How to build a customer-centric organisation

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Customer-centric organisations achieve success by providing consistently delightful customer experiences. In this, the third article in our series on customer-centricity, we explore how to emulate their successes. 

Your most important asset

The basic assumption of a customer-centric approach is that our customers are our most important assets – primarily because it is both harder and more expensive to get new customers than it is to keep old ones.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't spend time and money on getting new customers; just that if we focused proportionately more of our attention on existing customers rather than looking for new ones, we'd keep more of our customers for longer and get more value out of them. (As a rule of thumb, winning organisations spend two thirds of their time on existing customers versus a third on selling to new prospects.)

How to become more customer-centric

To become more customer-centric, organisations must fundamentally change their employee culture, and underlying that, how their employees think about presenting the organisation at all touch points throughout the customer life cycle.

To achieve that, they must put in place coaching programmes that aim to change the culture of their employees to display more of the behaviours of successful organisations.

However, traditional coaching programmes are time-consuming, costly and lack scalability. You simply can't put 1,000 of your people on a coaching course – it is neither practical nor sustainable.

The trick is to find an intervention that follows coaching principles but is nevertheless scalable and accessible to thousands of people. Self-paced online courses fit the bill, but too many of them go wrong because their learnings are not sustained – that is, no follow-ups are done to ensure knowledge retention.

It's a dirty secret of training that just 24 hours after the end of a course, trainees remember only a third of what they've learnt. What's more, they've forgotten another third and can only remember where to find the remaining third of their acquired knowledge. Another week later, and trainees remember just 10% of what they learnt, know where to find 25%, and have completely forgotten 65%.

Practice makes perfect

The missing link between training and retention is to have employees put into practice what they've learnt. Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language knows that if you don't speak or hear it, you'll forget what you've learnt in books and lecture videos in no time.

In much the same way, customer-centricity must be entrenched through practice.

The form of 'practice' that works best in cultural change initiatives is 'sharing'. But where sharing is feasible in small units, it isn't practicable in large groups. To overcome this, various smaller group initiatives can be used in conjunction with workshops, mentoring and one-on-one coaching. In addition, try to blend it with (digital) social sharing tactics for maximum retention.

Your 6-step checklist

Reduced to its logical steps, to create delightful customer experiences:

  • -Identify best-practice behaviours you want to model your company culture on (we dealt with this in a previous article). They can be as basic as communicating clearly, as mysteriously effective as smiling while speaking on the phone, or as adventurous as putting colleagues through blind trust exercises.
  • -Implement a sustainable, scalable coaching methodology that blends real-world, digital and social sharing methods.
  • -Commit to repeat initiatives. Cultural change must be sustained and integrated into the training and development fabric of your organisation.
  • -Identify your direct objectives (e.g. better attitude towards customers). Work out how to measure them (objectively and subjectively).
  • -In the same way, target indirect pay-offs (customer growth and retention, staff retention, reduced sick days and general improvements in satisfaction and happiness).

Success factors

The important thing to remember is that cultural change interventions are not a quick fix. Do not expect overnight success but commit to a long-term journey of change – one that will probably never end, as the organisation learns new things and keeps getting better at creating delight.

To tie it all together, organisations would be well advised to create a C-level position dedicated to the customer – the Chief Customer Officer.

But above all, learning to delight customers should be a lot of fun, or we must ask ourselves – why are we doing it?

This article is the third and final in this series about creating customer-centric organisations. The first dealt with the need for a chief customer officer and the second with best-in-class examples.

Why you need a chief customer officer
 
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