All organizations, big or small, have a unique corporate culture that has been nurtured and mastered over the years. A company’s culture is its basic personality and the essence of how employees interact and work. It is the sum of company beliefs, ethics, expectations, goals, value and mission. The company culture is normally where brand promises are either kept or broken.
Corporate cultures are continuously self reinforced and slow to evolve. What people feel, think, and believe in is inherent on how they live their personal and work lives. Efforts to massively change it with something new seldom works as hoped because it normally does not get to the heart and soul of what motivates employees.
Newly created mission statements changing to a customer centric culture from corporate leaders are critical and important first steps however, without more, employees will return to their current behaviors as soon as the messages are read and the town hall meetings have ended. The real challenge for leaders is to align employee beliefs and their behavior. Changing behaviors is the most powerful cause of real change. What we actually do in life matters much more than what we say or believe. The follow-up steps in changing culture is to begin identifying and changing the most critical behaviors that impact a customer’s experience and the mindsets will follow. Over time these behavior changes become the new norm and your customer centric culture slowly begins to evolve.
A company who lives and embraces a true customer centric culture conducts business with customers in such a way that provides them a positive experience throughout each and every interaction they have with your brand. Its more than offering great customer service, it means making a connection with your customers emotionally, operationalize customer empathy, offering a great experience beginning at the awareness stage, through the purchase cycle and continuing with post purchase support. Customer empathy is the ability to identify a customer’s emotional need, understand the reasons behind it and respond to it in such a way that creates an emotional bond with the customer. It’s a strategy of putting your customers first and at the core of your entire business. It is your north star that everyone sees and follows. The benefits of having highly satisfied customers will mean increases in retention, loyalty, new business, repeat business and ultimately profits.
When you put your customer at the core of your business and combine it with your CRM system you have a wealth of data and the beginnings of a full 360 view of the customer. This data can now be used to enhance your customer experience by:
- Understanding buyer behavior, hobbies, interests and engagement
- Identify customers who are actively shopping to determine any potential risks for losing customers
- Determine marketing strategy on where best to activate new customers for the brand, where to upsell, cross sell, satisfy, retain and repeat.
- Use customer lifetime value data to segment customers and tailor offerings to meet their desires and goals
Two very important things happened during the economic slowdown of the mid to late 2000’s. The first is customers became more selective in which brand they choose to spend their money with and brand winners were the ones who treated their customers with respect, offered great service and build an emotional relationship that still lasts even today.
Also during this time social media marketing and social selling became a huge part of the customer’s buying journey. Customers can now compare products and services in real time across multiple devices, compare prices, read reviews and ultimately purchase the product. Brands who recognized this event early and responded quickly to meet their customer’s new expectations were the clear winners early on. Companies who are unable to recognize and embrace this challenge are unable to become customer centric.
Brands embracing these customer’s changing expectations are delighting them with products and services they may not even have thought of yet but will immediately fall in love with. They create products, processes and services that is designed to support customers with a great overall shopping experience as they make their personal journey reaching their life’s goals
An important point to call out is that the investment choices senior leadership teams make, either in human or budget resources, go a long way to prove or disprove how strongly they feel and support their platitudes about customer centricity.
Two best practices that stand out for me along with corporate brand examples that senior leadership supports with both people and budget resources are the following:
- Brands that are committed to customer centricity are passionate and really believe that without customers, they cannot succeed in business and strive to see the world through their customer’s eyes. Ritz-Carlton empowers employees to make on the spot decisions to satisfy and delight without fear of making a mistake. They have the ability to spend up to $2,000 to ensure guests have an enjoyable stay without receiving management approval.
For example, a family with 3 young children arrived for a weekend and on the last night they dined at the hotel’s restaurant and the youngest child left his small stuffed animal hidden between 2 seats. The server found it during closing time and since it was too late to deliver that evening they planned a fun way to present it to the child the next morning before they checked out. The wait staff positioned and took pictures of the stuffed animal to look like it was dining in the restaurant, playing the piano and cooking in the kitchen. They then printed all of the photos and created a book of ‘adventures’ the young child’s stuffed animal experienced during the evening and delivered the book to him the next morning. Needless to say the family was ecstatic.
- Brands that are committed to customer centricity focus on building relationships designed to maximize customer’s product and service experiences. Zappos.com an online shoe and clothing store have a core value which includes giving their customers a WOW service experience, while being innovative and innovative in their approach.
For example, contrary to normal industry accepted call duration metrics, Zappos does not hurry its customers just to be within a call metric. A few years ago a customer service representative took a call with a customer that lasted 10 hours and 29 minutes! While the conversation most likely went well beyond clothes and shoes, the caller did purchase a pair of Ugg boots. When asked about this a Zappos representative explained that at times people just want or need to talk and we do not judge, we just want to help.
Another example is when a groom to be purchased his best man’s shoes from Zappos. Unfortunately, the courier routed his package to the wrong location and wouldn’t be arriving until the day after the wedding. After alerting Zappos of the problem the company offered to overnight a replacement pair of shoes at no cost and even gave the groom a complete refund.
The implications and challenges for Insurance carriers lies with the successful streamlining and integration of data (no more silos) and the expansion of digital capabilities within their customer centric culture. Consumers want to interact with their insurer through the channel of their choice via quick and simple transactions at any place, any time and on any device. They expect real time responses for help that are personalized and relevant. They also expect that their insurer as a true 360 degree view of their products, services an interactions and thus expect to receive tailored help and messages tailored specifically for them.
Ideally insurers need to access and analyze all available customer internal and public data to determine their desires, life goals, fears and shopping behaviors to develop products and services specifically for them before they recognize the need themselves. Insurers who effectively achieve this will truly distinguish themselves in the marketplace.
The shift to becoming truly customer centric is both long and complex, but do not be intimidated by either as the benefits of even small changes to corporate policies or procedures can significant impacts to your organization with regards to customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
Guest blog post by Bill Simon, WJS Digital Consulting, LLC
Successful visionary marketing and digital leader with extensive experience in creating and implementing corporate strategy to evolve from an inside-out, product focused customer experience culture to a outside-in customer centric experience culture. Recognized for developing strong relationships with an ability to lead and bring people together on a vision and effectively interact with executives on all levels of an organization. Passion for helping companies succeed with effectively reaching customers on their current shopping journey where they are completely in charge of their buying process involving multiple devices, multiple locations and multiple activities all at the time of day they choose.