Look around you, and you’ll find that some of the most successful companies (Amazon, Zappos, Hilton) are customer-centric.
In this day and age, where the customer is king, companies simply can’t afford to slip up when it comes to customer service. Offend a customer, and you could easily have your name plastered all over social media, and dragged through the mud. But delight a customer, and you might find your brand going viral, and getting featured in the news for all the right reasons.
Want to work towards building a more customer-centric culture? In this blog post, we share 15 strategies that will help you do just that. Remember: customers form the backbone of every business, and if you can keep your customers happy, that’s half the battle won.
1. Come up with a mission that’s easily understandable
Your company mission should reflect your customer-centric culture, but it should also be clear, straightforward, and easily understandable.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Zappos: Provide the best customer service possible. Deliver WOW through service.
- Amazon: To be earth’s most customer-centric company.
- Disney: To make people happy.
- IKEA: To create a better everyday life for many people.
- Microsoft: Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.
- Sony: To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.
2. Come up with a set of core values
Mission aside, you should also come up with a set of core values that your employees can use to guide all that they do in a professional capacity. Again, these core values should be easily understandable, so that your employees can internalize them.
For inspiration, here are Zappos’ core values:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
3. Pay attention to culture fit when hiring
Leaders and business owners typically hire for hard skills and experience. For example, if you have an open position for a marketing manager, you’ll probably look out for someone who knows how to use the CRM tool that your company utilizes, and who has proven experience running marketing campaigns.
But here’s the thing — if you want to build a customer-centric culture, then looking out for soft skills is equally important. These include being able to communicate well, being a team player, taking initiative, and any other attributes that enable a candidate to interact effectively with your team.
At the end of the day, you can always teach a new hire how to use your CRM system, but it’s not as easy to get them to improve their interpersonal skills, or change certain aspects of their personality. Keep that in mind!
4. Train employees to put customers first
When trying to build a customer-centric culture, think about how you can emphasize the importance of customer service, and train your employees to put customers first.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, does this by making it mandatory for thousands of Amazon employees to attend call-center training.
Interestingly, many of these employees aren’t working in customer service; they could be senior managers, or from the company’s legal department. That said, by undergoing call-center training, these employees learn how to listen to customers, and this helps them consider the customer’s perspective more effectively.
5. Empower employees to put customers first
Say your employees understand the importance of treating customers right, but they’re on a tight leash, and they don’t have the autonomy to make any decisions. Obviously, this doesn’t work out in your favor and makes it hard for you to build a customer-centric culture.
Bearing this in mind, make sure you’ve got policies and practices in place that empower your employees. For instance, at The Ritz-Carlton, all employees are encouraged to do what they can to fix or improve a guest’s experience, and they’re allowed to spend up to $2,000 (per guest) to do this.
As Ritz-Carlton explains in a blog post, sometimes the most delightful “wow” moments happen in the blink of an eye. If employees are not empowered and need to wade through a ton of red tape every time they want to do something, these moments could be lost forever.
6. Allow free access to customer insights
As of today, most companies are still working in silos. Company A’s marketing and sales teams might have access to customer research and insights, for example, but the finance team and HR team might have zero clue that this data exists.
Consider this, though… if your employees don’t have a thorough understanding of your customers, this makes it difficult for them to put themselves in your customer’s shoes. That’s why it’s important to grant all your team members access to the relevant data and information.
One company leading the way is Adobe Systems, which has recently created a customer and employee experience team to facilitate customer understanding. That’s not all; Adobe has also set up online and offline “listening stations” where employees can go to listen to customer calls. This makes it easy for employees — regardless of which department they’re in — to get better acquainted with the company’s customers, and understand where they’re coming from.
7. Be receptive to suggestions from employees
Pop quiz: in your entire organization, who’s the most likely to know your customers like the back of their hand? If you answered your front-line staff, you’re right!
At the end of the day, your customer-facing staff will always have a more intimate, nuanced understanding of your customers — simply because they interact with them on a day-to-day basis.
Bearing this in mind, strategic decisions involving customer service and satisfaction shouldn’t solely be made by senior management. Here, it’s wise to involve your front-line staff in the decision-making process and encourage them to suggest ideas and give feedback on existing solutions.
