To deliver the exceptional customer experiences that earn brand loyalty and increase profitability, businesses need to embrace a customer-centric culture across the enterprise. Research often shows that customers are willing to pay more for great experiences. And satisfied customers are more likely to maintain a long-term relationship with a company, and recommend it to others.
Putting the customer first in everything you do is good for business. So why is it so hard to do?
Most companies now claim to focus on customer experience, but that doesn’t mean they have a customer-focused company culture.
There are usually tell-tale signs when the culture is veering off course. Often, it’s simply that the company has no shared vision of what it means and looks like to be customer-centric. And without that, it’s nearly impossible to build buy-in with executive leadership and employees.
How do you transform your company culture?
While it takes time to build buy-in and change processes across an entire business, the most successful initiatives start at the top. With executive sponsorship to drive customer-centric changes, employees can better understand the big picture impact of delivering great customer experiences.
It’s also key to rally the organization around a shared vision — such as your customer value proposition — to help everyone identify with the key benefits you offer and why it matters to customers.
Once you’ve got a powerful foundation for your customer-centric vision, you need to help everyone bring it to life. That means building buy-in with employees at every level (whether customer-facing or behind the scenes). It’s important for all internal teams to understand how they can play a role in optimizing the customer experience through every interaction.
5 strategies for motivating employees to be customer-centric
Communications are crucial to building buy in when you’re trying to transform your company culture. Employees need to understand what’s happening, what’s expected of them, and how they play a role in driving measurable success.
Engage team members across the organization with creative communications that highlight ways to put the customer first. Make it relevant to their work. Team brainstorm sessions or videos on your company intranet are a great way to build understanding. And keep it alive in your workplace using eye-catching posters with customer-focused themes to help employees connect with what matters to your customers.
Make it easy for employees to learn how to deliver exceptional experiences through everyday moments and “moments that matter” with customers. Hands-on workshops and best practice tools are highly effective in helping employees understand how to think and communicate in customer-focused ways. As they shift toward customer-centric language and behaviors, people can more easily see the difference it makes in strengthening relationships and building brand loyalty.
Incentives such as raises, promotions, and bonuses can motivate employees to go the extra mile for customers. However, rewards don’t have to be monetary to be effective. Simply celebrating employees who deliver outstanding customer experiences is a meaningful way to acknowledge their efforts and boost morale.
Rewarding customer-centric behaviors can be powerful in “moving the needle.” Businesses that are very process-oriented may be used to focusing on functional responsibilities, more than the people they’re serving. By shifting focus to the customer, employees may see they can have a real impact on satisfaction, retention, and profitability, which reward the company as a whole.
4. Rituals and routines
To help reinforce customer focus, encourage your teams to share success stories about their engagement with customers, and role-play to gain empathy on how customers experience your company at various touch points. At Ritz-Carlton Hotels, for instance, employees have 15-minute meetings, or “daily lineups,” during which team members share the positive guest experiences they delivered the day before. It’s an effective way to build customer-centric momentum and continuously highlight best practices that other employees can adopt.
As you evolve the customer-centric culture across your company, you’ll gain a clear sense of what an ideal customer-focused employee looks like, so you can hire the right people. When you post job descriptions, clearly convey how and why customer experience is a key focus in your company. Create interview questions and screening tools that help identify candidates with desirable behaviors and traits.
During onboarding, familiarize new employees on what it means to be customer-centric in your organization, and support them with training and communication tools, as noted earlier.
For most companies, your customer experience IS your employees, directly or indirectly —so it’s simply good business sense to invest in building a customer-centric culture.
To drive that transformation across an enterprise, sustain momentum with ongoing communications that empower your employees by celebrating successes and reinforcing customer-centric excellence. As the culture shifts, you’ll start evolving into even better ways to build stronger, more profitable customer relationships.