Designing a Customer-Centric Culture
By Janet LeBlanc

Culture is one of the most difficult organizational attributes to shape, change and evolve. Leaders play a critical role in creating and driving the architecture of their organization's culture. The following are five dimensions leaders need to influence when building a strong customer-centric culture:

Common Goal. Designing a customer-centric culture begins with establishing and communicating a common goal. A shared goal is the core reason for employees to work consistently, responsibly and decisively—becoming the heart and soul of an organization. It can infuse a workplace with positive energy that will impact every aspect of the customer experience. For instance, Disney employees are committed to “create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.” At Zappos.com, the entire organization is aligned around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible.

Shared Values. Identifying shared values is an essential component of building a strong customer-centric culture. Employees make thousands of decisions daily. Their actions and behaviors are reflective of the values and beliefs shared and agreed upon by fellow employees and are reinforced and rewarded by senior leaders. Netflix believes that company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees and are reinforced by those who are rewarded, promoted or let go.

Heritage and Tradition. Creating a company culture requires reinforcement of its heritage and tradition—icons, stories, rites and rituals—that remind people of what the organization stands for. Storytelling is an important component of business today. Great leaders have stories for every situation describing how its products solved a customer problem or an employee overcame a challenge. Today's best leaders nurture a storytelling culture to help employees learn from the best examples of the customer-centric culture that the organization is trying to create.

Quality Standards. Establishing quality standards and expectations is another driving force in how corporate cultures shape performance. IBM Founder Thomas Watson, Sr. continues to influence the company even today by establishing high-quality world-class standards from the start. He wanted his company to represent “respect for the individual, the best customer service of any company in the world, and pursuit of all tasks with the idea that they can be accomplished in a superior fashion.” Similarly, Disney advocates four quality standards: courtesy, efficiency, safety and show (i.e., delivering flawless and captivating experiences for every guest) as part of its corporate culture.

Traits and Behaviors. Role-modeling and reinforcing traits and behaviors is another dimension of how a leader can create, shape and evolve a customer-centric culture. Role-modeling provides an opportunity for leaders to reinforce the personality traits that are important in a customer-centric environment, and must be exemplified by “walking the walk” not just “talking the talk.” Personality traits such as honesty, passion, curiosity and courage are four of the nine traits and behaviors that Netflix advocates for employees in its 126-slide culture deck, called “Freedom & Responsibility.”

Organizations that have successfully cultivated a customer-centric culture have achieved a sustainable competitive advantage that will garner improved business and financial benefits for years to come. A customer-centric culture is a set of shared assumptions, values and beliefs that will guide an employee's interpretation and action by defining appropriate behavior when dealing with customers at every interaction. Great leaders understand that a customer-centric culture must be by-design, clearly articulated and reinforced to all employees in order to leverage the many benefits for the company, employees and customers alike.

INSIDE VIEW: LifeLock

Trust matters in customer service. And when your organization provides identity theft protection services, establishing trust is a critical component of the customer experience. LifeLock's Member Services' customer-centric focus and world-class service delivery is a key contributor to the company's success. The service center defines “world-class service” as “to treat people like a cherished family member, putting their needs ahead of yours.” To bring that definition to life, center leaders provide staff with both the vision and clarity of what they're trying to accomplish to enable them to make the best decisions possible. The center's guiding principles are posted on the wall as a reminder of the company's values. They're easy to for employees to remember—they spell “LifeLock”: Loyalty, Integrity, Flawless, Empathy, Leadership, Ownership, Collaboration and Knowledge.

Read the full story here.


 

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