How to Create a Customer-centric Culture

CMO Council reports that only 14% of marketers believe customer centricity is a hallmark of their companies. Scarier still, only 11% think their customers would agree with that estimation. Where does your company stand?

When thinking about culture and customer-centricity, consider the following things:

  • How does the company look and feel?
  • What does leadership feel is essential?
  • What do our customers and competitors say about us?

If your company isn’t the shining beacon of customer-centricity yet, it’s okay! The amount of customer information that is now readily available can be overwhelming and confusing to parse for most companies. 

customer centricity graphic

Some companies don’t even have the tools to understand or process all of the information about their customers. Others might lack the processes needed to understand what their customers need. Sometimes it may come down to a lack of focus or intention on the part of leadership or employees.

No matter what it is for you, there’s value in getting it right. Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on the customer.

Easier said than done, though. If you’re struggling with customer-centricity, you may be wondering how and where to start. Here are five of the best ways to find your customer-centricity and embody it throughout your whole company.

Hire for Customer Focus

Imagine hiring a product manager who didn’t care about your customers’ end experience with your products. Customer focus shouldn’t just be a focus for your customer-facing teams, like support or customer success. 

According to Diane Gherson, head of HR at IBM, employee engagement drives two-thirds of her company’s client experience scores. Excellent customer focus starts with the people you hire.

Every person you interview should speak about their customer focus, and how it influenced past roles. While not every engineer should dive into user comments every day, they should still be able to address the outcomes of their work. 

When interviewing, make sure a section of the process focuses on customer-centricity. Micah Solomon recommends creating a list of core values for your company to uphold if you don’t already have one. It should primarily focus on how your company strives to treat both internal and external customers—that includes your employees, your customers, and any of your partner companies. 

For example, one of Smile’s key values is “Passion for the customer.” We use these values in our interview process, specifically the ones around customer-centricity, to build our overall customer focus from the ground up. 

Understand what your customers want

How often do you ask your customers what they want? According to PwC, only 38% of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs.

The truth is that companies often think that they know more than they do. Without a well-oiled machine of product, customer-facing teams, and marketing working together, there is little chance of a cohesive understanding of what your customers want and need. Start by using surveys to ask how your customers feel about your product. 

Build trust—let them know that you’re listening, and they will be even more inclined to provide insights. Ask how they feel, let them get their hands on beta products, and listen to what they say.

On average, a typical $1 billion company can gain $775 million over three years through modest improvements such as reducing customer wait times or making a transaction easier for the customer. When you take time to learn the small things that make a big difference to your customers, they can also make a big difference for your revenue too.

Democratize customer insights

If someone on your marketing team wants to find out about your ticket volume or how many conversations your organization has about a specific feature, do they know how? What about your CEO? Perhaps surprisingly, 88% of CEOs are concerned about customer loyalty but don’t know where their company has the most impact.

Make it easy for everyone to find the information they need to serve your customers best. Create easy ways for different teams to apply these learnings to their department as well. Go beyond obtuse metrics that are meaningless outside of support and focus on methods that other organizations are already employing. For instance: 

  • Implement customer surveys that help you get qualitative and quantitative insights
  • Glean opinions from social media responses.
  • Spend time reading and understanding reviews. 
  • Create documentation and webinars and analyze how customers engage with them to understand what customers are most curious about.

Put all of these insights into a handy dashboard so that everyone knows where their one-stop-shop for customer focus lives.

Make everyone talk to customers

Along with giving employees access to customer insights, get everyone regularly talking to your customers. Many companies already have an all-hands method of support. For instance, Alex Turnbull, the CEO of Groove, spends over half of his week providing customer support.  At Smile, we have every new hire start their onboarding by working in customer support. Everyone has the chance to learn about our customer base and find passion for the customer, one of our key values.

If that sounds like a foreign concept to you, start thinking about what blockers stop your company from moving forward with all hands support.

Maybe not everyone knows how to speak to customers. Perhaps not everyone feels like they’ll know the answer. Empower employees and give them the right authority and tools to get to the correct answers. Consider having a bank of saved replies, documentation, and past examples of conversations to use for research. In TextExpander, you can create a repository of common CS snippets that have been useful for your support team. That gives everyone the superpowers that your team has to answer regular requests with lightning speed.

Give everyone ownership of the customer relationships they work with and let them know that you back up their decisions. With confidence, information, and empowerment, you’d be surprised what people can do.

Compensate for it

As much as people might hate to admit it, money is king—incentive programs can boost performance by 25-44%. If you are trying to drive customer-centricity, one of the best things that you can do is reward excellent performance.

For instance, if a customer finds extra value from your services, use the case study as a success story to motivate your employees. They may even be able to use it to create successful strategies for their customers moving forward. 

For big, critical wins, like a large company signing a contract or renewing, make it an event. Reward all of the people that went into creating value for the customer. Appreciating them now will incentivize them to do more later. 

When you compensate for behavior like this, it shows your employees that you take it seriously. You create a self-perpetuating culture of customer focus that retains employees significantly longer than you would without. 83% of employees at companies that prioritize customer focus think that they will stay there for longer than two years. That drops to 56% of employees at companies where customers are not a key focus. Keep your good eggs by modeling the behavior you want everyone to model.

Be Good to your Customers

You might not have the type of customer-centricity that people write home about right now, but that’s not stopping you from making an impact moving forward. Start from the bottom by hiring people that exhibit customer focus. 

Look for applicants with stories about putting others first or going above and beyond to get to “yes” for a customer. Once you’ve lined your ranks with remarkable employees, start to understand what your customers want. 

Send surveys, scan your social media, and listen to them. Then, put all that information in a place that everyone can find. Being customer-centric is a family affair; once you have everyone involved, it is much easier to commit to the strategy as a whole. Continue to reward good behavior with appropriate compensation—celebrate company wins and keep the good times rolling.

Want more tips on building customer-centric teams? Check out these training ideas to increase your customer focus.

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