Tag Archives: Customer-Centricity

What happens in your business when things go wrong – is it a triumph or a disaster?

Image Source: Social Samosa

The ultimate stress test of your customer culture is when things go wrong for the customer.

The recent cyber-attacks on Australian businesses Optus and Medibank are cases in point. A survey was done of 2,000 Optus telecommunication customers who suffered a privacy breach. The survey found that 56% of current customers answered ‘yes’ when asked if they were considering changing telcos as a direct result of the cyber-attack, while 10% had already left. The customer comments were highly critical of Optus and its communication.

One commented that there had been no direct contact either by email, text or phone and said: “Their handling has been appalling.”

Also, research has found that many customers were paying too much for their phone plans by paying for much more data than they were using.

See “Optus customers hang up”, Daily Telegraph.com.au, October 31 2022, page 9.

Optus has apologized publicly, but that is not enough. The lack of an authentic customer-centric culture has shown that customers are not being treated as people and that as an organization they don’t act as if really care.

Not only will there be large compensation costs for Optus to pay but the massive impact longer term is the loss of customers and loss of trust.

One lesson is that if you have not already built a strong customer-centric culture in your business you will suffer in a crisis – by losing customers, trust, revenue, and profit that will require very large investments to rebuild. This is a culture where everyone has some engagement with customers and a mindset that treats customers as individuals and proactively communicates and takes action to help them,

One challenge for many organizations is to really know to what extent that culture exists. Is there a high risk that you can be blindsided, like Optus?

The answer: measure it and then take action to improve if you need to.

Remember: What’s best for the customer is best for your business!

Dr Linden Brown, Dr Chris L Brown and Sean Crichton-Browne

It’s not about the customer strategy, it’s the culture, stupid!!

Source: leisa reichelt Freelance UX Consultant‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’  Strategic User Experience (ConfabUK 2013)

Every time we look we see a report from surveys of the status of customer experience (CX) inside companies that show a high percentage of leaders are dissatisfied with their CX strategy and they plan to change it in the next year. This might also include changing the CX leader.

CX quality appears to be declining as reported from Forrester’s 2022 Customer Experience Index report where they note: “US companies have lost the vital focus on customers that they gained at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Forrester’s 2022 US Customer Experience (CX) Benchmark study reveals losses in CX quality across 13 industries. It requires an enterprise-wide effort to put customers at the center of an organization’s leadership, strategy, and operations”

A small 2022 survey of Australian and New Zealand companies by CXFOCUS suggests that a majority of Australian & New Zealand companies are not satisfied with their current customer experience strategies. The same poll revealed that more than 80% of companies are planning major changes to their CX strategy in the coming months.

Source: CXFocus

What is not addressed is the blindingly obvious. It’s not the strategy that is the problem, it’s the culture. The customer strategy may be brilliant, average or even weak, but the core of the strategy is not implemented, even in its basic form, because it is held back by the corporate culture. Even customer journey mapping may be well-documented and attempts made at linking each customer interface point with actions for improvement for customers. But what is missing is a company-wide, business-wide or function-wide customer culture that creates customer engagement and customer value creation/improvements across all parts of the organization.

If you want a better customer strategy you must have a customer-centered culture where everyone in the business has a mindset and customer awareness that motivates them to act on value improvements for customers, no matter what their role or function.

Now, when this is so obvious, why don’t leaders in organizations address it? Some believe the customer culture is much stronger than it actually is. Others believe it is too hard to change. Still, others believe it is not worth it.

Let’s consider. Almost all those who believe it is strong don’t have any objective evidence to support it other than anecdotal stories. We know this is the case because we have the only valid evidence-based customer culture measurement tool called the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI). We have found wide variations in businesses between leaders’ and employees’ perceptions and variations across functions.

Those who believe it is too hard to change, have not experienced a methodology where it is specifically designed to modify easy-to-change behaviors that can provide substantial improvements for customers and for work colleagues with whom they interact. Today’s world requires people in organizations to change their behaviors with customers. Like our experience with COVID, we can change.

Those who believe it is not worth it should consider this:- the companies that are highly customer-centric with strong customer cultures are among the most profitable in their industries and in the world. Second, consider where you will be if you don’t have a strong customer culture – you will have a customer strategy that is not implemented, a business strategy that is not effective, and a purpose and mission that is not achieved.

If you want a profitable customer strategy, first measure your level of customer-centric culture. Contact us to find out more.

True customer-centricity is grounded in reality

There is a reason the most customer-centric businesses in the world were born that way. To begin and become sustainable they were forced to be grounded in reality. They had to discover needs in the market that could be met, they had to work out how to service those needs and make a profit.

