Leaders play a key part in creating the company culture. They are role models, and their actions are followed closely. When leaders show how they put customer topics on their own agenda, they motivate the organization to do the same. There are many ways company leaders can show that they are truly committed to customer centricity.

Spending time with customers

Leaders send a strong message when they personally spend time with customers.

Leaders’ contacts to key customers are self-evident in B2B companies – it is part of a leader’s responsibility to meet their counterparts from the customer side. For employees, it is motivating to hear about such meetings and understand what customers appreciate and where improvement is needed. Naturally, not all information can be shared in wide circles – but understanding key topics that are raised in discussions with customers may be an energy boost for everyone to strive to serve customers better.

In consumer industries, the distance between an ordinary consumer and company leaders may be significant. The following list provides a few examples how leaders in some companies decided to get involved in directly contacting customers and gaining feedback from them:

  • Leaders participate in callback programs when consumers are contacted after a poor product or service experience.

  • Leaders send emails to selected consumer groups after feedback has been received from them.

  • Consumers are invited to present their opinions in leadership team meetings.

  • Leaders spend time listening to calls in care centers to better understand the problems consumers have had.

Allocating resources

Resources here mean time, money and manpower that are allocated for customer focused actions and initiatives.

Time may mean a leader’s own time spent being involved in customer projects as described above, or it can mean allotting time for customer topics in leadership meetings.

Budgets are needed for customer initiatives, such as investments in IT systems for collecting customer feedback or making insights visible within a company.

Manpower is about allocating human resources to CX-related positions or building CX into existing roles.

Including CX topics in leadership team meeting agendas

In a customer centric company, CX and CX metrics are standard agenda items in leadership meetings. This can include:

  • monitoring the progress of top customer projects

  • hearing the latest customer reactions on products or services

  • understanding customer trends

  • building foresight for future opportunities

These topics help company leaders stay attuned to the pulse of customers and react fast to meet changing demands.

Identifying a customer metric as a key performance indicator

A customer centric company selects at least one customer metric as one of its key performance indicators (KPIs).

Identifying a customer KPI is one thing – continuously monitoring it is another. The greatest impact from having a customer KPI is seen when leaders require that the customer metric is reported with similar scrutiny as financial metrics – preferably the reporting happens following exactly the same reporting cycle and process as used for the financial reporting.

Including CX goals in compensation plans

Compensation plans are an effective tool in guiding employees’ actions. Including a customer metric in these plans may greatly accelerate the progress of CX initiatives and achieving strategic CX goals.

However, there should be careful consideration before tying a new customer metric to compensation plans or bonus schemes. First, the company needs to ensure availability of statistically valid data. If the CX data is not mature enough, which is often the case when the company is introducing a new metric, the goals should not be based on numeric CX scores. Instead, goals should be based on actions carried out in response to received customer feedback.

Recognizing successful CX actions

Along with bonus plans, non-monetary recognition is a way to acknowledge work well done. Recognition shows the employee that s/he has put effort into the right things and carried out tasks in a way that is appreciated by leaders, peers, customers or all of them. Highly regarded employees can become role models for others in the company.

In the age of social media, the value of peer-to-peer recognition is increasing. A company may organize different methods for giving recognition to colleagues, for instance, online.

Recognition for CX achievements may follow from:

  • solving a customer’s problem in an exemplary manner

  • utilizing customer feedback as input to development work

  • involving customers into co-creation activities

  • seeing the impact of customer centric activities

  • improving the company’s processes so that they take customers better into account

Coaching CX

Great leaders have a natural ability to share their knowledge with employees. Sharing experiences is a well-appreciated ingredient of company culture. This requires time and commitment from a leader, but the pay-back is usually well worth the effort.

When customer centricity is a strategic goal, a well-organized coaching or mentoring program can also be valuable for spreading experience, information and ways of collaborating with customers.

The article is an extract from the book Johanna Vesterinen: ‘Committed to Customers – A 5-Step Model for Delivering Great Customer Experiences’ (Nov 2014, Suomen Liikekirjat)

Johanna Vesterinen By Johanna Vesterinen
Chief Partner and Founder, XperienceFocus

Johanna is the founder of XperienceFocus, a trainer, writer and consultant helping companies focus on developing delightful customer experiences.
Johanna’s background is in the international business environment, where she gained expertise from both global corporate life and from businesses of various sizes in different industries. In 2008-2012, Johanna was leading global Customer & Operator Feedback and Net Promoter Score Operations teams at Nokia, where the NPS implementation was recognized with the Nokia Excellence Award.

Johanna’s book ‘Committed to Customers – A 5-Step Model for Delivering Great Customer Experiences’ was published in November 2014. Earlier in her career, Johanna has been a coauthor of over ten study books, handbooks and guides, published in Finland, Sweden and Germany.
Johanna holds an M.A. from the University of Helsinki. She is a Net Promoter® Certified Associate.

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