Put Culture Change On Your 2017 CX Agenda. Here’s How.

If you’re thinking about improving your organization’s customer experience next year (and why wouldn’t you be?!?), then I hope you are also thinking about some changes in your organization’s culture. As I’ve said many, many times, your customer experience is a reflection of your culture and operating processes. It’s your culture that will sustain any improvements that you make in customer experience.

As I’m sure you know, culture change isn’t easy. People are naturally averse to change. As John Kenneth Galbraith so aptly stated, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

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Any chance of a successful, purposeful change in your culture needs to focus on the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of individual employees. That’s the foundation of a concept that Temkin Group introduced called Employee-Engaging Transformation (EET). EET is based on five practices: Vision Translation, Persistent Leadership, Middle Management Activation, Grassroots Mobilization, and Captivating Communications.
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EET is different than typical top-down, autocratic attempts at culture change. Those efforts either just don’t work, or they create unintended negative elements in the culture.

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Here’s an assessment that you can use to gauge your effectiveness at applying EET.

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For more information, check out all of our rich content on culture change, starting with these two reports:

The bottom line: Culture change is a necessary ingredient of CX transformation.

Guide to Organizational Culture Change (Infographic)

We regularly help companies create cultures that are more customer-centric.  So it seemed like a fun idea to create an infographic on the topic. Enjoy! You may want to see a video we created about customer-centric culture or the report, Employee-Engaging Transformation.
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You can download (and print) this infographic in different forms:

The bottom line: The customer experience you deliver is a reflection of your culture

Wells Fargo: A Lesson in Leadership & Culture Gone Awry

In case you missed this in the news, Wells Fargo is under investigation for opening fraudulent accounts for its customers. During a period between 2011 and 2015, it is estimated that there were as many as 1.5 million deposit accounts and more than half a million credit card accounts opened inappropriately on behalf of customers.

As part of a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren grills Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and makes a few very important points. Stumpf heavily, heavily pushed his organization to cross-sell products, setting a long-term goal of 8 products per household, while the industry average was around three. He regularly touted the increase in products per household (over 6.1) to investment analysts and pushed his organization for the growth to continue.

My Take: Stumpf should resign (or be fired). That sounds abrupt, but let me explain…

In this blog, I often discuss the power of culture. It’s one of the most critical drivers of the behaviors of employees across large organizations. As a matter of fact, Peter Drucker has been credited as saying, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Whenever there is a consistent set of widespread actions (good or bad), then the first place you should look to explain them is the culture. One of our Six Laws of Customer Experience is that employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. Clearly at Wells Fargo, cross-selling new accounts to customers was measured, incented, and celebrated.

So Wells Fargo employees acted in ways that were consistent with their environment.  They acted in accordance with the company’s culture. Does that mean that the individuals who did the wrong things should be absolved of their errors? Absolutely not. They were wrong and should face the consequences for their actions. But the acts of individuals are symptoms, while the culture that encouraged those behaviors is the systemic issue.

That gets me back to Stumpf. He created (or at least nurtured) the culture across Wells Fargo, and should therefore be held accountable for the consequences. Let me put it this way, should Victor Frankenstein be held accountable for the damage caused by the monster he created? Of course!

Stumpf was rewarded handsomely for the cross-sell results of the culture he created. It’s now time for him to pay the price for the problems caused by that culture.

The bottom line: Leaders must be more mindful of the culture they create.

 

Customer-Centric Culture Change (Video)

Our research and work with clients show that customer experience is a reflection of an organization’s culture. Any company that wants to build sustainable customer experience must build a customer-centric culture. How? By mastering Employee-Engaging Transformation.

Want to know more? Watch this short video:

The bottom line: CX success almost always requires culture change

Hungry for CX, Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch

Management guru Peter Drucker is credited with saying that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” I agree, especially when it comes to large organizations.

Culture can make or break the success of a company, which can be a scary phenomenon for executives. While leaders tend to be comfortable around strategy discussions, they’re often painfully awkward discussing corporate culture.

Based on our work with many organizations and our research of 100’s more, here’s a primer on corporate culture that addresses six key questions.

1) What Exactly is Organizational Culture?

All of our work in this area comes down to a key reality; culture is how employees think, believe, and act.

  • Think: Employees are intellectually bought-in and understand the company’s vision and why it is important to the company. What is the company communicating?
  • Believe: Employees see that leaders are truly committed to what is important to the company. What are leaders demonstrating with their behaviors?
  • Act. Employees adjust their behaviors to align with what is important to the company. What do employees do when no one is looking?