The businesses that have retained their customer-centric approaches as they have grown understood the need to remain grounded in the marketplace. Their leaders have not floated off into the ivory tower, rather they retain the pain of not delivering what they promised.

These leaders realize the work of organizations gets done at the front line and the further removed you are the larger the distance between you and reality. Hence the compelling need to empower those that are doing the work.

The best leaders don’t talk, they take action. They spend time with employees on the front line, speak with customers, put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and experience what it’s like to be a customer of their organization.

It is not complicated but it requires leadership which means consistent visible customer-centric action.

Learn more in our award-winning book, The Customer Culture Imperative.

This is the secret to delivering powerful Customer Experiences that only a handful of CEO’s know about!

Richard_Branson_Customer_Centricity

Why engaged customer-focused employees are vital to business success!

In today’s market, the majority of companies have very little to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their product and services are very similar if not identical. It is so easy to change to another company that it can be done in minutes or even seconds on the web. Social media can instantly let millions of people know what just took place. Customer expectations have changed and their demands are greater than ever.

Future business performance and sustainability will come down to whether or not customers continue to use your products and services or leave for an alternative supplier. It costs 7.5 times as much to gain a new customer yet the majority of companies spend their budgets on attracting new customers. What are you doing to retain your current customers?

MarketCulture’s purpose is to help companies recognize the importance of building stronger customer experiences that retain customers. We believe that inspired, engaged and empowered employees focused on customers are vital to success. It comes down to how the company delivers on its promise and ultimately it is all employees that make this happen. It takes one bad experience and you have lost a customer.

As leaders do you truly understand what your employees need in order to deliver a great customer experience? Are we telling them what to do or are we engaging them in what they believe is important? Richard Branson says that engaged and happy employees deliver superior customer experiences. Virgin enters markets where customers are dissatisfied. They quickly win a strong market share by providing great service with a touch of magic. Employees want to be part of the solution and feel that they belong. They want to be listened to and feel that their feedback contributes to the success of the business. Your employees are the ones that retain or lose your customers.

Companies today implement many tools that measure either employee engagement or customer satisfaction. They allow leaders to know whether or not they have happy/unhappy employees or satisfied/dissatisfied customers yet they rarely provide insight into how they can improve. Leaders need to understand what employees need to deliver the company’s promise and customer satisfaction.

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” Jeff Bezos – Amazon Founder and CEO

How do we engage employees to build stronger customer experiences?

Customer experience comes down to the way your company and employees behave – whether you deliver or not on your promise. It can be as simple as responding to a customer in a timely fashion or just the tone of your voice. Amazon is now one of the biggest companies, yet they have retained a strong focus on their customer experiences even as they have grown to employ more than 300,000 people. The test of a company is not when things go well but when they don’t. Customers are looking to receive the value they paid for or they will simply try an alternative supplier. Where do you start building a stronger customer experience? You can start with the customer and find out whether or not they are satisfied but that is after the event has occurred and maybe too late. Alternatively, you can start with those that create the experience – “the employee” – and find out what they need in order to be able to deliver a great customer experience.

Steve Job’s recognized this towards the end of his time as CEO of Apple when he said:

“It’s not about me, it’s about the company and it’s about the cause. It’s not about everything being dependent on me. I have to build a culture, I have to think about a successor, I have to think about setting this thing up to do well over time. And in the end, what matters is, I want Apple to be an enduring great company and prove it didn’t need me.”

How do we do it? – It is simple. Listen to your employees, find out what is important to them, engage them, act on their feedback, empower them to solve customer problems and they will deliver better customer experiences.

MarketCulture researched 100’s of companies across the globe that exhibited both customer-centric decision-making with employees empowered to deliver great customer experiences. Some of these companies included Amazon, Google, Virgin, Apple, and Ikea.

The research revealed 8 disciplines that employees act on to deliver great customer experiences. We found these disciplines used across the entire organization including all support functions. This was not evident in companies that deliver inconsistent customer experiences.

Through both quantitative and qualitative employee feedback companies are able to act on strengths and weaknesses in order to support employees in delivering superior customer experiences.

What – A unique employee assessed customer engagement measurement tool.

Where do we start? The first step is to discover what is important to the employees in order to provide a better experience for customers. To do this we need to engage the employees and gain their feedback. The Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) is a unique assessment tool that all employees, including leaders, complete. The MRI has quantitative (scaled questions/benchmarked) as well as qualitative feedback (verbatim comments). This will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company against companies that use best customer-centric practices. This will create change and build future business performance through the retention and growth of customers. Studies have shown that companies with Customer Centric practices outperform the others.

