|Image courtesy of hundrednorth|
I recently came across some research conducted among customer experience (CX) practitioners that found that their #1 challenge this year is creating a customer-first culture. I'm an "employees more first" advocate; so while I understand their point and this challenge, I'd still like to see more focus placed on employees. It all flows together in the end, though: creating a customer-first culture requires making the employee experience a more-first priority. You know by now, of course, that the employee experience drives the customer experience.
How does an organization create that customer-first culture? Well, it's a huge undertaking. Know this: just because you say it is so doesn't make it so.
I'll take you through some steps you can take, and I'll start at the top. Literally.
Executives are key to success of any culture transformation. Without them, it won't happen. Executive commitment, not just buy-in, is a must. Not just one executive, all of the executives: the CEO and her entire e-staff. Without their commitment, you won't get the resources (human, financial, etc.) to get things done. Without every executive across the organization, there will be barriers that will inhibit any progress toward a cohesive, consistent culture, and ultimately, experience for the customer. Without executives setting the tone and the direction, change will not happen.
A set of values, or guiding principles, also needs to be defined and communicated. Values outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. If employees ever question what they should do, or if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.
By the way, those values will also guide how you hire. And hiring the right people is key to building and maintaining that customers-first culture. Imagine running a service organization and hiring people who don't like talking to or helping people. Yikes.
Not only do you want to hire with the culture in mind, you also need to make sure these people have the right tools and resources to do their jobs. So onboarding, ongoing training, setting clear expectations, providing ongoing feedback and coaching, and communicating openly and transparently are important components of this culture you're creating.
Employees in a customer-first culture know how their work matters, and they know how they contribute to the customer experience. (Journey maps are great tools to help with this.) Employees are recognized and rewarded for actions and behaviors that create delight for their customers.
Another thing that's important with regards to employees and the culture transformation is that you'll want to get buy-in, commitment, and adoption from existing employees. Involve employees in what you're doing as you transform the culture. Invite them to be a part of the transformation; don't just force it on them. And then, if you find that someone is no longer a fit, perhaps it's time for them to move on. You need everyone on the bus; for those who chose the wrong route, it's time to get off.
Leadership is key, and it's different from being an executive or a manager. Sadly, some executives and managers don't have great leadership skills. Hire the right people, trust them, listen to them, empower them, and let them do what they need to do; be their guide but set them free. They were hired for a reason. Set the course, outline the vision and the purpose, and then let them execute based on the bumper guards you've provided them.
Communicate! The things you talk about are deemed important; those you don't talk about, aren't. So talk about customers. Share their feedback, their painpoints, and their stories. Talk about great customer experiences, what went well and what delights customers.
Give the customer a chair. In every meeting, in every decision. Don't do anything without asking, "How does this impact our customers?" "How will this make the customer feel?" "What does this do to the experience?"
Make sure everyone knows your brand promise. If employees don't know what it is, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The brand promise creates alignment. The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, systems, etc. Everything you do must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time.
There's more, but these are the basics. None of this is easy; and it takes time. Just get started. Make sure you have the right people on board and then begin to lay the right foundation, and you'll reap the rewards soon enough!
If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result. -Idowu Koyenikan