Companies often focus on the think level, hoping that a barrage of communications can drive culture change. Well it can’t. You need to develop plans that deal with all three levels: Think, Believe, and Act.

2) Why is Culture So Important?

The reason that culture is so important is that it frames what people (employees) do when no one is looking. You have two choices for driving employee behaviors: 1) Prescribe all of their actions and put in place mechanisms to monitor and control them, or 2) Create a culture that encourages them to act consistently with your organization’s objectives. The first approach requires an ever-growing level of resources, and is very difficult to sustain.

Our research shows that customer experience leaders have more customer-centric and mission-centric cultures.

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3) What Does Culture Look Like?

Every organization’s culture is somewhat different, but we’ve found that all cultures share some common characteristics. We developed an organizational cultural map that deines two characteristics of culture:

  • Cultural Focus. Every organization has one element of its efforts that, when push comes to shove, trumps all the other elements. This is the company’s cultural focus can span from being profit-centric, where generating profits comes first, to being customer-centric, where customers come first, or mission-centric, where fulfilling the company’s mission comes first, among many others.
  • Cultural Intensity. To what degree do all of your employees think, believe, and act in the same way. At the low end of the intensity scale, the culture is almost non-existent as few employees share common values. At the high end of the scale, the alignment around values is almost cult-like.

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4) What Are the Elements of a Customer-Centric Culture?

Our research shows that organizations with customer-centric cultures demonstrate four core competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness.

5) How Customer-Centric Are Organizations?

Temkin Group has identified six stages of maturity towards a customer-centric organization. We examined results from almost 200 large companies that completed our Customer Experience Competency & Maturity Assessment and found that only 11% of companies have reached the highest two levels of maturity, Align and Embed.

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6) How Can You Build A More Customer-Centric Culture?

Changing culture isn’t easy, it requires a significant and comprehensive approach that focuses on affecting the behaviors of every employee. To help companies drive the change, Temkin Group introduced an approach called Employee-Engaging Transformation, (EET), which we define as, “Aligning employee attitudes and behaviors with the organization’s desire to change.”

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The bottom line:  CX success requires a strong appetite for culture

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here. – See more at: http://cxday.org

Report: Creating and Sustaining a Customer-Centric Culture

1507_CreatingCXCulture_COVERWe just published a Temkin Group report, Creating and Sustaining a Customer-Centric Culture. Here’s the executive summary:

Temkin Group defines culture as how employees think, believe, and act, and if an organization wants to differentiate its customer experience, it must address each one of these areas. However culture change is not easy. Culture change efforts are often impeded by common pitfalls, such as ignoring the existing culture or becoming impatient at the pace of change. To make this effort smoother, Temkin Group recommends adopting an approach we call Employee-Engaging Transformation (EET), which consists of five practices: Vision Translation, Persistent Leadership, Middle Management Activation, Grassroots Mobilization, and Captivating Communications. In this report, we’ve compiled case studies of how five organizations—Hagerty, Hilton Garden Inn, Oxford Properties, Safelite AutoGlass, and Transamerica—apply these EET practices to create and sustain their customer-centric cultures. To help your company discuss its goals around culture, use Temkin Group’s Cultural Planning Map.

Download report for $195
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This graphics provides an overview of the details on how five companies are driving culture change.

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Download report for $195
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The bottom line: Promoters are much more valuable than detractors.

What is Culture? How People Think, Believe, and Act

I often say that the customer experience your organization delivers is a reflection of your culture and operating processes. In other words, what customers experience outside is based on what’s going on inside. To consistently differentiate your customer experience, you need to transform your culture.

“Culture eats strategy for lunch”
– Peter Drucker

The reason that culture is so important is that it frames what people (employees) do when no one is looking. You have two choices for driving employee behaviors: 1) Prescribe all of their actions and put in place mechanisms to monitor and control them, or 2) Create a culture that encourages them to act consistently with your organization’s objectives. The first approach requires an ever-growing level of resources, and is very difficult to sustain.

Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, has said that:

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

Our research has shown that customer-centric organizations demonstrate four CX core competencies:

  • Purposeful Leadership:Leaders operate with a clear, well-articulated set of values.
  • Compelling Brand Values: Brand attributes drive decisions about the company treats customers.
  • Employee Engagement: Employees are fully committed to the goals of the organization.
  • Customer Connectedness: Customer feedback and insight is integrated throughout the organization.

