Here are the six steps to a customer-centric culture
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Here are the six steps to a customer-centric culture

Here are the six steps to a customer-centric culture

Employees at customer-centric organisations have higher work satisfaction and perform better, reveals study

Known globally for its resilience, the UAE has sprung back from the pandemic with renewed vigour. Fitch Solutions projected real GDP growth for the country at 4.6 per cent in 2022, which is a sizeable surge from 2021’s 3.4 per cent. And as life returns to one of the world’s richest economies, we can expect its constituent businesses to fight hard for the hearts and minds of customers.

The customer-loyalty story is one of many characters. Throughout the pandemic, UAE shoppers could see the efforts being made to capture their attention, keep it, and monetise it. In the F&B industry alone, brands like Good Basket, Barakat Fresh and Kibsons competed through discounts, introductory offers, and loyalty schemes. Other innovators reinvented their entire business models. Emirates Catering created Foodcraft, an e-business that delivered recipe kits and oven-ready meals, to ensure the company’s staff could be retained.

Studies show employees of customer-centric organisations tend to have greater job satisfaction and perform better – which is good news, because employees are the foundation of customer–centric cultures, even if their role is not customer-facing. Each employee must understand the customer – who they are, what they want, and what their most common problems are. Here are the six proven steps to building a corporate culture that always puts the customer first.

Measure your current customer centricity
Employee-engagement surveys are a time-honoured way to get detailed information on what is working and what is not. By the end of the survey, you should know the extent of employees’ knowledge on how they contribute to the customer experience. You should know if managers consider the customer when they make decisions. And you should have feedback from employees on how well they believe the company treats customers.

Craft a vision
Once you have results from the assessment, the most senior managers can now sift through the findings and identify opportunities for CX improvement. It is essential that the C-suite be willing to pivot from an internal focus on operations and processes to a customer-first strategy – a McKinsey survey points out that prioritising the customer, along with improvements in operations and technology can positively impact customer and employee satisfaction and the bottom line.

Communicate the vision
Cultures are embedded in the corporate DNA, at the management, team, and individual level. Beyond its people, an organisation’s culture is embedded in its processes and even its technology. There is a lot to change, so start with the people involved in annual planning and corporate strategy. Budget priorities must align with CX needs, and strategy goals must be reinforced with measurement of customer-interaction outcomes. HR should use these measurements as the foundation of KPIs.

Teach empathy
Employees must be exposed to the customer experience, so they become aware of the pain points of the journey. Organisations should invite customers to team and company events to tell their stories and keep employees focused. Customer-experience insights should be shared with all employees, either face-to-face at meetings or through online dashboards and reports. Employees should have access to physical and virtual training spaces, and non-customer-facing employees should shadow sales and support teams to see the process in action.

Reinforce the message
An internal strategic communications plan is vital to keep customer-centricity alive. Keep sharing information and issue bulletins on success stories. Executives and managers at all levels should never stop talking about CX and the customer-centric mindset. They should never act like the transition is over and the destination has been reached. The new culture should be an ongoing journey in which customer-centric metrics are continually updated and shared. The goals and progress of the original vision should also be discussed regularly. The goals and results of CX metrics should be treated as equally relevant next to revenues and profits. Part of the ongoing communication should be the celebration of those employees that have done best in grasping the vision and executing it. Formal recognition programmes should both highlight their behaviours and leverage them to train other employees. Their stories can also be shared externally as a means to recruit others trained in customer-centricity.

Recruit employees with customer-centric mindsets
Now that the current workforce is customer-focused, it is time to look further. The success that enhanced CX will bring is going to lead to growth, which requires expansion of the workforce to ensure customer-centricity can continue. HR should look for ready-made customer-centric candidates. This will lead to less of a learning curve when the successful party is onboarded. As with current employees, the role is irrelevant. All candidates should be screened on the basis of their empathy and CX credentials.

And repeat…
Building new cultures takes time and effort. But with CX, it is worth it. The gains, however, can diminish if an organisation relaxes and thinks the job is done and the culture is embedded. Consistent work is required to ensure the customer-centric mindset does not shake loose. Do not allow sky-high net-promoter scores to make you over-confident. Be vigilant and keep repeating the mantra: “customer first”.

Mark Ackerman is the area VP – Middle East and Africa at ServiceNow

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