As customer experience consultants, we have worked with dozens of organisations who proudly claim that they “are customer-centric”. While it’s great to see that a lot of organisations think like this, the reality is that many of them don’t have the fundamentals in place to enable them to act in a truly customer-centric way. In fact, many organisations have processes, incentive schemes or organisational politics at play that can be counter-productive to delivering on customer commitments.
At the recent Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) Member Experience conference we asked the audience to raise their hand if they worked for a business that claimed to be customer-centric - most of the attendees raised a hand. We then asked those with a hand in the air to keep their hand raised if they agreed that their organisation actually was customer-centric, and as anticipated, most of the hands fell.
As digital consultants, we see so much buzz around customer-centricity its little wonder we’re seeing such a shift in organisational focus back to the customer, but simply declaring something doesn’t make it so. For a company to truly act in a customer-centric way it needs to be set up to do so, and whilst this is not a simple task it is an incredibly valuable one – for both the customer and the organisation itself.
Everyone needs to start somewhere, so we have developed 5 key steps that an organisation can start today to set the foundations for the path to becoming truly customer-centric. Importantly, none of these steps requires a great deal of investment beyond time and a commitment as well as a willingness to do things a bit differently to what has been done before.
An organisation with a well-articulated Purpose is in a much better position to shift organisational culture, devise strategy and make decisions as Purpose can act as an anchor point to all that you do. Defining your Purpose can be a somewhat ambiguous task, but greatly valuable. It is a process that provides clarity on why your organisation does what it does – not what you do or how you do it. Essentially it is why people in your organisation show up each day. A clearly articulated Purpose statement acts to bring your organisation together under the one key goal, improving organisational focus and workplace culture.
The Simon Sinek video ‘Start with Why’ is a great place to start on understanding this concept and why it is so important. We recommend taking your entire organisation on this journey and uncovering your Purpose as a collective. Work with teams to understand what motivates them and why they choose to do what they do and work up through middle and senior management. Use all that you have learnt to uncover your ‘Why’ and then work that into a statement that encapsulates your organisational Purpose.
As I wrote earlier, it’s easy for a leadership team to announce that the organisation is going to be customer-focussed moving forward, but what happens if your employees don’t know what that means, or how to deliver on that, or even if some people simply don’t want to act in that way?
Conducting an audit of your culture allows you to take a snapshot of where your company is placed to deliver on a commitment to customer-centricity. Hopefully you’ll uncover that at every organisational level most of your employees are aligned with your commitment, however if your organisational culture is not ready for a shift in their way of working, then you will need to invest time in change management. This might involve re-training of employees or providing resources to assist them, reviewing and updating policies and processes that are contradictory to customer-centricity, considering how reward and recognition programs align with your new customer focus or how they can be re-imagined to drive customer-centric behaviours and improve engagement.
We can’t be truly customer-centric if we aren’t including the customer in the way we work. Human Centred Design puts customers at the heart of the design process when re-developing existing, or designing new, products or experiences. The very first point of that process should always be to ‘Empathise’ with your customer.
Empathising with customers involves spending time understanding who they are, the relationship they have with your product or service, the context in which that relationship exists, their motivations, desires and needs – both explicit and unspoken. By understanding all of this you can then better design products, services or experiences that reduce friction, increase ease and delight and deliver on value.
Having a well-devised Customer Strategy is a crucial part of striving for customer-centricity as an organisation, as it articulates the principles that you will be guided by when working on anything that relates to your customer. A Customer Strategy should outline the value and experiences that you will deliver to your customer throughout your engagement with them.
In developing a Customer Strategy your organisational Purpose will be a helpful jumping off point – use your Purpose (outlined in Step 1) to develop a small but powerful set of ‘Customer Values’ that underpin your Purpose – we recommend between 4 and 6 values. Define what the reality of the value means so that it is tangible, actionable and measurable. With your Customer Values defined you should outline how you will carry out your strategy to deliver upon your values – so if one of your Values is ‘Always act with Integrity’ you may identify that processes need to be reviewed to ensure that they allow front-line staff to have honest conversations with customers.
Most organisations today are measuring at least one Customer Satisfaction metric, be it Net Promotor Score, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort or similar. However, many organisations do not take full advantage of this valuable insight. Simply reporting an aggregate number for your measurement metric and tracking how it trends month by month is not enough. It is important to take feedback to the next level – Act and Implement.
If you are not capturing a verbatim alongside your rating metric, start right now! The number is a handy way to track trends and serve up an easily digested pulse-check, but the verbatim is where the gold is. Use the verbatim to analyse your score and uncover your customer pain-points. Use this insight to develop a solution to overcome challenges or act upon opportunities, implement and then measure the impact the solution has on the experience. Collecting feedback is not a linear process, it should always be considered a loop.
Rewiring your organisation to a mindset of true customer-centricity to deliver an exceptional customer experience is rarely easy, but it is an incredibly valuable undertaking and has the ability to drive value for your customers and greater satisfaction amongst your employees. This is an undertaking for all levels of your organisation, it is not a top-down or bottom-up approach, but instead should be co-designed and delivered as an organisation, uniting all layers of your business in a common goal.
Written by Stephen Luke
Customer Experience Designer, Revium