Blog Work Culture

7 Effective Ways to Build an Awesome Customer-centric Culture

Mathew Maniyamkott

10 min read

We are living in a time where employees have a lot more choices than earlier. If you are 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 to do?

A research by Deloitte says that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that workplace culture is important to the success of an organization. If you see the companies that have been listed in the ‘Best Places to Work’, you will find that they are the most successful ones. Why? Happy employees mean happy customers. It is the only thing that business owners need to keep in mind when they have a chance to create a customer-centric office culture.

The potential advantages of having a customer-centric office culture

Job satisfaction:

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 to you back in ways you wouldn’t even be able to imagine. It is impossible to get great results when your employees are not happy.

Zero stress:

While employees suffer from stress because of dealing with clients, office workers and their families, it would be unfair to enforce policies that will make them even more stressful. This is why you need to create an environment of peace where employees don’t have to worry about a lot of things. They should work every day with the belief that their employers have their back.

Happy employees mean happy customers.

Work performance:

Happy employees will put their best foot forward and will work in the interests of the employer. 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.

Collaborative culture:

Companies with a strong culture will be more open to working as teams. They will even go out of their way to help other teams so that there is an effective collaboration among everyone. When there is greater 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 extremely low when the office culture is great. People want to be respected, recognized for what they do and are looking for direction. If you can give your employees all of that, they will hardly go astray from you.

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 successfully as a business:

What do you want your company culture to look like?

The first thing that 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:

  1. What do I want my company culture to be?
  2. What are our company’s values?
  3. How do we want our customers and employees to think of us?
  4. Is there any value that we can borrow from a company we admire?
  5. What are the things that we are not as a company?

Once you discuss the answers for these questions with all the stakeholders, you are one step ahead in building a customer-centric company culture. If you don’t have answers to these questions, you will never know where to start from. If you are a business with only a few employees, you can survive without the need to create a strong culture, but as the strength grows, it is imperative that you create one.

In fact, 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 in place, employees will be disillusioned soon which will reflect in how they treat the customers. So start asking the above questions to yourself and other stakeholders with an open mind.

Evaluate your present culture

Ask yourself what is your company culture like right now. Talk to all the stakeholders and write down the bunch of things that you normally do that constitutes as a culture. See if they are the things that you want to be identified as. If you think there should be relevant changes made to it, then you should see how you can make them.

If there were certain instances that made your company shape up into the way it is right now, then you need to identify how it has affected you. Bad culture 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 even wrong to admit to your employees and apologize for the same. Building company culture is a long-term goal that does not happen overnight, but wrong decisions need to 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. But there is a problem because companies are not able to identify the right talent. If your hiring process does not have a set method that is worthy of emulation, then you are in the wrong.

When you are hiring someone, you should look at their skill sets, how they can contribute to the company and how long they will work with you. Along with it, 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 itself 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 to, but someone with a sloppy attitude will struggle and bring down the morale of the entire team.

Reinforce your core values at every meeting so that it seeps deep into the minds of your employees.

Write down your core values

What are your core values like? When you know them deeply and are able to identify with it, you should ensure that it permeates through the entire workforce. Reinforce your core values at every meeting so that it seeps deep into the minds of your employees. When your culture is built on top of your core values, then you are in good hands.

Here are the core values of American Express:

Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.

Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers.

Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.

Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to 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 in every aspect of our business.

Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.

In this, American Express is not only talking about customer service but the overall things that an employee would be able to identify with.

Here is what Raymond Joabar, the Executive Vice President at American Express, told this during a Forbes interview which talks about the importance of core values. One time, 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.  Obviously, there’s no procedure for that, 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 that it travels down to everyone in the workforce.

Measure the effectiveness of your culture:

Once you have identified your core values, add the rest of the things that will be considered as office culture, the next step is to measure the effectiveness of it. Here are some of the questions that you need to ask:

  1. Is there a visible change in the satisfaction of the employees?
  2. Are there more happy customers now?
  3. What is the retention rate of customers?
  4. Has the attrition rate of employees reduced?
  5. Has the referral rate among employees increased?
  6. 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. In fact, we would like to ask you to measure them and add it as KPIs so that you can keep them as a benchmark and keep improving on it.

We would also like you to talk to your employees about the changes you have made. Ask them if there has been any move made which looks good on the outside but is detrimental to the health, morale and productivity of the employees. If you keep improving the standards of your work environment, then you will be providing them with a place where each of the employees will be ready to lift each other. That’s a great place to work at!

Having a customer-centric culture in place always translates into highly productive work. 

Have a dogged focus on customer service

When devising a plan for building an awesome customer-centric culture, you need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, customers should never be neglected. Include as many perks as you want and keep your employees as satisfied as they can be, but keep in mind that the entire 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 fickle from the outside in terms of 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 difficult things to do is following all the values that you have outlined to the T. As a leader, if you don’t work hard on bringing the change, then you will not be able to inspire your employees into doing the same. More often than not, business owners don’t hold them to the same standards that they keep their employees.

If you want a trickle down effect, then you need to follow them as well. You are the first person who is responsible to build the company culture. If there is no direction from you, then 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 the houses of customers for fixing 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 the ones that are not sent from customers. Their most loyal customers are given a tour of the headquarters. They even have a reputation of the longest 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 the experience of any guest. How’s that for having a customer-centric culture?

#5 Warby Parker glasses is another brand that has not only revolutionized the glasses industry but also 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 be exaggerating if we say that there would be at least millions of great customer service stories from the pages of one of the world’s most customer-obsessed brand. Jeff Bezos, it’s CEO says-“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer-obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”

#7 Starbucks is also known for its focus on customers. Their employees are taught to put the effort into the visual success of each drink. For example, if you order caramel sauce, there is a precise pattern to it. 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 on a daily basis, you can easily make a positive dent in the lives of your customers by being completely obsessed with your employees and creating a positive culture that will embolden your employees to make such changes.

Companies with a strong culture will be more open to working as teams.

Conclusion

As a leader, you must concentrate on building a customer-centric culture that you and everyone can be proud of. There are a lot of mistakes that will happen during the course of 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 that you need to do is consult with your employees. Ask them directly what are the factors they think will be directly 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.

Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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