Building a customer-centric culture is the most critical strategy for ensuring a business’s long-term success and sustainability.
We live in a time when employees have many more choices than before.
As a business owner, you would be hard-pressed to adopt strategies to retain your best employees, as they are more likely to be poached if not treated well.
Companies like Netflix, Zappos, Facebook, Google, etc., are known for their employee-friendly offices that will help them retain top talent.
But all of the things that those big-budget companies do cannot be replicated by small businesses. So what do I do?
Research by Deloitte says that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that workplace culture is essential to the success of an organization.
If you see the companies listed in the ‘Best Places to Work,’ you will find they are the most successful.
Why? Happy employees mean happy customers. It is the only thing business owners need to remember when they have a chance to create a customer-centric office culture.
The potential advantages of having a customer-centric culture
Companies with a good office culture will be filled with employees who are happy to walk into the office every day.
When you invest in the wellness of employees, they give it back to you in ways you wouldn’t even be able to imagine. It is impossible to get great results when your employees are not happy.
While employees suffer from stress because of dealing with clients, office workers, and their families, enforcing policies that will make them even more stressful would be unfair.
This is why you need to create an environment of peace where employees don’t have to worry about many things.
They should work every day believing that their employers have their back.
Happy employees will put their best foot forward and work in the employer’s interests. Having a customer-centric culture in place always translates into highly productive work. Employees will be highly motivated when they know that their employees are willing to invest in their betterment.
Companies with a strong culture will be more open to working as teams. They will even go out of their way to help other groups so that there is an effective collaboration among everyone.
When there is a more incredible collaboration culture in the office, it will produce spectacular results.
Increase in loyalty:
The chances of employees leaving or a high attrition rate will be increased when the office culture is not great. People want to be respected and recognized for their actions and looking for direction. If you can give your employees all of that, they will hardly go astray from you.
What do you want your company culture to look like?
The first thing you need to do when you are looking to build a company culture is to have a rough idea in mind. Here are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself when you are building your company culture:
- What do I want my company culture to be?
- What are our company’s values?
- How do we want our customers and employees to think of us?
- Is there any value that we can borrow from a company we admire?
- What are the things that we are not as a company?
Once you discuss the answers to these questions with all the stakeholders, you are one step ahead in building a customer-centric company culture.
You will never know where to start if you don’t have answers to these questions.
If you are a business with only a few employees, you can survive without creating a strong culture, but as the strength grows, you must make one.
Start asking these questions a few days into starting the company. The small office perks will only get you so far.
Without a defined culture, employees will soon be disillusioned, reflecting how they treat the customers. So start asking yourself and other stakeholders the above questions with an open mind.
Effective Ways to Build a Great Customer-centric Culture
Here are 7 effective ways to build awesome customer-centric culture strategies to deliver great employee and customer experience and thrive as a business:
Evaluate your present culture.
Ask yourself what is your company culture like right now. Talk to all the stakeholders and write down what you usually do that constitutes a culture.
See if they are the things that you want to be identified as. If you think relevant changes should be made, you should see how to make them.
If certain instances made your company the way it is, you need to identify how it affected you.
Bad cultural decisions that were made along the way should be scrapped immediately. If you think any of these were detrimental to your employees, then it is not wrong to admit to them and apologize for the same.
Building company culture is a long-term goal that does not happen overnight, but wrong decisions must be scrapped without further ado.
Improve your hiring process.
Recruitment is one of the dark areas that no one has been able to crack yet. There are a lot of shortfalls because there is a mismatch in the expectations of employers and the abilities of potential candidates.
However, there is a problem because companies cannot identify the right talent. If your hiring process does not have a set method worthy of emulation, then you are in the wrong.
When hiring someone, you should look at their skill sets, how they can contribute to the company, and how long they will work with you.
You also need to recognize if they are the right fit for your company in terms of culture.
Are their values the same as yours? You should find it out during the interview process by asking questions that will ascertain the kind of values they espouse.
Get into deep conversations with your potential candidates while you are on the verge of hiring them. The right kind of attitude is more important than just skills.
Someone with the right attitude will always be easy to teach, but someone with a sloppy attitude will struggle and bring down the entire team’s morale.
Write down your core values.
What are your core values like?
When you know them deeply and can identify with it, you should ensure that it permeates the entire workforce.
Reinforce your core values at every meeting so that it seeps deep into the minds of your employees. You are in good hands when your culture is built on top of your core values.
Here are the core values of American Express:
Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that positively impact our customers’ lives.
Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that deliver premium value to our customers.
Integrity: We uphold the highest integrity standards in all our actions.
Teamwork: We work together across boundaries to meet our customers’ needs and help our Company win.
Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development, and reward their performance.
Good Citizenship: We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.
A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and every aspect of our business.
Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.
In this, American Express talks about customer service and the overall things an employee can identify with.
Here is what Raymond Joabar, the Executive Vice President at American Express, told this during a Forbes interview about the importance of core values.
“Once, a hotel café manager [an Amex merchant] alerted my team that he had accidentally sold a display cake with harmful chemicals and needed to find the customers before they ate it.
