February 16, 2011
Customer Centric: Going Beyond the Mission Statement
Being customer centric seems to have become the in thing to talk about amongst CEOs, PR professionals and just about everyone else. But just because you have the right buzz words in your mission statement doesn’t mean you’re walking the walk. When someone attaches the customer centric tag to a company, they are referring to:
An approach to doing business in which a company focuses on creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale. A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by differentiating themselves from competitors who do not offer the same experience.
But what company would tout that they aren’t customer centric? No CEO would ever publicly say, “We know our customer service is crap, but after we have your money, we really don’t care all that much.” Even when power and phone companies were legal monopolies, they did their best to feign interest in what customers had to say. A new generation of companies like Whole Foods, Best Buy, Starbucks and Zappos have radically altered their industries and business in general with their attention to customer satisfaction above all else. Because these companies have had astronomical success, their customer centric mantras have become part of corporate lexicon and lore.
Sticking Feathers in Your Butt Doesn’t Make You a Chicken
Being a customer centric company doesn’t just happen; it has to be designed. Reading Tony Hsieh’s book, telling your market facing employees to focus on customer service and adding some lines to a mission statement no one reads isn’t going to get the job done. This isn’t a “fake it until you make it” scenario, it’s a holistic business philosophy. Here’s how some of the most successful customer centric companies do it:
When it comes to a complete focus on customer satisfaction, your entire organization has to participate or you can forget about truly earning the customer centric label. Being customer centric starts with the CEO and goes down through to the receptionists, salesmen and other “foot soldiers.” No matter how big your company is, if you don’t lead by example then you’re going to lose the customer satisfaction war. The companies that are touted as being the best customer centric businesses, put intense emphasis on how a potential worker fits in with the business culture more than traditional measurements like experience, education and so on. This creates an army of like minded individuals, all working for the same goal.
Most customer service reps are judged on the volume of calls they handle and the time in which they handle them. Their promotions, pay and bonuses are usually tied to these metrics; thus they get people off the phone as quick as possible. Zappos flipped the script on that thinking and rewards their customer service reps by a set of standards that include customer feedback, the amount of customer problems solved and how they use their discretionary budgets to find unique solutions to problems. Make your company’s policies conducive to achieving your customer centric ideals and you will reap the rewards. Get in your own way and you will self destruct.
In conjunction with both of the above, reward your people appropriately to inspire them to do the right thing for the customer, not the immediate bottom line. Companies like Best Buy and Whole Foods have CEO salaries that are comparatively minuscule to other companies of similar sizes. This enables them to pay more for the day to day workers that will make or break their customer service goals. They also give incentives to more workers to promote the organization’s growth. In most companies 75% of stock options are given out to the top 5 executives with the remaining 25% landing in the hands of the managers the next level down. At Whole foods the top 16 executives have only received 7% of the total stock options ever distributed.