Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, Author, When Digital Becomes Human
I run a lot of workshops with business leaders based around customer centricity, and I am always delighted to hear so many managers are completely bought into the dream of making their organisation the most customer-centric company in their industry, if not the world.
Personally, I really love that level of ambition, and it always bodes well for enthusiastic and productive sessions. That is, until the reality dawns in the room that in order to be the most customer-centric company it is an ambition the whole company needs to share, and they are going to need the very best employees to make it a reality.
It is easy for leaders to doubt whether their teams share their ambitions, but the interesting thing is the vast majority of people do really want to be customer-centric – I wholeheartedly believe that. Being customer-centric is fun, plain and simple, and staff thrive on the positive energy that is generated by helping others. Of course everyone has their own personality, ambitions and style, but most people would agree that helping others makes us feel good about ourselves, and that certainly includes customers.
The strange thing is, people love to help clients but they don’t do it. The main reason behind this is to do with the context they are working in. If business leaders can create a context of customer centricity, most of your employees will do a good job in this context, but all too often a context is created where other elements of the business are seen as more important than customers, so people will naturally focus on those other priorities.
For a business leader, one of the key factors in creating the right context in the business is your communication. If you make a bold statement to the business that you want them to be customer-centric, but then give out negative feedback every time staff come up with an interesting idea to help a client (e.g. “Don’t you realise how expensive that is?!”), then you are creating the wrong context.
Secondly, the evaluation system in the business is crucial. If you evaluate and assess people on how well they sell, their focus will naturally be on selling. To become a truly customer-centric organisation, it is down to the leaders of the business to change the mindset from purely focusing on financial results and establish an evaluation system that puts happy customers as a priority. Only then will teams have a context that allows them to be truly customer centric.
I was recently waiting in line at a gas station and came across a perfect example that illustrates my point. There were two lines of three people, and when it was eventually my turn and I stepped forward the gas station employee put a sign in front of my face that said “please go to the next cash register, this line is closed.” This certainly surprised me, but when I asked the guy why he had done it, his answer was honest: “Sir, it is 7.50am and my boss told me I have to stock the cigarettes before 8am.”
Now, I am sure the boss of that gas station would say he believes that happy clients are important, but he is inadvertently creating the wrong context. The employee was embarrassed – he had wanted to serve me, but because of the situation that management’s orders had created he wasn’t able to serve to the best of his ability.
If you do really want to create and lead a customer-centric business, the key priority of the leadership team should be creating a context of customer centricity. And if you get it right, both your customers and your employees will love it.
About the Author
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is author of When Digital Becomes Human, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com
[Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]