Communications, Training, and Routines: How Companies Socialize Customer Centricity

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Companies that want to create a more customer-centric culture must socialize customer focus among all employees. Socialization includes three sets of activities: Communicate the importance of customer-centricity, train employees to deliver the intended experience, and reinforce customer centricity with routines.

Companies that want to create a more customer-centric culture must socialize customer focus among all employees. Socialization includes three sets of activities: Communicate the importance of customer-centricity, train employees to deliver the intended experience, and reinforce customer centricity with routines.

Communicate the importance of customer centricity. Effective communications programs share updates with employees about initiatives to reinforce customer focus, and highlight the importance of customer experience to the organization. As part of their customer-centric communication programs, companies should connect senior leaders with frontline employees, create and share customer experience principles, and ensure that all corporate communications reinforce customer focus.

Companies like Avis Budget Group and E-Trade focus on changing the tone and content of all corporate communications. To ensure consistent delivery of their customer-centric messages, Avis Budget Group consolidated responsibility for all operational communications to frontline workers in one team. On a weekly basis, the team shares customer success stories, as well as a quote from their president that helps to reinforce the customer-centric behaviors the company expects from frontline employees.

General Motors (GM) assigned leaders the task of explaining the new customer focus to their respective departments. Involving senior leaders in this way reinforced to all employees that customer centricity was now an organizational imperative.

Train employees to deliver the intended experience. Companies need to provide employees with training that highlights the importance of customer experience and connects it with job-specific competencies. That training should ground employees in customer experience fundamentals. Cleveland Clinic, for example, trained all 42,000 employees in their four patient experience principles. They followed that up with a video about empathy that showed the importance of treating patients and colleagues well.

Customer experience training should also integrate with existing programs for new hires, managers, and functional training for different parts of the organization. BMO Financial Group's Institute for Learning and development team integrated an interactive version of its customer experience learning map into new hire orientation training (See Below). Its CX learning map is also a foundational part of the compulsory one-day customer experience program within its Leader Development program.

Reinforce customer centricity with routines. Companies can help employees maintain a customer-centric focus by implementing routines that remind employees of how to act. To support customer-centricity, companies should regularly listen to the voice of the customer, collect and share customer success stories, and create regular celebrations of customer-centric employees.

When E-Trade's new CEO joined the company in 2013, one of the first things he did was to listen to 20 hours of call center recordings. That listening binge was the starting point for a new organizational routine of reviewing call center recordings to understand both the issues customers were calling about, and also how frontline employees handled those interactions.

Canadian airline WestJet collects stories of great customer experiences through its Kudos program. Employees use the company intranet to submit stories that highlight colleagues delivering great external or internal customer experiences. WestJet also collects stories directly from customers, then adds them to the Kudos site after fact-checking them. Last year, they received nearly 20,000 combined submissions to the Kudos program.

Each year, H&R Block celebrates their most customer-centric employees. The 25 winners of the Henry W. Bloch Excellence In Client Service (HBCS) Awards are flown to company headquarters in Kansas City for a celebration of their achievements. The event includes lunch with founder Henry Bloch, and a banquet with senior executives. Visible celebrations like this demonstrate organizational commitment to delivering great customer experiences.

Transforming organizational culture to be customer centric isn't easy. Customer experience professionals should be prepared for a process that takes years. Later this month, I'll have a report out on this topic on Forrester.com, with recommendations for how companies can socialize customer focus with all employees. In the meantime, please share your thoughts about how companies can best socialize customer focus in the comments below.

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Sam Stern is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, serving Customer Experience professionals. Learn more about Forrester's customer experience practice at forrester.com/customerexperience.

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