It’s impossible to talk about customer experience excellence without discussing corporate culture. Firms can’t sustain customer experience success unless it becomes embedded within their core operating fabric. According to leadership guru Arthur F. Carmazzi:
The ability to do more than expected does not come from influencing others to do something they are not committed to, but rather to nurture a culture that motivates and even excites individuals to do what is required for the benefit of all.
When it comes to great customer experience, organizations must develop a culture that I call customer-centric DNA, which is defined as:
A strong, shared set of beliefs that guides how customers are treated.
My research uncovered the following six components of customer-centric DNA:
- Clear beliefs. The only way for an organization to operate consistently is if everyone understands what’s important. High performing organizations don’t leave this to chance; they create clear descriptions of their core values. But these aren’t just posters or slogans; they’re used as guideposts for hiring, firing, and promoting employees.
- Constant communications. When a company goes through a major transformation, which is true for most firms in the midst of a customer experience journey, it’s important for employees to continuously hear what’s going on. Leading firms develop explicit internal communications plans to make sure that employees are kept up to date on the priorities and progress of these efforts.
- Collective celebrations. Organizations celebrate when individuals or groups outperform metrics for sales growth or profitability. In customer-centric cultures, companies generate the same excitement around customer experience success. These firms create customer experience metrics and use public acknowledgements and incentives to reward employees for exceeding those goals. (See law #5 of customer experience: Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated).
- Compelling stories. The author Philip Pullman was quoted as saying “‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.” Stories play a powerful key role in shaping the culture of any firm. Companies use stories to tell how founders or employees have helped customers, demonstrating customer-centric behaviors that are valued by the organization.
- Commitment to employees. There’s no way to deliver great customer experience if employees aren’t on board. But you can’t just “expect” employees to do what’s right. Companies need to help employees better serve customers with investments in training and enabling tools. Leading companies also provide incentives and perks that create highly-desirable work environments. (See law #4 of customer experience: Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers).
- Consistent trade-offs. Employees respond to what execs do more than to what they say. So guess what happens when execs proclaim that customer experience is important but continue to reward other behavior. Nothing. The true commitment to customer experience shows up when executives have to make trade-offs. (See law #6 of customer experience: You can’t fake it).
I’ll explore each of these 6 C’s of Customer-Centric DNA in later posts.
The bottom line: Don’t underestimate the power of customer-centric DNA.