What is the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI)?

The MRI is a web-based employee assessment, requiring 15-20 minutes to complete, that benchmarks employee behaviors within your business against the most customer-centric companies in the world. This translates into 8 key disciplines all with a strong focus on the customer. These are Customer Insight, Customer Foresight, Competitive Insight, Competitor Foresight, Peripheral Vision, Cross Functional Collaboration, Empowerment and Strategic Alignment. Your company’s performance in these disciplines has been shown to drive future customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and profitability.

The MRI will provide key benefits to your company.

1. Momentum, Engagement and a New Mindset: It will create focus and momentum for a Customer Centricity initiative across the business and can be used to drive the embedding process.

2. Measurement: It is designed to provide the basis for benchmarking and measuring progress on those customer-focused behaviors that drive customer satisfaction, advocacy, revenue growth, profit and plans for individual managers to drive improvements.

3. Gain Insights: Hear directly from employees on the key issues holding the organization back from being more customer-centric in specific areas and across the entire business.

4. Tangibility and Communication: It makes customer culture tangible for all staff by identifying relevant activities that support business strategies. Through its methodology and measurement process, it facilitates communication of clear priorities.

5. Gain broad employee involvement: It provides staff with an opportunity for input and direct engagement in Customer Culture initiatives and a forum for agreeing with actions to be taken and a feeling that they are a key part of the journey and contributing to its success.

6. Build a common language across the Business: It also acts as a tool for ensuring staff within the business “get it” and develops a common language and behaviors from Customer Culture initiatives. It forms the basis for ongoing discussions and actions deep within each functional group which is where the ultimate success in embedding customer culture will be determined through collaboration.

7. Accountability: It provides customer-centric behaviors that can be included in the Key Performance Indicators of managers and their teams.

8. Benchmark: It provides the business with a benchmark against some of the world’s most customer-centric organizations. How do you compare with companies like Amazon, Apple, 3M, Virgin and others included in the database? The current database includes more than 300 corporations globally across B2B and B2C and several hundred business functions and units.

Interesting in starting your journey to a customer culture? Learn more here.

Is there a customer-centric gene?

genetic technology concept, gene engineering, 3d rendering, abstract image visual

Recently I was talking with Dmitry Pukhov, co-founder and owner of a very successful event catering company in Moscow. When I asked him about customer-centric leadership he said the core characteristic is a desire to help people that comes from the heart. He said he believes that we all have a gene that can create a drive to provide service to others. But only some people have developed this gene – through their upbringing, experience, interaction with others who use it and mentoring from customer-centric role models.

There is some scientific evidence to support this. Research shows that people who are more caring and compassionate towards others share a common gene variation linked to the receptor for oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the “love” hormone) that plays a key role in the formation of social relationships and impacts our capacity for empathy. The science suggests that those with the “GG” variant of this gene are better with people and generally more caring.

But all is not lost for those of us that don’t have the “GG” genotype. There is also evidence to suggest that compassion and empathy can be developed through socialization with people that role model it and experiences that elevate it.

I asked Dmitry why his business is so successful – it has grown rapidly over the 12 years since he founded it – and he told me it is because being customer-centric and service focused has always been the driver in his business. He recruits people that exhibit the customer-centric gene and invests in the ongoing development of the gene in all his staff.

Are you using your customer-centric gene or is it dormant? If you want to know what to do to develop it, refer to our book: The Customer Culture Imperative.

Customer Centric Leadership in Action – A lesson from Elon Musk

tesla_charging_station

One of the central tenets of being a customer centric leader is listening to customer feedback and responding with action.

There is no better recent example than Elon Musk’s response to a customer complaining about the Tesla charging stations being used simply as car spaces.

The Tesla customer complaining happens to be Loic Le Meur, a fellow entrepreneur and major tech influencer, with 130k followers on twitter. You could argue that probably holds more weight than just your average customer but clearly the issue was one bubbling up and on Elon’s mind.

Here is the interchange from the two on twitter below:

elon_musk_twitter_response

Loic’s tweet was responded to within 20 minutes and within 7 days the press announced “Tesla to begin charging idle fees to those remaining on the charger beyond a full charge”

As the team at OfficeChai reported:

“Tesla was going to charge $0.40 for every minute a fully charged Tesla would stand at its parking stations after a five minute grace period. This simple change would ensure that people wouldn’t leave their cars at parking stations, preventing others from using them.

And what’s incredible is the pace at which the product change was implemented. Tesla might still call itself a startup, but it hardly is one – it has over 30,000 employees, and large engineering teams. To have a product feature conceptualized, implemented and shipped in a week is nothing short of miraculous.”

