An organization’s culture can be a potent, powerful force that contributes to its success or failure. Organizations that have successfully created a customer-centric culture gain a hard-to-replicate competitive advantage—one that is far more effective than most technological innovations.
The term ‘culture’ can be defined as a group or organization’s set of shared attributes, values, goals and practices. Some organizations promote their culture as “a culture to win,” a “sales culture” or a “culture of excellence.” Cultures are formed at the earliest stages of an organization’s life. Whether or not they are defined early on, cultures often reflect the values and behaviour of an organization’s founder, even long after departure.
Employees constantly scrutinize the leadership team for underlying messages of what the leaders are really thinking and what they reinforce. They quickly learn whether their company puts the needs of the company before the customer or talks about the customer with passing interest.
Above and beyond saying, “It’s the way we do things around here,” an organization’s culture is often complex and difficult to explain. Not surprisingly, guiding the evolution of a company’s culture to one that is more customer-centric is one of the most challenging transformational change initiatives for any senior leader.
To build a strong and successful customer-centric culture, it is recommended that leaders should adopt the following best practices:
- Clearly define and design your vision of the customer experience. Employees make thousands of decisions daily. Their actions and behaviours reflect the values and beliefs shared and agreed upon by fellow employees, which in turn are reinforced and rewarded by senior leaders.
- Establish and communicate a common purpose—the core reason for employees to work consistently, responsibly and decisively.
- Articulate the customer experience vision and engage employees through hiring, training and communications.
- Reinforce traits and behaviours that support the customer-centric culture through role-modelling, storytelling and promotions—to remind people of what the organization stands for.
- Establish quality standards while measuring and rewarding success.
Organizations that have successfully cultivated a customer-centric culture have achieved a sustainable competitive advantage that will garner improved business and financial benefits for years to come. Great leaders understand that a customer-centric culture must be by design, clearly articulated, and reinforced to all employees in order to leverage the many benefits for the company, employees and customers alike.