How to create a customer-obsessed organisation

How to create a customer obsessed business

20 small changes you can make to become a customer-obsessed organisation

I used to think that improving an organisation required big changes.

Reimagining the strategic vision…

Redesigning the operating model…

Reallocating resources…

Rethinking costs…

The big changes are important.

Nonetheless, I have come to realise that its the cumulative impact of small changes that is just as powerful in changing an organisation.

Leaders should push themselves to think of the little, day-to-day routines and activities that can add up to a truly customer-obsessed culture.

It’s these little things that create environments that people want to be a part of and, as a consequence, that customers want to engage with.

Here are 20 small changes that an organisation can make right now to create a ‘customer-obsessed’ organisation.

How to become a customer-obsessed organisation with these 20 small changes:

1. Leave an empty chair

Create little symbols within the organisation that remind people of the importance of the customer.

Jeff Bezos leaves an empty chair at every meeting to represent the customer.

2. Organise an excursion

Schedule annual ‘fact-finding’ visits to best-in-class CX organisations.

When John Deere Financial (JDF) began its customer-centricity journey, the CX team benchmarked JDF’s culture against Disney, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

To help colleagues understand what great CX looked like, they organised visits to the CX leaders of each of these organisations.

3. Take it up with the boss

Make leaders available to employees to solve customer issues. John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, gives his email address to all 3,000 of the company’s store managers and encourages employees to send important customer issues directly to him.

4. Get in the zone

Find a space in the office to create a ‘customer immersion zone’.

It doesn’t have to be big or high-tech; just a focal point to showcase customer initiatives and create empathy around key customer interactions.

Ingrid Lindberg, the Chief Customer Officer for Prime Therapeutics, used a customer immersion zone to introduce the company’s more than 3,000 employees to five target personas by having them listen to stories recorded in the personas’ voices and read real customer verbatims.



5. Display customer metrics… Everywhere

Display live customer metrics (e.g. NPS) on screens around the office.

Everyone should be able to see customer feedback anywhere and at any time.

6. Own it

Hold each member of the C-suite accountable for a ‘stage’ of the organisation’s customer journey and lock in metrics to measure their progress.

7. Paint the bridge

Design key business processes from the customer’s perspective.

American insurance firm USAA operates under a policy called ‘painting the bridge’.

Once USAA puts a process in place, the company looks at it from the other side and starts over again.

8. Flip your training focus

Focus internal training and development around soft skills like active listening and customer empathy.

American Express used to allocate roughly 70% of its training time for industry and company-specific technical skills and 30% for softer personal skills — but it’s flipped that equation around.

Today, 70% of agent training time focuses on soft skills.

9. Huddle up

Coach teams to begin each day with a daily ‘huddle’.

Every huddle should start with an example of how a team member solved a customer problem the previous day.

At Telstra, about 4,000 huddles take place each month among teams ranging from contact centre agents to field technicians, sales executives and network engineers.

10. What’s in a title

Think carefully about the titles given to frontline employees.

American Express refers to its call centre agents as ‘customer care professionals’ and provides each agent with personalised business cards to focus them on their primary role – providing great customer experiences.

11. Put the CEO on the line

Encourage the C-suite to call one customer promoter and one customer detractor each week.

The former CEO of Telstra, David Thodey, regularly took his leadership team to Telstra contact centres to receive calls and listen to the concerns of customers firsthand.

12. Build your network

Set up a cross-functional network of internal ‘customer change champions’ to meet and solve customer challenges.

A leading Australian insurer holds regular ‘Customer Guild’ meetings to unite different teams around a common CX vision.

13. Remember your manners

Encourage senior leaders (including the CEO) to write hand-written ‘thank you’ cards to employees who have delivered outstanding customer experiences.

14. Take it to the panel

Create an external panel of stakeholders from across the customer ecosystem (e.g. partners, suppliers and end consumers) to ideate, test concepts and align on key service requirements.



15. Storytime

Start telling stories that highlight the lengths employees are willing to go to ‘live’ the company values.

Stories that everyone inside and outside of the company can recall with just the briefest of references help make embracing the values second-nature.

Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher asked his company’s legal department to help a flight attendant get her car back from her ex-husband who took it in their divorce.

This story is now part of Southwest Airlines folklore.

16. Are you wearing your ‘empathy belly’?

Create emotive ways of building empathy for the customer.

At Ford, newly hired graduate engineers must wear an ‘empathy belly’ shortly after they join their design teams — created to give the physical experience of an expectant mother trying to get into a car.

17. What’s your story

Ask business leaders to write a story.

The story should include who they are, why they work at the organisation and why they care about their customers.

Leaders should share the stories with their teams and, if possible, with customers.

Telstra has used this technique to great effect with managers across the organisation.

18. Tick the boxes

Create a simple checklist to test how any new initiative within the organisation will impact the customer experience (e.g. what journey stage does it affect, does it solve a customer problem and how will it impact customer acquisition/retention/cost to serve).

19. Where’s the heart

Define key character traits that the organisation wants frontline staff to display with the customer.

eHarmony has introduced daily ‘must-have’ character traits like ‘empathy’, ‘heart’ and ‘adaptability’ for their call-centre agents.

20. The toilet roll matters

Create fun reminders of core customer values around the organisation.

In a bathroom in one of Virgin’s offices, where the toilet roll sits on the wall, you will see the words “this is the only place you will be ripped off at Virgin” – reinforcing the value for money positioning of all Virgin businesses.

So there you have it – 20 Tips to creating a customer-obsessed organisation!

I hope at least some of them work for you.

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About Will Kingston 1 Article
Will is a Customer Strategy Consultant at PwC Australia. He started his career with the global management consulting firm Peppers & Rogers and has taken a customer-centric approach to subsequent roles in business, the law and consulting.

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