“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees they will take care of the clients.”
This quote seems to have become quite popular of late. As discussed in our recent Future-proofing leadership whitepaper, Richard Branson is perceived to have adopted a leadership style all of his own. It involves actively listening to and speaking to employees, empowering and encouraging them to do the best for the company, themselves, and their customers, and getting to know exactly what customers want. It should come as no surprise then that the quote was from him.
To have a truly customer-centric culture, an organisation has to put the customer at the heart of everything it does. This means that every aspect of the organisation – its vision, values, communication, leadership and focus – is set towards how to fulfil customer needs. To create a point of difference these days, the main thing that organisations need to have is a sense of self and ways to get personal.
Currently we’re not very good at it.
According to our latest HR Reflections research, customer centricity is the top rated area of importance for organisations in the UK – 84% say it is an important focus for them currently. While most organisations recognise the importance of customer centricity, many struggle to embed a customer-centric culture – only 35% hire and screen for customer-centric attitudes and behaviours, and 33% consistently recognise and reward customer-centric behaviour.
Most people will have heard of and interacted with the Virgin brand, and when thinking of it there will be certain things that instantly come to mind. One of the first things will probably be Richard Branson himself. And that’s why the brand is so successful. If leaders act like they truly care about the customer, employees will really believe they work for a customer-centric organisation.
No brand is an island
Employees will most likely have experienced their company’s external brand either as customers themselves or via media coverage. A brand that tells people it has a strong commitment to customer centricity but fails to deliver because of poor processes and procedures will be viewed sceptically.
A study published in May by the Institute of Customer Service showed that consumers are using social media to communicate with brands at a rapid rate. An eight-fold increase in customer complaints on social media were shown to be made since January 2014. But it’s not all bad news. 39% were shown to be looking to actively provide feedback, and 31% to make pre-sale enquiries.
As time rolls on, and millennials and generation Z rapidly become the most influential consumers, the number of people comfortable with this form of interaction is only going to increase.
Even without the influence of social media, if the end users’ needs are not met, the service or product will fail and productivity will suffer.
Empower to engage
Customer centricity is a key motivator for many employees and the reason that they keep engaged. When they see a customer is satisfied with their work, it enhances their purpose and passion. If profit is seen to be compromising customer satisfaction, that motivation becomes eroded.
When it comes to employee buy-in, how your brand appears externally and how your employees view it is vital. If these views don’t align, the common goal will be lost, and so will those all-important brand ambassadors. Ritz-Carlton’s motto of “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” is upheld through the empowerment of staff, allowing each of them $2,000 to use at their discretion to solve a customer complaint. Disney’s “Happiest place on earth” is enhanced by its employees, who are each encouraged to take five minutes every day to do something special for a guest.
These examples can only have a positive impact on customer feedback. What’s really important when thinking of feedback is that you don’t forget what employees have to say. After all, they are the people who deliver your relationship with your customers. They can see any complications in delivery or how customer experience could be improved. If you’re not having the right conversation with your employees, both your employee and customer relationship will lag behind where it could be. It’s time to make your brand and employee relationship personal.
To find out more about how to be customer-centric inside and out, please download our whitepaper.