Nevertheless, simply saying you want to focus on customers isn’t the same thing as creating, developing and refining a genuinely customer-centric culture within the organization. That requires a conscious focus in strategy and a genuine commitment to putting the customer first in all transactions.
As customer experience consultant Ivan Golding notes, “If a business subconsciously believes it exists solely to make money, it will only focus on the things important to it (the business) in developing and deploying its strategy.”
Baillie Lumber, like others in the hardwood lumber industry, realizes we are in the people business and our job is to help our customers succeed. We’re as motivated to be a profitable enterprise as any other company, however, at the same time we know we need to have a commitment to serving our customers’ needs. It is, and has been a key part of our core values as a company and serves as a pillar of our corporate culture.
Fulfilling customers’ needs and growing a company are not mutually exclusive ideas. Here are five guiding principles we believe help develop and enhance a customer-centric culture.
Never take your existing customers for granted. Businesses must, of course, pursue robust new customer-acquisition strategies, but a customer-centric culture emphasizes the ongoing cultivation of existing customer relationships as well. Every customer has their own preferences and purchasing patterns. When you conduct business according to those preferences, the customer has more reason to stay invested with your organization.
Equip your employees with the right customer-focused skills and tools. Not every employee has direct contact with your customers, but they are all involved in one way or another in ensuring eventual customer satisfaction. For us it is everyone from the hardwood forester and the lumber buyer to the fork lift driver and the office receptionist, everyone has a role in helping our customers realize the greatest value they can when using our products and services.
Beware of “silo creep.” Some companies are especially prey to the rise of silos—departments that don’t engage with each other in a cohesive and efficient manner. It’s up to senior leaders to reduce the prevalence of silos and to stress instead the need for differing departments to understand each other’s purpose and continually find ways to collaborate on behalf of your customers.
Solicit new customer service ideas from your frontline and sales staff. Who better to suggest new ways of serving your customers than employees who regularly interact with them? A strong customer-centric culture grows out of an enthusiastic involvement by employees who leverage their customer service experience into new policies and procedures that span the organization and result in enhanced customer satisfaction.
Keep pushing a “customer-first” agenda. There’s little chance of changing the culture if leaders don’t maintain that focus in all their communications and interactions with employees.
Consider reserving time at each companywide meeting to talk specifically about customer needs. Regularly share your thoughts on new strategies the company is adopting in this area. Recognize individual team members who go above and beyond in helping customers. Little by little, create a work environment where thinking about your customers takes priority over virtually every other agenda item.
There is no doubt that building a customer-centric culture requires time and effort, but we have found it’s the best strategy for setting your business apart in a crowded marketplace.
What other suggestions do you have to build and sustain a customer centric culture? Let us know!