In today’s ever-changing business environment, organizations must stay customer-focused. Customers today have many options on who they choose to do business with. The customer voice has become a powerful phenomenon that every business cannot ignore. That’s why every business leader needs to make it a priority to cultivate and lead a customer-focused culture to compete and thrive in the global economy.
This customer focus is the impact of employees and managers building a customer culture for those who want to maintain a competitive advantage in the market place. Culture can drive the organization toward success and create more raving fans. Its actions and results will speak louder than words. Culture guides how employees think, act and feel. It is the “operating system” of any company, the organizational DNA.
Companies like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Apple, Marriott and Starbucks have mastered the art of creating a customer-focused culture. However, they didn’t start with their customers. They started with their employees. As a result of taking care of their employees, the employees took care of their customers.
By working with the best brands in the hotel industry for almost 20 years as a brand trainer, I learned to appreciate and cultivate a customer-focused culture. I always had the passion for training and developing customer service teams to engage and delight hotel guests. The results can be very rewarding. You learn that customer loyalty is something you work very hard at by providing leadership to your front-line employees. These employees are the face of your business. We call them brand ambassadors.
So what can leaders do to create a customer-focused culture?
Develop a customer-focused vision, values and strategy.
Leaders must articulate what the desirable culture and values should be to establish a service mindset and behaviors towards customers. At many of the hotels I was part of, we developed service standards that became an essential foundation for developing strategies and actions that enhanced customer focus and customer experience. Everyone in the organization must know what the vision, values and business strategy is. When employees have clarity and can align their company’s vision, values and strategy, the more momentum the organization has.
Gain employees buy-in, commitment and focus of company’s leaders
When you are sharing the vision, values and strategy, employees at all levels must take part in the process and feel like they can contribute to creating a customer-focused culture. The idea here is to generate commitment and buy-in from the people who will interact with the customer on a daily basis. Take the time to listen and generate ideas from your teams to find out the best way to deliver service excellence. Everyone on your team should feel empowered and willing to make a positive contribution.
Develop customer culture behaviors that makes your company unique.
Customers are looking for unique experiences that intrigues them to try something new and exciting. After all, what’s different about you? Aside from products and services, what else are you doing to add value to your customers? One of the best ways leaders can develop this idea, is to encourage customer engagement behaviors that can make the customer experience unique and valuable. For example, we try to learn more about our guests whether they have a special occasion or we simply want to create an experience of surprise and delight for them. We empower our team to create memories for our guests by going the extra mile to make the customer experience an extraordinary one.
Refresh people customer service skills and tools to support customer-focused culture.
As guardians of customer-focused culture, leaders and managers need to play an ongoing role in upskilling, coaching and mentoring their teams to higher levels of customer excellence. Leaders and their teams must continue to sharpen their saw by on-going customer service training because it keeps people motivated and more engaged in their day to day interactions with customers. There is always room for improvement to improve your current levels of customer service to create more loyalty and employee engagement.
As a leader, you should be able to act as a role model and advocate for customer-focused-culture. You can begin with the following questions:
- Have we clearly identified our customers, their needs and the value we want to deliver to them every day?
- Have we clearly defined our service standards and expected customer interactions of team members based on customer’s feedback?
- Do we have an empowered team, open to new ideas and tools that connect with strategic customer business priorities?
- Are we measuring the impact our daily engagement is having on customer satisfaction and business performance?
- Are we measuring and benchmarking our own customer culture and setting targets for future improvement?