To help companies drive culture change, which we believe is a campaign to engage all employees, we created a concept called Employee-Engaging Transformation. This approach requires a different view towards driving organizational change:

1503_EETchangeWhat Exactly is Organizational Culture?

All of our work in this area comes down to a key reality; culture is how employees think, believe, and act. So if you want to drive culture change, you need to deal with all three of those areas. Here’s how:

  • Think: Employees need to be intellectually bought-in and understand why there needs to be a change.
  • Believe: Employees need to see that leaders are truly committed to the change.
  • Act. Employees need to adjust some of their behaviors to align with the change.

Companies often focus on the think level, hoping that a barrage of communications can drive culture change. Well it can’t. You need to develop plans that deal with all three levels: Think, Believe, and Act.

Leaders Can Make or Break Culture Change

Leaders play a critical role in driving cultural change. As you can see above, employees won’t “believe” in any change unless they see their leaders behaving differently. We’ve identified three characteristics of transformational leaders: communicating “why,” modeling the desired behaviors, and reinforcing change.

Three Required Characteristics For Transformational Leaders

If leaders continue to operate in the same way, making the same decisions and trade-offs, then the organization will believe that nothing is changing — no matter how many emails the CEO sends, or compelling speeches she gives at town hall meetings.

The bottom line: Culture is a key ingredient to long-term CX success.

Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Creates Fan-Centric Culture

I recently had the opportunity to hear Derrick Hall, CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, speak at the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium. Hall was extremely passionate about customer experience. His goal: “Treat our fans, employees, and players better than any team in sports.”

Hall’s perspective as a senior executive was so refreshing that I scheduled a follow-up interview. The call started with some baseball talk (I confessed to being a passionate member of Red Sox Nation) and included a brief interruption by Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the conversation.

CircleOfSuccessDiamondbacksHall joined the D-backs in May 2005 as Senior Vice President, Communications, was named president in September 2006 and CEO in January 2009. He proudly points to the core operating framework he adopted called the “Circle of Success.” It describes how the Diamondbacks organization needs to focus on five things:

  • Performance (on the field)
  • Community
  • Culture
  • Financial efficiency
  • Fan experience

You can tell a lot about a person’s true priorities when they are faced with difficult decisions. Last year was a very tough season for the Diamondbacks, winning the fewest games in MLB. It would be easy for Hall to blindly focus on the team performance. But Hall is so committed to the culture, fan experience, and community items that he told me that the organization was cutting baseball payroll this year instead of cutting those other items.

I asked Hall about the connection between baseball operations and the rest of the organization, which is an area that I’ve seen clearly split-up within other professional sports teams. Hall told me hated places that he had worked where there was a sense of “us” and “them.” Hall lets players know that they are part of the broader organization and many of them show up with their families for team holiday parties and barbecues. Hall also actively encourages players to improve the fan experience. He sends hand written notes to players thanking them for signing autographs during batting practice.

Hall talks about his “one fan at a time” philosophy. He explained that there is a lot of competition for fans’ attention, and many things they could do instead of going to a Diamondbacks game. So he wants to be aggressive at winning and retaining every fan. That’s why he implemented a customer service policy called FAWTSY (Find A Way To Say Yes). The organization quickly responds to every voice mail, text message, and email, viewing every complaint as an opportunity to improve. The team also assigns people to proactively reach out to every season ticket holder and holds focus groups with 20 season ticket holders on every home stand.

Culture & Innovation CenterDespite the focus on fans, Hall made it clear that “the fan doesn’t come first, employees do.” He told me that if employees feel respected and taken care of, then they will treat the fans the way that the organization wants them to be treated (I couldn’t agree more, see our Employee Engagement Resources).

The Diamondbacks use several mechanisms to engage employees. Instead of celebrating people leaving with going away parties, the organization starts employees on the right foot with arrival parties. Hall also holds a “President’s Roundtable Lunch” with 13 to 15 randomly selected employees every month. The first Friday of the month the team holds a session over lunch called “On the Couch with D-Hall,” where Hall discusses what’s going on with the team in the format of a late night show.

Hall takes culture so seriously that he renamed the front office as the “Culture & Innovation Center.” The Diamondbacks have won a lot of awards for the quality of their work environment. According to the Diamondbacks website, the organization was named by Yahoo! as “the best workplace in sports” and named the “Most Admired Company for Workplace Culture” by AzBusiness Magazine and BestCompaniesAZ for the seventh consecutive year.

