Cultivating a Customer-First Culture

September 5, 2017

The following post is part of a series that will help inform readers about the importance of Customer Experience. The series will provide best practices and tactics for turning your customers into loyal advocates of your brand. Previous posts in the series can be accessed via the following links:

I’m a firm believer that a great culture is one of the most valuable aspects of any company. When I am interested in working for a company, I look at it’s current culture before I look at how much a role pays. And that’s not just the millennial in me — it’s a matter of  long-term motivation and deeper emotional connection. I’d like to try and work this same overall perspective that culture is a highly valuable business asset — into making the case for the importance of creating a customer-first culture.

There is this gigantic culture conversation to be had from a perspective that has been significantly less written about but has drastic impact to a company’s bottom-line and revenue trajectory. Lots of the existing conversation and to-do about building customer-first cultures or “going customer-first” kicked off over a decade ago, but is still very much in a stage of evolution. Companies have been slower to adopt to the model than predicted, and it truly confuses me what the hurdle actually is when the return numbers tell a powerful story — so I started to research.

Creating a customer-first culture is a hurdle for many companies despite its proven benefits and high returns.

While yes there are certainly known and well-respected leaders in this area, especially since the Fast Company’s article wrote that piece, but let’s litmus test some of the challenges the piece discusses and see where most companies stand against them:

  • Market forces such as offshoring are transforming service.
  • Too many CEOs are removed from the customer.
  • Coddling customers can seem like an expensive frill in tough times, a cost to be cut when it’s time to make next quarter’s number.

Anatomy of a customer-first culture:

  • Brand attributes  
  • High-quality customer service
  • Rich in offering a personalized experience
  • Providing the feeling of being well-served
  • Promoting values that customers believe in on a moral and ethical level (for example, online shoe retailer TOMS One-for-One model)
  • Other commonalities that bind the company and customer beyond the product and service offered

Culture is one of those topics that has been discussed at length, especially at companies with reputation crushing ones like at Wells Fargo or Uber. Yet, there is an aspect of culture that is not discussed too often in strategy meetings: the culture a company has to offer a customer or client.

Building and sustaining a culture that centered around a company’s culture is no easy feat, but the hard work and diligence is one that pays dividends. Look at the hand-over-fist success at Southwest, Amazon, or Nordstorm to see for yourself.

Rich experiences are leading brands like these who are not only charting the course for customer experience best practices, but are setting example by embracing a customer-first culture through and through as part of a holistic CX strategy.

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