There’s no procedure, but our team took ownership of the problem.
They gathered all the information they could from the record of charge, identified 21 Card Members who used their cards at the café during that time frame, reviewed the accounts to find the right match, and then called the Card Member in time before they served the cake at an anniversary party.”
The important point here–other than that everybody ended up safe and sound– is that there isn’t a script for every situation, so we empower our care professionals to do what’s right for the customer.
And we recognize what they do with this empowerment as well. We give awards to employees who go above and beyond to help customers, and we share their stories across the company.”
That’s the power of having core values and insisting they travel to everyone in the workforce.
Measure the effectiveness of your culture:
Once you have identified your core values and added the things that will be considered as office culture, the next step is to measure its effectiveness.
Here are some of the questions that you need to ask:
- Is there a visible change in the satisfaction of the employees?
- Are there more happy customers now?
- What is the retention rate of customers?
- Has the attrition rate of employees been reduced?
- Has the referral rate among employees increased?
- Do you have more customers who are Promoters now?
The answers to the questions above will give you an idea of the effectiveness of the customer-centric culture that you have created.
We want to ask you to measure them and add them as KPIs so that you can keep them as a benchmark and keep improving on them.
We would also like you to talk to your employees about your changes.
Ask them if any move has been made that looks good on the outside but is detrimental to the employees’ health, morale, and productivity.
If you keep improving the standards of your work environment, then you will provide them with a place where each employee will be ready to lift each other. That’s a great place to work!
Have a dogged focus on customer service
When devising a plan for building a fantastic customer-centric culture, you must remember that customers should never be neglected.
Include as many perks as you want and keep your employees as satisfied as possible, but remember that the objective is to make your customers happy.
Find out as many ways as you can to surprise, delight, and pleasantly shock your customers.
Believe it or not, there are so many bad businesses that all you need to have is one unique offering that changes their entire perception of you.
Customers might seem inconsistent from the outside regarding their buying patterns, but they want stability, too, and when they come across the right vendor, they will never change their loyalty.
Lead by example
One of the most challenging things is following all the values you have outlined to the T.
As a leader, if you don’t work hard on bringing change, you will not be able to inspire your employees to do the same.
Business owners often don’t hold them to the same standards that they keep their employees.
If you want a trickle-down effect, you must also follow them. You are the first person who is responsible for building the company culture.
If you have no direction, please don’t be disappointed when your customers don’t do that either. After all, you are supposed to lead by example.
Here are some examples of good customer service:
#1 Tesla is known to go to customers’ houses to fix their cars.
Not only does it save a lot of hassle for the customer, but they also don’t even have to schedule extra time for servicing their cars. Customers would fall head over heels in love with such a brand.
#2 Coca-Cola is known to contribute to local charities. Most of these charities are the ones that focus on empowering youngsters as well as the ones that encourage inclusion and diversity.
For people who identify with social issues, it makes them feel good.
#3 Zappos is one company that is customer-centric to an almost ridiculous level that is unheard of. They take the time to reply to every email, even those not sent by customers.
Their most loyal customers are given a tour of the headquarters. They even have a reputation for the most extended customer service call- 10 hours, 51 minutes.
#4 Ritz-Carlton’s customer service is legendary. Any employee is authorized to spend up to $2000 per day to improve any guest’s experience. How’s that for having a customer-centric culture?
#5 Warby Parker glasses is another brand that has revolutionized the glasses industry and has good customer service stories.
A customer who abandoned his glasses on a train finds his glasses, including a replacement pair, waiting for him — thanks to his seatmate on the train, former Warby Parker General Counsel Anjail Kumar.
Read more about the incredible story here.
#6 Amazon is a pioneer when it comes to customer service.
We wouldn’t even exaggerate if we said there would be at least millions of excellent customer service stories from the pages of one of the world’s most customer-obsessed brands.
Jeff Bezos, its CEO, says-“We’re not competitor-obsessed; we’re customer-obsessed. We start with what the customer needs, and we work backward.”
#7 Starbucks is also known for its focus on customers. Their employees are taught to put effort into the visual success of each drink.
For example, if you order caramel sauce, there is a precise pattern. It has a lattice of seven vertical and horizontal lines with two full circles around it- anywhere you buy it from. That’s why they sell 4 million coffees every day.
While some of the above stories might be impossible to replicate daily, you can easily make a positive dent in your customers’ lives by being utterly obsessed with your employees and creating a positive culture that will encourage your employees to make such changes.
As a leader, you must build a customer-centric culture that you and everyone can be proud of.
There are a lot of mistakes that will happen during building a culture. Why? Because not every tip that you will receive will be relevant to your business.
At times like this, you need to go through a process of trial and error before coming up with the perfect plan that will work.
Beers in the fridge, ping pong tables, sleeping pods, flexible work hours, etc., are all fine. The most important thing you need to do is consult with your employees.
Ask them directly what factors they think will be now helping them work and feel better.
When you create a customer-centric culture in consultation with them, it will reflect in the way they treat the customers.
It is a win-win for everybody, including the business.