Hall sets the tone for his organization. He told me “I like to thank every one of my ushers with a hand shake and a hug” because he wants them to feel important. He sends the game day staff notes and letters and mentions them by name in the team magazine. He also doesn’t believe in watching the game from a private box, unless he is hosting someone like the commissioner. He likes to sit with the fans and shake their hands and listen to what they have to say. He tries to get to any fan that is hit by a ball to make sure they are okay, then gives them his personal card. And when he sees trash on the ground, he does what he wants all of his staff to do–pick it up and throw it away.

What does Hall see as his next “big thing” in fan experience? Creativity in technology. He envisions a fan experience that blends the best of two worlds: the comfort and information watching the game at home on a large screen TV and the excitement of seeing a game live in the stadium.

I’m not surprised that Hall was named as the “Best Boss” in sports in 2013 by TeamWork Online.

The bottom line: Customer-centric organizations need leaders like Derrick Hall.

Don’t F*ck Up The Culture, Says Airbnb CEO

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb recently wrote a post, Don’t Fuck Up the Culture. It’s a note that he sent to all of the Airbnb employees. It’s a good, short read. Here’s an excerpt:

Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to fuck up the culture.

My take: Chesky is absolutely correct. Culture is a manifestation of an organization’s true values and it shows up in a myriad of ways. It can be an invaluable asset when it’s good and an insurmountable obstacle when it’s bad. It aligns the thinking and actions of employees in ways that are even more powerful than controls and measurement.

I’ve been writing about this topic for a while, so I went back into the Customer Experience Matters way-back machine and found three very relevant blog posts from 2008:

In Inspiration Trumps Coercion And Motivation, I included what I believe is a seminal quote on the topic from Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines:

If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.

In Discussing Zappos’ Culture With Tony Hsieh, I write about my interview with Zappos’ CEO. Here are a few of the takeaways from that discussion:

  • Tony doesn’t want to prescribe actions for employees that show how much Zappos cares about customers; he wants employees to do things because they genuinely care about customers.
  • Zappos uses its culture as a reason to hire and fire people. All new hire candidates have a separate interview with the HR department that focuses just on cultural fit.
  • Tony offers this advice to Zappos employees: It’s completely up to you guys. I can’t force the culture to happen; so part of your job description is to display and inspire the culture.

In Management Imperative #1: Invest In Culture As A Corporate Asset, I offered four ideas about how execs can manage their corporate culture assets. Here’s the first one on the list:

Track employee goodwill. When companies buy other companies, they often account for part of the price as “goodwill;” acknowledging that items like brand name and competitive positioning can be long-term assets. Following this approach, companies should track “employee goodwill.” How? By surveying employees and reporting the results like you report the balance sheet; analyzing quarterly snapshots and changes over time. Think about creating a metric from  questions like “How committed are you to helping the company achieve it’s mission and objectives?” “How likely are you to recommend this company as a place to work to your family and friends?

I also feel the need to point to a blog post from 2009, Fundamental Flaws In Management Education. This post discusses a fantastic article written by Sumantra Ghoshal, a leading business thinker. Here’s an excerpt:

Unlike theories in physical science, theories in social science tend to be self-fulfilling. A management theory that catches hold, therefore, can change the behavior of managers who act in accordance with that theory. As Ghoshal states, “the “scientific” approach of trying to discover patterns and laws have replaced all notion of human intentionality with a firm belief in causal determinism for explaining all aspects of corporate performance.” In other words, the belief that management is a social science has removed any humanistic traits (like corporate culture) from the equation about what drives corporate performance.

The bottom line: Don’t f*ck up your culture

Leadership Principles for Changing Corporate Culture

I just read a couple of articles about an important topic, corporate culture. The first one, The Rise of the Chief Culture Officer, describes how companies are appointing “Chief Culture Officers.” Here’s an interesting quote from one of those new execs, Maria Gendelman, from North Jersey Community Bank:

I’m there to make sure that every single piece of paper that we give to the customer all looks the same, that our processes are efficient and streamlined — all of those things touch culture.

The other article is an interview with John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management. Here’s what Taft says about culture:

Culture is everything when it comes to responsible, long-term business success… A leader’s job is to discover, communicate and reinforce culture. If you don’t get culture right, nothing else matters.

My take: Company culture is an integral component of long-term success with customer experience. In our recent research The State of CX Management, 2012, we found that one of the most significant things that distinguishes companies that are CX leaders from their peers is a heightened focus on culture.

