Jim Tincher (CCXP) is a recognized CX expert with a passion for customer experience, he founded Heart of the Customer, a cutting-edge CX consultancy, to help companies of all sizes improve their customer experience. In this guest blog, Jim outlines the four steps that can help your business create and push a customer-centric culture
This may surprise you, but I’ve never come across a company that doesn’t consider itself focused on customers. Nearly every executive and every employee claim that they operate in the best interests of their company and their customers.
Most organizations also have some sort of customer promise, even if they don’t live up to it. Wells Fargo published theirs while simultaneously defrauding millions of customers. Even the Tennessee DMV has a customer pledge.
So with just about everyone supposedly focused on customers, why is it so easy for Forrester, ACSI, and others to point out so many bad customer experiences?
Because it’s not about what your leaders and employees say, or even what they believe, it’s about whether your company truly understands customer needs and builds that into their operations. That’s hard work. But it’s not impossible. For every Wells Fargo, there’s a USAA or a Publix – companies built on delighting customers – that understands that it’s not easy or glitzy, but it matters.
Here are four steps to help you along your way to customer-centricity:
- Connect With Customers
- Curate Your Content
- Engage Executives
- Enrol Employees
1. Connect With Customers
Before creating your customer-centric revolution, ensure you truly understand your customers’ needs.
This takes some effort and planning. You’re not going to find them in your conference room. Meet with customers face-to-face and one-on-one, recording the interviews so that you can share them with the broader team later. These are the conditions that will allow you to gather the most accurate and valuable insights. Customers “on their home turf” are going to be more comfortable than in an artificial environment, such as a focus group, and therefore more likely to provide candid, useful feedback. They may also have access to “artifacts” that impact their journey, allowing them to paint a fuller picture of the experience your company is providing as they see it.
Employee-hypothesized journey maps created internally are only starting points because organizational biases inevitably taint them. To capture an accurate picture of the customer experience, you’re going to have to talk to actual customers.
Every interaction your customer has with your company is not equally important. There are a few critical moments that have a disproportionate impact on customers’ perception of the journey as a whole. That means those key moments have a more significant effect on customer loyalty, cost-to-serve, and engagement…which also means they represent the most efficient, cost-effective opportunities to improve the customer experience.
If you try to deploy a one-size-fits-all solution to please all of your customers, you’re likely to please none of them. It’s imperative to get to know your primary customer segments so you can determine their needs. Only then can you hope to meet those needs on the ongoing, consistent basis needed to build loyalty and trust.
2. Curate Your Content
You can’t share everything – that would result in a blather of customer research. Great CX programs break their information into digestible chunks that focus on what is most important for the current audience.
Discover your customer’s most critical needs and make those the centerpiece of your story. For example, one bank discovered that simplicity was at the heart of their customer experience. Customers did better when the bank removed low-engagement channels and focused on streamlining the experience. And the bank was able to show how increased simplicity (defined both by behavioral data and surveys) led to more referrals, which they also tracked.
Conversely, another bank found that their customer experience hinged on a personal connection. While most of their customers used online channels, that first face-to-face conversation had a lasting impact. The more customers felt that they had a personal connection to the bank, the more products they selected, and deposits increased. So that bank worked to provide a personal connection even on digital products, and both customers and the bank thrived.
Same industry, opposite results. Once you learn your customers’ critical needs, craft a story to bring this to life. And be sure to tie the story to your organization’s business gains, as these two banks did. That makes the story even more compelling.
3. Engage Executives
We all love to think of culture change being a bottom-up initiative. But that’s not realistic. Trying to build customer-centricity without executives is like trying to make a sports car without a steering wheel. You’ll go fast, but only until the first curve. After that, you’re in for a fiery crash.
If you tell me your executives don’t get it, I’ll hand you a mirror to show where the real problem lies. Executives do understand the importance of customers. But they also understand that working capital drives company health, and that return on investment (ROI) is necessary. The company can’t serve customers if it doesn’t survive.
Your message to the C-suite needs to be: “An effective customer experience makes it easier to accomplish your business goals.” Then take the time to show them how this happens.
CustomerThink reported late last year that only one in four customer experience programs can show a financial or competitive impact. To engage executives, you need to be among that 25 percent. If you’re a health club, show how happier members buy more classes or churn less. If you’re a software company, show how reducing the length of time to resolve complaints leads to more upsells.
The costs of customer-focused initiatives are apparent. If you can’t also show the business benefits, you’re in for a rough ride. Take the time to connect those dots for your executives.
4. Enrol Employees
Don’t attempt this until executives are on board, but once they are, bring the good news to the troops. Remember, customer service isn’t a single department – it’s everyone’s job.
Arrange for your executives to talk about why a customer focus matters. Arm them with videos of customers talking about what a “good” experience looks like. Leave the charts at home – communicate using the voice of your customer. Even better, bring in actual customers to communicate it themselves.
Create a customer room to help employees empathize with customer needs. Let them experience confusing forms firsthand, or listen to a customer service call.
Encourage your most vocal supporters to become Customer Champions, representing their department’s focus. Give them access to your latest customer intelligence so they can share the results throughout the company.
It’s Time to Focus
From what I see when visiting companies, pretty much every organization has a pillar around customer-centricity – but more often than not, it’s just a label, devoid of any underlying meaning. Only by doing the hard work to truly understand customer needs, tying those needs to business results, and sharing that data with executives and employees can you become a customer-centric company, rather than one that just claims to be.
Originally published Mar 13, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022