4 Keys to Customer Centric Culture

Updated: May 24, 2010

1. Communication. The vision and values that top management communicates, both verbally and behaviorally, set the tone and direction. What top management focuses on guides the thinking and efforts of the entire organization. The key is consistency: at every opportunity, continually communicate the necessity of making it easier and nicer for customers to get and use solutions. Consistency occurs in formal and informal meetings, written correspondence, external messages, and in every business process and every management ritual such as performance reviews, annual operating plans, performance dashboards, etc. Consistency builds trust and passion, which are necessary ingredients for true customer-centricity.

At USAA, which provides insurance solely to military families, customer-centricity is built by stepping into their customers' boots - during new-hire orientation, employees strap-on a military helmet, 65-pound backpack and flek vest, to build empathy for customers. They read real letters from troops in Iraq, eat a military MRE "meal ready to eat", and supervisors call them troops and use military time. As a result, USAA has a long history of topping industry lists for best customer service.

2. Skills. Customer-centric values and vision must be supported by proficiency in related technical and soft skills. Examine competency requirements for everyone - not just customer-facing roles - relative to your customer-centric values and vision. This includes channel partners, suppliers, and other external entities. Proficiency is the vital link between strategy and execution.

At Nordstrom, employees are selected on their capabilities to anticipate and meet people's needs. They're encouraged to try new approaches to selling and customer service, with the mantra use good judgment in all situations giving them a tremendous sense that they're trusted to always do right by the customer.

3. Accountability. What gets rewarded gets done - whether the rewards are tangible or intrinsic. Interestingly, intrinsic rewards have proven to be more powerful in adjusting a group's ways of thinking and doing. Risk tolerance and penalties also determine the degree to which customer-centricity takes root. Above all, monitor cause-and-effect and also perceptions of fairness in terms of logic and equity; these elements are pivotal to success.

At Enterprise Rent-a-Car, customer sentiment is measured at the rental office level. Only employees in offices that score at or above the overall company average are eligible for promotion, raises or bonuses. At EMC, achieving the target for their leading indicator of customer sentiment, system availability, is a go/no-go determinant of the bonus for the entire company.


4. Systems. Systems-thinking means acknowledging the big picture and linkages between its components. Scrutinize your business policies and procedures and tools for their contribution or detraction from the goal of making it easier and nicer for customers to get and use solutions. Systems include formal and informal inter-department communication and interactions and handoffs, and connections outside the enterprise.

At Dell, SVP of customer service Dick Hunter asked employees to send him notes about the inconsistent and dumb things the company was doing. Combining this input with customer's verbatim comments to their call center led to significant changes in the customer experience.

Featured Research
  • SMB CRM Providers Comparison Guide

    A good SMB CRM system can be an incredibly valuable asset for your business. As more businesses recognize this value, the amount of SMB CRM vendors is expanding quickly. Navigating the pricing plans, features, and service terms of all these can be a decision-making nightmare. more

  • CRM and Contact Center Integration

    One of the best ways to improve your customer service is to integrate your CRM and contact center software. Benefits of doing this include:Improved customer satisfaction through more personalized contacts, Better conversions on lead, and Increased employee productivity. more

  • CRM Providers Comparison Guide

    As more businesses recognize this value, the amount of CRM vendors is expanding quickly. There are well over 100 available in 2017. Navigating the pricing plans, features, and service terms of all these can be a decision-making nightmare. more

  • Your Guide to Social Customer Service

    Did you know that 67% of online consumers have used social media for customer service purposes?Unfortunately, many businesses ignore social mentions because they don’t know how to handle them appropriately. This is a problem because managing and responding to these mentions can make or break your brand. more

  • A Guide to Selecting a Customer Portal for your CRM

    This whitepaper provides a guideline for selecting the right customer portal solution for your CRM by following a three-stage process. By comparing in-house and third party SaaS products, we examine present business and technical portal requirements, which are then mapped against the upfront and hidden costs for development and future scalability needs. more