Executives may be able to mandate a few activities within a company, but corporate culture determines just about everything else in one way or another. Leadership guru Arthur Carmazzi does a great job of describing the value of corporate culture in this quote that I used in the post Management Imperative #1: Invest In Culture As A Corporate Asset:

“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.”

I talk about the intersection of culture and CX as Customer-Centric DNA, defined as:

“A strong, shared set of beliefs that guides how customers are treated.”

Here are some principles that execs should keep in mind about changing their corporate culture and building customer-centric DNA:

  • People generally conform to their environment (see 6 Laws of Customer Experience: Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated). So pay very close attention to the environment that you are creating.
  • Culture is very slow to move, because it often outlasts the senior executive team. Make sure you only attack the portions of the culture that you are truly committed to changing.
  • The first step of changing corporate culture is to fully understand the existing culture. It is important to frame the change in terms of explicit contrasts between the current behaviors and the desired future behaviors.
  • It’s likely that many of your existing leaders are reinforcing the current culture, in ways that they probably don’t even recognize. So changing your corporate culture will likely require some management turnover. As Pablo Picasso once said: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”
  • Any leader who wants to transform her organization needs to adopt the three characteristics of transformational leaders: Communicate “why,” model desired behaviors, and reinforce change.
  • Use the 6 C’s of customer-centric culture as levers for change: Clear beliefs, constant communications, collective celebrations, compelling stories, commitment to employees, and consistent tradeoffs.
  • Finally, I’m not a big fan of the Chief Culture Officer position. I’d like to see Chief People Officers (heads of HR) step up to the plate and integrate culture as a core component of their organization’s work. Without culture in mind, how effective can an HR organization be at recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, reviewing, compensating, training, promoting, and outplacing employees?!?

The bottom line: Are you focusing enough on your corporate culture?

Building A Culture Of Service At Cowboys Stadium

I recently spoke with Paul Turner, director of event operations at the Dallas Cowboys stadium. He was recruited to this position from the Philadelphia Eagles 2.5 years ago.

According to Turner, his department is the watchdog for the overall guest experience and the quality of the show and his job is to make sure that there is an infrastructure to consistently deliver on all of the promises that the sales team makes. Here’s how he framed his responsibilities: “We are in the experience business; we can’t guarantee a win.”

Creating a consistently good event experience is not an easy task. There are only a handful of events every year, so most of the game-day staff is made up of part-time employees — and it’s a very diverse workforce. Making the situation even more difficult, there are many organizations working at the Stadium, including other companies like the food service provider, Legends Hospitality.

Paul’s approach has been to create a “culture of service” that is built around the organization’s service mission statement:

We are service professionals at the world’s finest venue creating an exceptional experience for our guests in a safe, clean and friendly environment

The mission statement was created by doing research with the senior executives, so it is widely supported by the Cowboy’s executive team. Turner is empowered by the feeling that even Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, is supportive of this mission statement.

Part of the indoctrination for all new employees is to break down the service mission statement into its component parts, beginning with the first word. Employees are taught that  ““We” we are all in this together. We collectively succeed or fail.” And with “service professionals,” employees are made to recognize that the organization plans to treat them like professionals; which, in return, means that they will be held to a high standard of performance.

The staff is also trained on the service mission statement at the beginning of every season and it is reinforced in just about every communication. It’s at the top of all of their game-day materials and training collateral.

Because of the periodic nature of the events, they can’t burden employees with a lot of procedural knowledge. Employees are given a handbook and told that they’ll be doing the right thing if they use the mission statement as their guide.

What does Turner consider his biggest accomplishment? He’s seen a lot of buy-in and the organization hasn’t gotten distracted with a lot of messages; it’s stayed focus on the service mission statement. Turner explained that with a casual workforce, you need consistency.

And, yes, I did admit to Paul that I am a Patriots fan. But only at the very end of our discussion. 🙂

The bottom line: There’s a lot of power in simple, consistent messages

European Firms Focus More On Culture And Brand

In the recent Temkin Group report Customer Experience Accelerates In 2011, we examined the 2011 customer experience plans of large companies ($1 billion+). I decided to compare some of the data across North American and Westen European companies for for a slightly larger group of companies ($500 million+).

The data sample for the EU companies (52) is not large, so the data is indicative albeit not necessarily statistically significant.

In this post, let’s look at the areas of focus for customer experience in 2011…

A whopping 92% of European firms plan to increase their efforts in building a customer-centric culture in 2011. EU firms also plan to be considerably more aggressive than NA firms in building an internal understanding of their brands.

North American firms, on the other hand, have more aggressive plans to work on their measurements and metrics.