8. Incentivize your team based on customer satisfaction
Tying your employees’ compensation to customer satisfaction helps to reinforce your customer-centric culture, and give your employee skin in the game. Basically, this aligns the whole team and ensures that everyone’s working towards the same goal.
The easiest way to do this is to set up an incentive plan that rewards your employees based on customer satisfaction levels. At Adobe, for instance, the company utilizes a cash incentive plan that reflects the company’s revenue performance and customer success measures (such as retention).
9. Quickly cut bad hires loose
Ideally, you’d only hire rockstars who are great at what they do, and are willing to go the extra mile for your customers. But in the case where you hire someone who turns out to be a bad fit, what do you do?
If it’s simply a case of your employee under-performing, then it makes sense to offer feedback, and help said employee improve their skills. But if your employee is clearly not aligned with your company’s goals, and doesn’t treat your customers with respect, then cut this employee loose quickly and without delay. Remember: these toxic employees can influence other team members, dampen team morale, and generally wreck a lot of damage.
10. Define indicators and key metrics
Building a customer-centric culture isn’t a once-off effort; it’s an ongoing process. To make sure you’re on the right track, you’ll want to define key metrics and think about how you want to measure customer satisfaction.
Today, many companies rely on indicators such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to measure customer satisfaction. With these indicators, you can calculate an actual score, and keep track of your score to see if your company is improving in this respect.
As for key metrics, some commonly used metrics include:
- Churn rate
- Ticket volume
- Ticket backlog
- Resolution rate
- Average first response time
- First contact resolution rate
Watch this video to learn more about the key metrics that you need to adopt if you really want to become customer-centric
11. Constantly track and fine-tune results
Running in the same vein, once you’ve defined your indicators and key metrics, come up with a schedule to consistently track and fine-tune your customer satisfaction efforts.
For example, you might analyze your key metrics and come up with strategies once a month, on the last Tuesday of every month. Be sure to schedule a recurring meeting, and let your employees know that you’ll be discussing updates and follow-ups during this meeting.
12. Ensure that leaders walk the talk
Imagine this: Company A has a nicely worded mission and vision, and it looks perfectly customer-centric on paper. But while the company tells its new hires that they’re focused on delighting their customers, the way senior management makes its decisions and prioritizes projects leads employees to think that this isn’t really the case.
Now, what do you think will happen here? The employees aren’t blind to what’s going on, so chances are that they’ll recognize that everything that the company says about being customer-centric is merely corporate spiel. When this happens, they won’t buy into the culture or internalize the company’s values. That’s why it’s important to make sure your senior employees walk the talk and set an example for the rest of the team to follow.
13. Recognize employees who do a good job
When you recognize your employees for a job well done, you’re giving them a positive affirmation, and encouraging them to deliver similar positive outcomes.
Now, this is fairly simple to do. If an employee comes up with a great strategy to help the company do more for its customers, then simply acknowledge and praise the employee in front of the rest of the team, and ask them to keep up the good work.
14. Celebrate wins with the team
Again, this one’s about recognition and validation. When your customers write in with positive feedback, be sure to share this with the rest of the team, and celebrate these wins.
When your employees hear about how much they’ve helped your customers or made their lives easier, this will motivate them to continue giving their all at work, and continue serving customers with a smile.
Learn how to start leveraging customer feedback to get to actionable insights. Download our whitepapers today!
15. Communicate your culture to your consumers
All the strategies we’ve discussed so far are internal, but this last one takes an external approach instead. Once you’ve aligned your team and successfully built a customer-centric culture, the next step is to communicate your culture to your customers and external stakeholders, so that they can see that you’re going the extra mile for them.
The sky’s the limit here, so feel free to get creative! Southwest Airlines puts out a “Performance – People – Planet” commitment and annual report card, and Ritz-Carlton actively promotes its “Community Footprints” social and environmental responsibility program to share how the company is making an impact in communities around the world.
How to switch your company from product-centric to consumer-centric
Trying to pivot from your existing product-centric culture to a more sustainable customer-centric culture? Watch this video for more tips.