Culture Change for Pragmatists

2017-07-08 |  Neil Sharp

One of the most interesting and often unnecessarily complex questions companies often ask themselves is how to manage and change their culture. There is no doubt it is complex in so far as there are a lot of moving parts to marshal and at the heart of it lies the most complex of creature – human kind. In CX management, if you have a culture that is not customer centric, it’s really the central area to start considering early on.

If you cannot get your people thinking “customer” in all aspects of their work, and at all levels of the organisation, it will have a hugely limiting effect on what you can achieve. Conversely, those companies that can start turning people’s heads in the right direction (outwards), really start to reduce barriers to progress.

How do you do it? How can you take something that is unseen, but hard-felt and pervasive and start managing it? Clearly there is no one size fits all solution. However, here are 3 key things (amongst many others) that we look at to assess an organisation’s current degree of customer centricity:

  • Motivation and engagement of people to deliver an ideal customer experience
  • Empathy with customers
  • Connection between day to day behaviours and the impact they have on CX

In our experience, companies that have these things nailed have done some or all of the following:

  1. They have a clearly defined Statement of Purpose which is relevant, achievable and motivating
  2. They have made it a priority to ensure that their people have heard it and understood what it means (an old adage of Marketing Communications is that you have to tell people a minimum of 5 times for them to have a chance of really hearing a message)
  3. They have a strategy for how to deliver that purpose to specific customer groups in a commercially rewarding (or viable if not-for-profit) way
  4. They have spent time understanding their customers’ needs and the role the organisation plays in their lives
  5. They have spent as much time as they need to really help their people understand the outputs from point 4
  6. They have recruited people with the traits and capabilities to deliver to the purpose and strategy and, most importantly, to help people (new and long-standing) work out what they can do to deliver against points 1-4 above – usually done bottom up rather than top down
  7. They gather feedback from customers about their emotional experience (i.e. how did it make them feel), share the results with everyone and act on the findings
  8. They gather feedback from their people about ways to improve serving customers and act on it (not a loosely defined “suggestion scheme” but a structured Voice of the Employee programme that feeds into the change agenda)
  9. They really do empower people to act on their own initiative to give the best possible experience through day to day actions and longer term change (this means “letting go” to an extent and moving away from pure “command and control”)
  10. They reward, recognise and celebrate the behaviours that lead to the desired customer outcomes and they work hard on changing those that don’t.

Quite a long list, but all relatively straight-forward if approached pragmatically and persistently. Of course, the above is not an exhaustive list of the things that impact a culture. However, I will guarantee (gulp) that if you work through the list above with real purpose and determination without watering down the intent, you will go some way towards creating a customer centric culture whilst most-likely reducing turnover and improving morale.

The best definition of Brand I have ever heard is:

“Brand when viewed from the customer perspective is the external manifestation of your internal culture”

Hence, if you buy into that definition, managing culture is directly linked to managing your brand. What more reason do you need to really have a go?