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5 Core Principles for a Customer Centric Organization

8 min read

Creating a superior customer experience requires the commitment of the entire organization. With buyers more than five times likely to buy from companies that provide a better customer experience, your success hinges upon it. Executive leadership must have a plan in place to help their organizations place customer needs first – or risk losing to the competition. As Chief Customer Officer at a public company, I’m verifiably customer obsessed. But, to spread that customer-centric focus throughout the organization requires more than can be done by a single person. In my professional background, I’ve found that by paying attention to the following core principles, leadership can make a huge difference in its ability to drive a better customer experience.

Principle #1. Make sure you set your team up for success

Your organization’s most precious resource is time. By increasing efficiencies and offloading routine tasks from your team, you give reps back time in the day – time that can be better spent engaging with and serving customers. This requires that they have the tools and technology to be effective and productive at their job. In addition to a CRM, such as Salesforce, you may want to consider a customer success platform, like Gainsight, or a sales acceleration technology. Both give you more insight into customer behaviors, so your team can deliver a better experience. With increased understanding, for example, you can more quickly identify opportunities such as upsells or cross sells. Or, you can spot new areas of interest by seeing how customers engage with your emails and content. Finally, make sure that reps can easily access all the data they need from their phones. Sales people live on mobile – give them the on-demand access to customer information that they need to respond effectively.

Principle #2. Use incentives to drive superior customer care

Incentives are widely used to drive desired behaviors for employees – and they’re proven to work. Which is why U.S. companies spend billions of dollars on incentives. Leveraging incentives to motivate positive behaviors that improve your customer care is arguably the best use of your company’s incentive dollars. The Forrester Research blog “Nine Ways to Reward Employees to Reinforce Customer-Centric Behaviors” explains that reward systems can be immensely powerful to keep employees focused on customers. Incentives can be used to recognize employees for going above and beyond the norm or giving them bonuses for providing premier customer care – perhaps demonstrated by a high satisfaction ranking. The blog reminds companies not to overlook the value of non-monetary rewards and recognition to drive performance. Try a few customer-based initiatives and see what incentives get the best response. If you work with millennials, you also need to factor in their preferences with any incentive plan. In addition to desiring more recognition, millennials are extremely tech and mobile savvy. If you want to improve customer care with the millennial crowd, your incentive compensation management (ICM) solution must make it easy and fun for them to access and track their progress throughout the quarter. Finally, be sure to deliver what you promise. Incentive payouts should be accurate and provided to winners in a timely fashion – otherwise, they lose their value.

Principle #3. ‘Walk the walk’ don’t just ‘talk the talk’

Show employees that customers come first. Make it a priority to establish and automate processes to respond to customers. Put customer response tactics in place across multiple channels – through online chat, help desk, email, social media engagement, and – yes – even the phone. Have a customer mission statement. Make sure the statement is conveyed frequently to employees and validate your customer mission through your own actions. Start a gratitude program to honor long-time customers or mark customer anniversaries. Consider hosting a buyer appreciation event. Highlight the significance and importance of customers in all internal communications. Behaviors are always, always driven from the top.

Principle #4. Meet their needs before they even know they have them

My company’s CEO, Chris Cabrera, likes to quote Henry Ford, who famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The point is that successful companies have the ability to give buyers what they’re not asking for – to delight them with something they didn’t even know they needed. Did anyone know that we needed a smartphone before Steve Jobs? Who would have thought that we needed the ability to listen to music from our phone or the use of a ‘cloud’ to store our digital assets more cost effectively and efficiently? Innovators thought of these solutions before most of us even knew we wanted them. Delivering continual innovation is a core principle of a customer-centric culture.

Principle #5. Train your team on your core customer values

Your customer values and methodologies must be integrated into your coaching and training programs. When you hire new employees, they should be educated about whom you sell to and what’s most important to them. This should be part of the onboarding process for everyone within the organization. Coach values from top to bottom. At Dreamforce’s Sales Summit, Ingersol Rand executive Melissa Nelson Tate shared how the company drove customer focus with a coaching program specifically designed for sales managers – training them to be the catalysts to drive better customer care within their teams. In the ‘Age of the Customer’ your business orbits around the buyer – not the other way around. This makes meeting their needs of utmost importance to your success. While I’m sure there are other techniques to strengthen customer focus, I’ve found that these core principles provide a powerful foundation to start the process.