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How to Develop a Customer-Centric Culture in your Organization

by Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer

What makes for a great customer experience? It’s not simply the first person a customer sees when they enter a store or the associate who answers the phone.

Customer experience touches every facet of an organization, from marketing and sales to product development and especially frontline associates that interact with customers every day. Some of the world’s greatest companies understand a customer-centric culture must be exemplified by every member of an organization. Research by Deloitte found that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable compared to companies that aren’t focused on the customer. Understand what customer centricity means and how you can work to put the customer first.

What is Customer Centricity?

A customer-centric culture isn’t confined to slogans on the wall, a meticulous script for associates to follow, or even to customer-facing positions. Customer centricity is about creating exceptional customer experiences from start to finish. Every decision must be made with the customer in mind, and everyone in the organization should have a solid understanding of how they impact the customer experience.

The best companies create policies and procedures that are customer-focused, and then train people to those cultural expectations. It’s a company-wide initiative that’s based on putting your customer first and at the core of your business.

How to Create Customer-Centric Culture

Harvard Business Review says, “The most common, and perhaps the greatest, barrier to customer centricity is the lack of a customer-centric organizational culture,” as most companies are primarily focused on products/services and sales. Follow these five steps to create a customer-centric culture at your organization.

Define your customer service vision

What type of service do you want to offer? Create a vision that’s easy to understand and remember. Be sure to communicate your vision with your entire organization and make it easily accessible for reference.

For example, the Ritz-Carlton’s Gold Standards serves as the foundation for all associates to follow. From their simple motto, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” to the employee promise, the hotel’s expectations for what it means to put the customer first are clearly defined and easily accessible to all.

Get to know your customers

To help define and hone your customer service vision, use customer insights to better understand your customer’s needs. Leverage data gathered from customer experience touchpoints like your website, promotions, sales, and checkout process to make your customer service more personal. An Accenture study found that 91 percent of customers are more likely to buy products from companies that use their name, provide personal recommendations, and know their preferences.

Amazon, for example, uses customer browsing and purchase data to personalize the shopping experience by making product recommendations to shoppers. This attitude of not simply selling “stuff” but helping make purchase decisions shows that Amazon prioritizes the customer over products or sales.

Hire for culture fit

You need the right people in order to execute your customer service vision. Hiring for culture fit doesn’t mean recruiting people who would be fun at a company party, but rather bringing people on board whose ideas and values reflect your service culture.

While this may be hard to see in a resume alone, ask questions during the interview process, such as, “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the scope of your job description?” or “How have you handled a situation in which you were unable to help a customer?” Also reach out to candidates’ references who can speak on behalf of their work ethic and the quality of their customer service.

Train everyone

Empower your associates—from the front line to the C-suite—to go above and beyond the call of duty to take care of the customer. Teach associates how far they can go to take care of their customers through training courses and leading by example.

Online shoe retailer Zappos and their “School of WOW” is a perfect example. The school provides customer service training for everyone, from leadership to customer service associates. This focus has resulted in many satisfied customers sharing their stories, including a time when their CEO Tony Hsieh had a hungry client call Zappos’ customer service line to order a pizza—and the associate on the line actually ordered it for the client.

Celebrate success

It’s important to recognize when your associates have embodied customer centricity. When your associates feel valued and appreciated, they’ll continue to embrace your goals. According to Glassdoor, more than 80 percent of associates are motivated to work harder when shown appreciation by their boss.

Recognize strong levels of customer service soon after the action, rather than saving it for future review. Celebrating success can be anything from a rewards program like a bonus or commission check, or even as simple as taking an associate out to lunch or making a company announcement.

Do You Put the Customer First?

It’s important to lead by example when developing a customer-centric culture and continue to hone your strategy to meet the evolving needs of your customers.

IntelliShop understands what it means to provide great customer service. In fact, we practice what we preach by putting you, the customer, first and going above and beyond to get the results your business needs to succeed. From mystery shopping to voice of customer programs, our solutions will evaluate the culture at your organization to help your customer experience go from good to great. By tracking the entire customer journey, we present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report to create a strategy that will improve customer experience at your organization.

Contact IntelliShop today to request a quote and see how we can help you create a customer-centric culture at your organization.