The bottom line: There’s a lot more going on in customer experience this year

Inside Ritz-Carlton’s Customer-Centric Culture

I just read an interesting interview in Forbes with Simon Cooper, president of the Ritz-Carlton, who provides some insight into Ritz-Carlton’s customer-centric culture. Here are some of Cooper’s remarks:

  • We focus on three fundamentals. First, location–making sure we get absolutely the best location. Second, product–building the right physical product for what our guests want today and what they will want tomorrow. That’s the platform. Third, people–our ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. They animate the platform.
  • We use what we call “lineup,” which is a Ritz-Carlton tradition… we want every single hotel, everywhere in the world, every partner, every shift, to utilize lineup, which typically takes around 15 minutes every day…That is a wonderful training and communication tool, where every department layers on the department message.
  • Part of the lineup everywhere around the world is a “wow story,” which means talking about great things that our ladies and gentlemen have done.
  • We entrust every single Ritz-Carlton staff member, without approval from their general manager, to spend up to $2,000 on a guest. And that’s not per year. It’s per incident… The concept is to do something, to create an absolutely wonderful stay for a guest.
  • A culture is built on trust. And if leadership doesn’t live the values that it requires of the organization, that is the swiftest way to undermine the culture.

My take: As you may remember, I wrote about my less-than-ideal experience at the Ritz-Carlton in Puerto Rico. After I wrote that post (and complained at the front desk), one of the managers called me, apologized for our problems, and offered us a free dinner in the hotel’s nicest restaurant. It was a great meal; and it created a positive impression of the hotel.

As you can see from Cooper’s remarks, this type of customer-centric behavior is no accident. Ritz-Carlton empowers its “ladies and gentlemen” to deliver great experiences for customers. To get a better sense of how this hotelier operates, take a look at the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards.

If you want to develop a customer-centric culture, here are some additional posts that should help:

The bottom line: A customer-centric culture takes purposeful leadership.

Yum! Tunes Culture For Breakthrough Results

Yum! Brands (owners of brands like KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) identified three key initiatives across its brands: 1) selling more healthy items; 2) offering a greater variety of drinks; and 3) changing menus according to the time of day. But the company was not in a position to take on these bold initiatives. According to an article in the Economist:

The main obstacle to such ideas was Yum!’s corporate culture, in which different brands and operations in different countries had little to do with one another, slowing the spread of new initiatives.

When Yum!’s CEO Dave Novack visited its very successful Chinese organization, he noticed employees using terms such as “future back vision”, “bold request” and “action versus activity” which had created “a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo.” It turns out that many of these ideas came from John O’Keeffe, a management consultant.

That’s why the company engaged O’Keeffe on what Novack calls the “biggest culture-change initiative in the world today.” O’Keeffe helped create Yum!’s “Achieving Breakthrough Results” program which was designed to be passed down from manager to subordinates across the company — starting with the company’s top 200 executives.

My take: Kudos to Novack for recognizing that Yum!’s culture is a critical element of the company’s performance. He’s clearly practicing the first of my 6 New Management Imperatives: “Invest in culture as a corporate asset. ”

While CEOs can push some change into their organizations, corporate cultures determine the effectiveness of those efforts. In some cases, a corporate culture will accelerate results while in others it will dampen or even block the results.

If corporate culture is hampering your company’s performance, then it’s time to address the issue. Rather than continuing to waste money and time on partially successful initiatives, you should make the long-term investment in improving your corporate culture.

The bottom line: Figure out if your culture is an asset or an obstacle.

Use Storytelling To Define Your Culture

Stories are a critical component of corporate culture. That’s why one of my 6 Cs of customer-centric DNA is “Compelling Stories.” Author Philip Pullman once said: 

‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.

So I was intrigued when I found a story called “Telling Tales: The art of corporate storytelling” in a 2007 edition of a magazine for Costco’s members.

The article offers-up advice for developing your corporate stories, which I’ve refined into these five items:

  • Identify what stories you want; select key elements of your culture.
  • Craft powerful stories; look for good stories and then write them down and perfect them.
  • Use an employee’s name; specificity is good and it helps boost morale.
  • Keep it short; if it’s too long, it’s hard to remember and repeat.
  • Use and re-use the story; don’t be shy in retelling the story.

One word of caution: Make sure you’re being honest. The stories will only work if they reinforce actual pieces of your culture. So you need top be clear about how your company operates. As Jack Welch is known for saying: Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be

The bottom line: Tell stories with a purpose

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