Now this might not be the perfect solution but Tesla will listen to customers and refine further as needed.

This is what customer centric leadership looks like in action, in this case led from the top. Elon’s expectation is that everyone in Tesla is listening to customers and responding to continually refine and improve the experience and value being offered.

Are you are customer centric leader? Find out more in our book, the Customer Culture Imperative

 

What is the kryptonite for disruptors?

Established businesses everywhere are under attack. The headlines are full of stories of business disruption. Entrepreneurs everywhere are building companies to unseat the entrenched firms.

While many think the answer is to invest in more technology, lobby government or follow their competitors actually the answer is right in front of them.

Our team in Sydney recently had the chance to sit down with Luke Jecks, the Global CEO of Naked Wines for his perspective. Listen to Luke talk about what he describes as the Kryptonite for disruptors, its a great lesson for anyone in business today:

So what’s the Kryptonite for disruptors? A Customer Culture or as Luke puts it:

“Love your customers”

If you spend time understanding and acting on your customers’ needs you will create loyalty that will keep you as immune as you can be to disruption.

So how did Naked Wines disrupt the wine industry?

Before Luke set up Naked Wines four years ago he was looking for an industry where customers felt disenfranchised. He found it in the Australian wine industry – a market dominated by two large retail chains owned by Coles and Woolworths that between them shared almost 70% of wine sales nationally. Not only did he find wine lovers who felt little connection with the vast array of brands but also boutique vineyards that were being squeezed out of the market by ever-narrowing margins and an inability to finance the next vintage.

Luke knew that if he could create a personal connection between winegrowers and consumers and a financial model that could provide more stability and certainty for wine growers he could build a new business.

He realized that he needed wine consumers as repeat customers and he came up with the idea of “angels’ – that is consumers as angel investors who would pay $40 per month and build up a credit in their account to be used to buy the boutique wines of their choice.

Four years after launch Naked Wines in Australia has more than 50,000 sustained angels, more than 35 boutique winery suppliers with an online communication and ordering system that connects them.

Annual Australian revenue of $30 million and more than $200 million globally is a testament to the fact that the whole Naked Wines team have a culture that enables them to “love” their customers.

Isn’t it time to create a customer culture in your business and build up your disruptor defenses?

 

How one person can make a difference role modeling customer centricity

tarpys

Tarpy’s Roadhouse just outside of Monterey, California is renowned for its good food, friendly hospitality and fast service. One person, Niranjan (“Nick”) Subedi, a native of Nepal, shines out as a role model in serving guests at the restaurant since 2000. A phrase known to every Nepali translates to “guests equal god” and offering all you have to a guest is considered a moral duty. Nick remembers every guest and their preferences even when they have not been back to Tarpy’s in a long time. Clint Eastwood, who lives in the area, is a big fan and he like many guests requests to be seated in the area where “Nick” is serving. Nick’s belief is that service is a duty and a pleasure and he shows this in his wide grin and attention to customers’ needs. But more than that he says: “I try to bring the human element to dining, to show that I love the guests”. He lives nearby with his wife in a house he owns “ because of my customers. I owe everything to them,” he said.

“Guests equal god”

It only takes one person like “Nick” Subedi to act as a powerful role model in a business reflecting strong customer-centric behaviors to lead others to do the same. If enough people in your organization follow this example you will have a strong customer culture – and a sustainable thriving business.

Lessons from REI: Aligning your People

We have just completed one of the busiest weeks in retail in the United States, with Black Friday for the physical stores and Cyber Monday for the online retailers. This week now blends together with doorbuster deals bombarding us constantly online and instore in the week leading up to Thanksgiving as well as weekend afterwards.

What is different this year is that some major stores have decided to stay closed during this period. In the land of the consumer this a really big deal!

One chain in particular stands out, REI, the outdoor recreation retailer with more than 12,000 employees and 140 stores around the US decided to close this past Black Friday. See below, their CEO, Jerry Stritzke’s 30 second announcement:

 

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.” – REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke

So what is behind this decision? I believe it is to better align REI’s core values with its actions in the market. REI’s core mission is “to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What better way to live that mission and align all of their people around it than closing on a day that allows their own people get outside and live the company’s mission.

Now that all sounds great but how does that help their customers? No doubt some customers may be inconvenienced by their physical stores being closed. However they will still have a small number of staff manning their website so they are not completely close for business.

REI are reacting to growing concerns by their customers and others that retail in general is overshadowing the core purpose of thanksgiving which is to celebrate with family and friends. They are betting that this decision will pay off over the longer term by aligning their people with their mission while also meeting the changing expectations of their customers.

