How to design a customer-driven culture

Why you can't have good CX without a customer-driven culture


Top-down change

Champion says leader organisations don't prescribe how employees should behave, they instead create the conditions for customer-centricity at scale. This means that from the top there is clear executive endorsement that customer-centric values are core to the company's goals, and from the bottom, staff are enabled with the right access to insights, technology, and skills so everyone can make customer-first decisions.

Adding to that, Holt says any customer-driven program has to start from the inside out. “Twenty years of frustration has taught me unless the leadership of an organisation has conviction around the primacy of the customer, then there’s very little that others can do at other levels to create real change,” he says.

“Those organisations focused on the bottom line are generally looking in the wrong spot. Nobody ever shrunk a business to greatness, and yet that’s the first place a business goes because it’s the easiest. They can see, smell, and touch cost—what’s more intangible is the notion of value creation. That’s a more esoteric concept than most, and requires more cohesion within a company than many have.

“Empower the people in your organisation to make the decisions, giving more autonomy to people who are closer to the customer. I see people who haven’t seen a customer in years making decisions about value creation for consumers. Decisions need to be devolved towards the front-line.”

Similarly, businesses still operating in silos and setting employee KPIs around cost, rather than around the customer, are setting themselves up for failure. With organisations so complex, concepts like information overload, analysis paralysis, and disengagement are real threats to any transformation initiative, Champion notes.

“A challenge facing organisations now is that their staff has heard for years that they're on a 'customer-first transformation', and they're disengaged from this narrative,” he claims. “Alignment, personalisation and resonance are a few ways to package this better. But what really helps is driving noticeable positive change to the employee experience. Part of this is the right incentives and recognition mechanisms to reinforce good behaviours.

“Tangible changes for the benefit of employee experience might be to swap out a system to one with better usability, or changing KPIs to something like end-to-end journey metrics instead of an interaction metric, to drive more collaborative behaviours.”

Bliss setting the right accountability is what matters. “Are you asking for accountability by customers’ lives or accountability by the silo? It is about designing to customer goals, instead of designing to your personal agenda,” she explains.

“There has to be a place in companies for finding the right people and trusting them to make judgement calls instead of turning people into policy cops.”

Forbes agrees organisations get the behaviour they reward, and much of it is not CX-focused.

“You can reward the fastest call handling time, but did they solve the customer’s problem?” she asks. “Have the metric of customer satisfaction as a KPI for success instead. Your customer is the North Star, a lot of companies have not quite grasped that yet. Empowerment of staff and reward the right things, and get signals back from staff about what is working, and what isn’t.”

The technology factor

Of course technology has been heralded as the answer by many vendors to solving the CX conundrum, and many businesses are implementing tech without fully thinking through the reasoning and goals behind it, expecting it to be a silver bullet. What happens instead is a cost disaster and a CX transformation halted in its tracks.

“People and processes are more important than the technology itself. Unless you change these, then the new tech isn’t going to deliver on the promise, and you’re not going to achieve the customer value you set out to,” Holt says. “The structure is: People, process, and technology, with tech a very deliberate third. If you take a new tech with a great deal of promise and apply it to an existing business model then stand back and wait for greatness to happen, you’ll be disappointed.

“And yes, the whole world changed a few years ago when software-as-a-service and the cloud come into being. What’s possible now is astonishing. The question should be how are you leveraging technology to create more value for your customer? I see a lot of people talking about CRM, or marketing automation, or content management systems, and very often I never hear the word ‘customer’.”

Hassell adds martech can help your customer service by bespoking experiences, but bespoking everything can mean you’re out of business. Knowing where to ramp up and knowing where to leave it is key.

Forbes says AI and technology are facilitators of great CX. Companies that nail the utilisation of those technologies are the ones that nail anticipatory design.

“And that is design that’s one step ahead of you, it takes everything it knows about you and anticipates what it is you’re going to need,” she explains. “We want people to go away from their interactions feeling understood. AI and ML and the mining of data does give you a lot of power in helping customers to be understood in their interactions, and feeling important.

“However, don’t take away all their choices. Choice does let people feel like they have control. Always provide them with a way out. A bad implementation of a chatbot, for example, will make things worse.”

Up next: Your must-have checklist for designing a customer-driven culture

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