Friday, June 22, 2012

Building a Customer-Centric Culture

Becky Carroll presented to a small group of Customer Experience executives in San Diego last week; her presentation focused on creating loyalty through a customer-centric culture. She dives deeper into these three items in her book, The Hidden Power of Your Customers, but I'll highlight them here. (Go read the book, too!)

In order to ensure that customers are at the center of all actions and decisions, a part of your company's DNA, you must have a customer-centric culture, measure what matters, and put employees first.

Customer-Centric Culture
The culture is the key to your success. The key to having a customer-centric culture is a leader, i.e., CEO, who is passionate about the customer and is customer-focused, too. The culture sets the tone and reinforces the values.

"Customer service is not a department; it is a company-wide focus."

One of the stories Becky shared was about a Marriott guest who realized the morning after he checked in that he had actually packed his wife's pants! When he went to the front desk to ask if there was a spare pair in their Lost-n-Found or a store nearby where he could buy a pair of pants (in a very small window of time), he learned that there was neither; however, as it turns out, the employee at the front desk happened to wear the same size pants, and he literally gave the guest the clothes off his back(side). This isn't a one-off occurrence of great customer service or doing a little something extra; there are many other stories about the great service guests receive at Marriotts around the world.

Another example she gave was from Nordstrom. They're so well known for their great customer service. But did you know that they actually spell out their customer focus in their job descriptions? These qualities/responsibilities were outlined for sales, stock, and customer service positions at Nordstrom Rack. (Yes, even their off-price stores deliver great service!)
  • Sales people provide great service through positive interactions and product knowledge with each and every customer.
  • Customer Service Representatives meet our customers´expectations with professional, efficient service at the point of sale.
  • Stock people support our customers by keeping our fixtures full with merchandise that is accurately ticketed.
These responsibilities clearly define how each position impacts the customer!

A couple of other areas that Becky called out with regard to the customer-centric culture included:
  • Company Values: create a clear set of values as a guiding light, make a commitment to live and breathe them. Zappos was an example given as a great company with clearly-defined values. 10 of them, to be exact.
  • Hiring a Chief Customer Officer: He or she will be the ultimate authority on the company's customers; drive the customer strategy across the organization, and use customer insights to acquire and retain the best customers.
  • Stay Close to Customers: This includes talking to them and gathering feedback through VOC programs and social media listening. It also includes getting to know your employees. Undercover Boss was mentioned here.

    Measure What Matters
    The story behind the image to the left is a great example of what Becky means by "measure what matters." This is a picture of Starbucks seating. Gone are the days of the metal chairs; here to stay is seating that is comfortable and conducive for customers to sit for hours or all day, experiencing Starbucks. This furniture is much more inviting for the "office away from the office" than prior seating. This change came about by listening to customers.

    It's important to remember with regard to metrics and measurement: not all metrics are for everyone. Choose the one(s) that best fit your needs, your goals, and your situation. It is most important to collect the right data, analyze it, glean insights, and drive change from that.

    Put Employees First
    Employees are critical to creating memorable customer experiences. People buy from people!

    The first step is to hire the right people. Hire your customers! Look for people who...
    • are naturally people-focused
    • have a passionate spirit
    • are empathetic
    • think creatively to solve problems
    Those are great tips to considering when interviewing candidates! Frame your interview questions accordingly.

    Once they're hired, let them know that they matter and help them feel a part of something bigger. They are the company to the customer.

    Competitors can’t duplicate the relationship an organization’s employees have with its customers.”

    Help them understand your customers. Help them understand their impact on customers, regardless of role or position. 

    Make connections with customers by:
    • sharing customer information with employees
    • going on customer visits
    • creating customer advisory groups/councils
    • listening in on support calls
    • listening to social media conversations
    Make connections with employees, too, by providing them with tools to interact with each other. Two examples Becky gave included IBM's BeeHive, which is their intranet and so much more, and, similarly, McDonald's Station M.

    Listen to the voice of the employee. Listen internally. Measure satisfaction and retention, but also measure other employee-specific programs and initiatives.

    Empower your employees, which Becky defines as training them to listen to customers needs or problems and allowing them to do whatever they need to do in order to make it right (without a manager's input or approval) by:
    • providing them with clear guidelines
    • reiterating that they are an important part of the culture
    • reinforcing good decisions made
    • learning from poor decisions
    • recognizing outstanding service
    The result is likely that employees will enjoy their jobs more, the employee experience is improved, and customers are satisfied.

    Becky wrapped up the presentation with this advice from customer-focused leaders:
    • Listen
    • Initiate a customer feedback process
    • Think through the customer experience
    • Assemble a set of corporate values
    • Care for every customer
    • Measure what matters
    • Continuously interact with employees
    • Make customer service part of the DNA
    How well are you doing on each of those?

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