Four ways to develop a customer-centric focus
Improving the customer experience (CX) is key for businesses looking to build a competitive advantage and increase revenue. According to Qualtrics, to be able to deliver these great customer experiences, organisations must build a customer-centric culture.
Bill McMurray, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan, Qualtrics, said: “Organisations need to have a customer-first strategy across the entire business. That’s the only way to develop ongoing positive experiences for customers.”
Qualtrics believes there are four key ingredients to developing a customer-centric culture:
1. Executive buy-in
Executive support is key for an organisation looking to transform its culture. Customer-centric organisations have supportive leadership teams that help iterate the importance of customer focus and encourage employees to join in on efforts.
McMurray, said: “Culture starts at the top. Regular CX reviews with senior leaders to discuss issues, assess their impact on customers and the business, and evaluate the viability of potential solutions, can help to ensure sustained support.”
“Marketers play a big role to help senior leadership develop a customer-centric vision. They should survey the organisation’s current state, which means how central the customer is to strategy and daily operations. From there they can make a case to executives as to how new customer-focussed initiatives should be implemented to help drive an increase in revenue.”
2. CX ambassador drive
A team of CX ambassadors should drive the adoption of the customer-centric culture throughout the organisation. This team can help various leaders promote CX initiatives within their own teams.
McMurray said, “Employees can’t transition to a new organisational culture if they are unsure of the vision, and what is expected of them. A transformation team of CX ambassadors can guide employees to better understand why customer-centricity is central to the success of the business, how they can contribute, and what tools and resources are available to help them.”
3. Employee engagement
Organisations need to keep employees motivated and engaged to ensure the transition to a customer-centric culture is successful. To do this, they can reward employees for actively participating in CX initiatives and meeting goals.
At the same time, organisations should consider CX tailored training, as well as adding customer-centric attitudes and skills to their onboarding and hiring processes. This will ensure employees start off with a customer-first mindset.
McMurray said, “Organisations can develop programs that make the focus on customer experience fun and rewarding for employees. For example, providing rewards for new ideas or facilitating excellent experiences and sharing these with the team will help to keep staff engaged and wanting to do more.”
4. Customer feedback for continuous improvement
Organisations that transition to a customer-centric culture will be able to deliver ongoing positive customer experiences. Feedback should be a key element of the CX program. If customer experience benchmarks aren’t met, it is important to investigate and follow up to see how the organisations can improve.
McMurray said, “Customer-centricity is an ongoing process. Organisations looking to become truly customer-centric must listen to feedback from their customers and act on it.
“For example, by using an easy-to-use, yet sophisticated platform, like Qualtrics, organisations can gather real-time snapshots of their customers’ experiences and determine where they can make operational and strategic improvements. By gathering this kind of feedback, businesses will be able to continuously improve to offer better experiences for their customers.”
Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business
As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?
In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.
You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?
They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.
Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening.
I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something.
How important are smart skills in leadership today?
Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.
I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other.
So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?
Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’.
Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here