Ultimately if you want your people and customers to really buy-in to what your company is about you must walk the talk, for me this is strategic alignment in action!

Interested in what it takes to be truly customer centric? Learn more here

Why aren’t Public Service Organizations Customer-Centric?

(Photo credit: UCSF)

The Department of Motor Vehicles (Photo credit: UCSF)

Why aren’t many public service organizations like health, tax, education, transport and treasury or utilities such as power and water authorities customer-centric? Public service agencies differ markedly. Some have an exclusive franchise – public schools, police and roads that are taxpayer funded or water and electricity transmission monopolies that are customer funded. Others operate in competitive markets such as postal and parcel services.

But the case for customer centricity is compelling.

The Case for Customer Centricity

Countless studies have documented the link between organizational culture and organizational performance. Specifically, many studies show that a customer-centric culture drives superior service and value for customers resulting in an experience that creates customer satisfaction and advocacy. This in turn drives exceptional organizational performance in terms of productivity, new product/service success, innovation and financial performance.

Government departments and public service organizations have clearly defined missions to provide a service to their constituents. Each reports to a government official who is part of a central, state or local government that represents a community – much of which is made up of customers that experience the service. Poor experience leads to complaints, that in turn, ultimately affects votes for public officials if service is consistently bad.

Public service organizations that do not understand their customers’ changing needs, or worse, don’t care about their customers, will receive complaints that require additional resources to solve. This creates stress for both employees and customers and takes resources away from their core roles. The momentum and complexity of global change are challenging all organizations, including government agencies, to move faster, work smarter, use their resources more effectively and think further ahead.

Most senior leaders of these organizations know this!

What’s the problem?

Many public service organizations try to focus on their customers, but wonder why their customer service programs have not really worked. A key reason is that senior leaders do not understand the difference between customer focus and customer centricity.

If you ask different people in your organization whether it is customer focused or customer-centric you will probably receive a variety of answers. If you then ask them what they mean by that you will probably get many more. Often many senior managers believe their organization or department is customer-centric while others will strongly disagree.

Another reason is that public service organizations do not measure customer centricity and make it a key performance factor for assessing leader and team performance.

The best starting point is to agree on what customer centricity is and then measure it for your organization. This will get everyone on the “same page” and create the mindset and benchmark that enables you to focus on things you should do to strengthen it.

What is customer centricity?

Research tells us that customer centricity requires a particular culture – a shared system of values and norms (mindset and behaviors) that focus all employee activity on improving the customer’s experience. Values define what is important and norms define the appropriate mindset and behavior that leads to what people do.

Leaders of customer-centric organizations have found that customer centricity is defined by the capability of an organization to understand, predict and respond to customer, market and external environment changes. It is based on the mindset: “what’s best for the customer is best for the organization” and a set of employee behaviors where the customer is central to the decisions they take and how they are implemented. This does not mean that you give customers everything they want, but by understanding their current and future needs you are best able to deliver value that will satisfy them in meeting their objectives in a way that meets your own goals. Customer centricity should transcend all departments and functions and be an integral part of the way employees behave and perform.

How do you measure it?

There are now valid measurement tools available to benchmark your organization’s level of customer centricity. Based on empirical research two tools can be used to assess where you are. The Market Responsiveness Index is relevant to competitive environments and benchmarks the capabilities of your organization on 7 factors. The Customer Responsiveness Index (CRI) is relevant to the vast number of non-competing government agencies and utilities and benchmarks the capabilities of your organization on 6 factors. Both tools reach into a global database to enable you to compare your level of customer centricity against the best… and the worst. But more important they enable all staff to understand what customer centricity is and what actions you can take to embed it in your organization as a sustainable culture.

Three steps for getting started

The following three steps will create some effective momentum:

  1. Hold a forum of leaders designed to create awareness of what real customer centricity means. This may include a debate on whether your organization is customer-centric with one team taking the positive stance and the other team taking the negative view. This will expose different views and help people understand what “being customer-centric” means.
  2. Measure and benchmark your organization’s level of customer centricity and identify strengths and weakness on the customer-centric factors that drive your performance.
  3. Conduct a leadership workshop designed to review your strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to act on the most important priorities ensuring that all leaders are involved.

These 3 steps will lead you to actioning a customer-centric plan based on an objective understanding of where you stand, some milestones and targets to be achieved and a roadmap to get there.

You will find some valuable tools, case studies and examples to help you through these steps in The Customer Culture Imperative: A Leader’s Guide to Driving Superior Performance, McGraw-Hill New York, 2014 by Linden R. Brown and Chris. L. Brown. (The foundation of the research is in Appendix 1, pages 273-287.)