will quickly fall behind. The word INNOVATION has become more significant in the race to LEARN how to stay ahead and continuously meet ever-changing customer needs. It is therefore vital to encourage learning in your business. Learn from LISTENING to what customers and employees are saying. Encourage your employees to continuously develop their skills – identifying new products, services, technologies and methodologies. Allow your people to learn from mistakes – do not punish them for getting things wrong, but encourage them and empower them to find better ways of doing things. Organisations that love LEARNING are ones that are very likely to have a customer centric culture.
LIVE – yes live. For any business to be customer centric it must LIVE and BREATH its customer experience. It must walk in its customer shoes on a daily basis; experience what they are experiencing and feeling the joy or pain before they do. LIVING the customer experience also applies to the employee experience. LIVE and BREATH what your employees do every day. See for yourself what works and what does not work. Acknowledge and appreciate what your people and your customers do. Only by LIVING the journey will you know. I have blogged in the past about TV programmes such as ‘Undercover Boss’. Any business leader that chooses to use a TV programme to find out what the employee and customer experience is like for the first time, is not one that I would consider to be customer centric!
As I have already said, there are many factors that determine whether or not an organisation is building a customer centric culture. The 3L’s are just 3 factors that WILL undisputedly help. The challenge is that even these factors are not necessarily that easy to deploy – even if they sound easy to some of you reading this. It is important to recognise that every organisation is different. Every organisation will have a different state of ‘readiness’ when it comes to adopting a customer centric culture. If you push too hard too soon, you may fail before you have even started.
The best customer centric organisations in the world – companies like Ritz Carlton, USAA, Disney and Zappos – are organisations that apply the 3 L’s without even thinking. It just comes naturally to them. Yet even they need to continually look at how they are LISTENING, LEARNING and LIVING – the reason why they regularly come at the top of independent customer satisfaction studies is because they never rest on their laurels.
This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.