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What does Customer Centric actually mean?

Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale. A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience. Does the business you are involved in fall into the category? Well, these are the indicators: –
 
  • Puts customers above everything else.
  • Enhances the buyers experience, promotes sales and works to ensure customer loyalty, above all.
 

Here’s my list of seven steps for creating a customer-centric culture at your company.

 
These figure in my work as a company culture consultant; I've found them to be central to creating a corporate customer service culture that’s devoted from top to bottom to the customer experience. I am recapping the list here at the request of a MarketHive reader; I hope you find it useful.
 
 
1. Articulate your central philosophy in just a few words, a few meaningful words. That’s right: a company’s culture can begin with words, but those words need to represent a decision – something you actually stand for, a decision then expressed in the clearest, and ideally fewest, words. Find a central operating principle. Think of the Ritz-Carlton’s“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” or Mayo Clinic’s “The needs of the patient come first.”
 
2. Elaborate on your central philosophy with a brief list of core values – a list short enough that every employee can understand, memorize, and internalize it, yet long enough to be meaningful. Your core values should cover how customers, employees, and vendors should be treated at all times.
 
3. Reinforce your commitment to these values continually. You may want to go as far as to devote five minutes every morning you stress one value, or an aspect of one value, at your departmental meeting. If that’s too often for your business reality or sensibilities, do it weekly. But don’t save it for the annual company picnic. Annual anything is the enemy of ‘‘core.’’
 
4. Make it visual. The above-mentioned Ritz-Carlton has ‘‘credo cards’’ – laminated accordion-fold cards that each employee carries during work hours. The brand’s entire core beliefs, plus shared basics of guest and employee interactions, fit on that card. Zappos highlights one of its core values on each box it ships out. And sometimes ‘‘visual’’ doesn't mean words at all. One way that FedEx shows that safety is a core value is via the orange shoulder belts in its vans: Everyone can see – from twenty-five yards away – that the driver’s wearing a belt.
 
5. Make your philosophy the focus of orientation. That way, if safety is one of your core values and you stress this at orientation, on day two, when the new employee’s co-worker tells him ‘‘In this restaurant, we stack the high chairs in front of the emergency exit when we need more room to do our prep work’’ [This is a real-life example, unfortunately], the new employee will experience cognitive dissonance and work on a way to align the actions of the company with the core values they’re supposed to reflect.
 
6. Train, support, hire, and, if necessary, use discipline to enforce what’s important to you. A core values statement is two-dimensional until you bring it to life – with the right people and energetic guidance. ‘‘Maintaining a culture is like raising a teenager,’’ says Ray Davis, President and CEO of Umpqua Bank, a the Pacific-Northwest-based U.S. retail bank that’s consistently top rated for service. ‘‘You’re constantly checking in. What are you doing? Where are you going? Who are you hanging out with?’’ And, sometimes, you have to use some tough love when that teenager is acting up in ways that don’t support the culture you’re working to build.
 
7. Include the wider world. Your people want to be part of an organization with a sense of purpose. Pizza parties and overtime pay (and even, believe it or not, stock options) only go so far. More inspirational: A version of a corporate “triple bottom line,” such as Southwest’s “Performance – People – Planet” commitment and annual report card. Or Ritz-Carlton’s “Community Footprints” social and environmental responsibility program. Or the story Umpqua Bank Regional VP Michele Livingston shared with me, about her employees visiting the homes of disabled customers to help them fill out their paperwork. Now that’s really something.
 

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Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


John Lombaerde

How to Create a Customer-Centric Culture

What makes the great companies so great? It’s the service and experience the customer receives when doing business with them. The companies that get it are customer-centric. They put the customer at the heart of decisions, ideas, marketing, system design and more.
 
 
 
It is definitely not the product. The product can be truly amazing, even a lifestyle changer, but that’s not what makes a company great. Take for example, cable television. Cable TV is truly amazing. When I was growing up, there were only four channels from which to choose. Today we have hundreds of channels to choose from with amazing high-definition clarity. We can record shows on the cable box to watch later, or watch movies and other programs ‘on demand,’ whenever we want to watch them. This is an amazing product. However, the cable TV industry, as a whole, delivers an abysmal customer experience. One of the less-than-customer-friendly policies: Asking a person to stay home on a workday to meet the cable TV installer during a four-hour window. That hardly seems customer-centric.
 
 
On the other hand, there are companies that sell the same products as everyone else, but the customer experience they offer really does set them apart. Ace Hardware is one of the best examples of this, having been awarded the JD Power award for highest customer satisfaction in its industry eight years in a row. These smaller, independently owned hardware stores compete against big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s and sell many of the same items as the big stores. 
 
 
However, many Ace Hardware stores are only one-tenth the size of one of these larger stores. Imagine an 8,000-square-foot store going up against an 80,000-square-foot store. And, these larger stores outspend Ace Hardware in advertising dollars by 30 to 1. Yet, Ace Hardware thrives in this competitive environment. So, what does Ace Hardware have to offer? The experience, which comes in the form of helpful customer service. As an Ace customer in Seattle put it, ‘Even though the prices can be, but are not necessarily, higher, the convenience and help are worth it.’
 
 
Ace doesn’t promise ‘friendly’ service. It promises helpful service, and there’s a difference. It’s the way Ace stores engage their customers, provide knowledgeable employees who help them with their projects, and deliver a higher-level customer experience.
 
 
Consider several reasons to create a customer-centric culture. I’ll argue that customer service can make the difference between a company’s ultimate success or failure. It can mean the difference between having loyal, repeat customers or one-time-only customers. And, it can mean the difference between customers’ rave reviews or online rants.
 
 
Steven Hodgkiss
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John Lombaerde

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