How to Become a Customer-Obsessed Organizational Culture

Post 6 in our Seven Steps to CX Nirvana Series explains how people, values, and business clarity are the keys to building an organizational culture totally obsessed with your customer. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can get there. Wondering how? Read on!

How to Become a Customer-Obsessed Organizational Culture

Throughout this blog series, I’ve been exploring the tectonic shift we’ve all noticed from customer-focused to customer-obsessed. We’ve heard countless times that our customers should be at the very heart of everything we do. Maybe we’ve even been told that we need new business models. But without something more fundamental — a customer obsessed organizational culture — none of this is possible.

And in most organizations, the barrier between customer obsession and the same old, same old, is simply people. Change is hard, and almost all of us choose the familiar over what feels risky.

So how can you begin the change to a customer experience, customer-obsessed culture? In my opinion, it comes down to the right people, the right values, and absolute clarity.

Your People: Everyone is “Customer-Facing”

Let’s all dispense with the outdated notion that some departments are customer-facing, while others are customer-irrelevant. Now, of course, some of your people will have more direct contact than others. No one is saying that your engineers or supply chain department should be handling support calls eight hours a day. 

But they should be having some regular interaction with your customers. Do they ever read support emails or chat logs? How about online reviews? Do they answer customer questions?

If your people are insulated by bureaucracy and an org chart, it’s easy for them to lose touch with what matters most — converting customers to fans and advocates. Customer experience is everyone’s job, and no one should ever feel distant or unconnected to daily customer concerns..

And yes, I know. Easier said than done. 

So what’s the remedy? Hire CX-Friendly Candidates

I wish I could tell you about all the jaw-dropping transformations I’ve seen over the years, from customer-oblivious to customer-obsessed. But that isn’t the case. Moving people out of their comfort zones and away from entrenched behaviors is so difficult. For that reason, I recommend hiring people who are already customer-oriented and empathetic, rather than assuming you can instill these values.

This means that you should hire for the culture you aspire to, the culture you need, not necessarily for the one that exists today.

Now comes the hard part. This might mean that some of your people need to simply move on. It’s never the first option, and it’s never pleasant. Unfortunately, you cannot create the right culture without the right people. Many other skills, such as creating a presentation or working with a particular software tool, can be learned rather quickly. But an employee who tends to view themselves, or their team, as an island will have a hard time ever seeing things through the customer’s eyes and allowing that to drive their decisions.

Your values: Expect Curiosity

Former Netflix VP Gibson Biddle gets it. He understands that organizations today must put customer experience ahead of everything else. I found this post by him so inspiring. During his time at Netflix, simply understanding the customer’s current problems wasn’t nearly enough. Instead, their goal was to understand the customer so well that they could anticipate and innovate new ideas for turning them into raving fans.

This difference might sound simple, but it represents a quantum leap, and requires rabid devotion and insatiable curiosity. They constantly developed and tested new hypotheses, and were always open to new insights — even when they went against everything they previously believed about what the customers wanted. Netflix was built around curiosity about customer experience.

And it isn’t just Netflix customers who crave personalized experiences. Consider this statistic. According to an Accenture survey, 81% of consumers want “brands to understand them better, and know when and when not to approach them.” This kind of next-level customer knowledge doesn’t come with the once-and-done survey or focus group. Instead, it only develops organically from a culture that values curiosity and experimentation.

Clarity: Making the Connection Clear

Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn those employees stuck in traditional, non-CX-obsessed cultures. In many cases, they may be simply unaware of how much customer experience impacts the bottom line — and their paychecks. But if the connection between CX and ROI isn’t made consistently clear, part of the blame must lie with management.

Are you sure you’re adequately communicating that relationship throughout your business? In product development, logistics and supply chain, customer support, and every department? As I said earlier, I still believe that hiring CX -oriented people is a better approach than attempting to change everyone’s minds. But you can’t, and shouldn’t, replace everyone. And the shift will take time.

The Stakes Are High, but So Are the Rewards

Customers are not passive consumers waiting with open arms for our products and services. The truth is, they never were. But today, more than ever, our success is tied to their experience with us. And that experience can only be delivered through an organizational culture with the right values and people. Maybe Amazon said it best:

“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Changing your culture is tough. If you’d like an outside perspective on how to implement customer obsession in your organization, feel free to reach out to me. I help small and midsize companies focus on what matters most.

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