How do you kick 0ff the change necessary to create more customer centric behavior in businesses?
Our research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement.
There are many approaches this journey can take
a) Company wide, like Starbucks, when it needed to re-align itself with its customers’ needs
b) In a business unit of a company, like HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, when it recognized missed opportunities and the need to recover its competitive advantage.
c) In a function within a business, like Telstra’s finance group, that used a customer culture to deliver more value to customers and increase profitability
In this post I outline the 5 actions to take at the initiation stage.
It is essential to plan a customer cultural change effort. Companies that adopt an ad hoc approach usually fail to gain the momentum needed for the change to stick. But there must to be an impetus for a customer culture change to be initiated. This usually occurs when a leader or several key stakeholders recognize the need for a change from an internally focused, often politically charged culture to a more open externally oriented one.
- Recognition of the need to change – usually created by real or perceived external threats to a business from market changes, new competitors or disruptive technology. A strong and determined leader or leadership group must recognize the effects of this “burning platform” and the urgency for action and be willing to take the journey. The leader must lead the change, not delegate it.
- Assessment of the current level of customer culture– the leader initiates an assessment of the culture to establish a starting position from which specific objectives and targets are established. This takes two forms:
- Qualitative assessment of the culture from interviews of a cross-section of people in the business. This provides in-depth insight into the culture, it builds relationships and additional buy-in and reduces the risk of resistance to skill development and culture change. It identifies leaders that can be change champions and provides key input into a transformation plan.
- Quantitative measurement of the level of customer culture benchmarked against peers. This identifies strengths and weaknesses in relation to business strategy. It provides focus and targets for a transformation plan.
- Formation of a Customer Engagement Council (CEC) – the leader recruits people with a shared set of values and agreement on a broad plan for change. Members also agree that market needs should drive organizational change. The CEC’s role is to develop a transformation plan to engage the entire organization in the change effort.
- Clarity of customer culture vision and goals – the executive leader needs to craft and refine the vision, goals, strategy and priorities. This needs to have within it a sense of urgency that can be easily communicated and understood by everyone in the organization. HSBC grounded its customer focus change in a customer growth strategy branded “Best place to work, best place to bank: Absolutely!”
- Development of a transformation plan – the CEC develops a roadmap of steps and a time plan to build a strong customer culture.
I will outline the typical steps of the Implementation stage in my next post.