Most Small Business Owners know focusing on providing the best solution to their customer’s needs is essential, and many are starting to realize the true scope that consumers are basing decisions on. While delivering a quality product or service is the barrier to entry, more and more consumers are judging the value of the transaction based on their overall experience. According to Oracle, “86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience, but only 1% feel that vendors consistently meet expectations.” By taking a close look at how their customers are interacting with their company across all stages of the customer journey, the 1% of Experience-Focused Companies consistently outperform competitors in both customer satisfaction and profitability by delivering on-target experiences that their customers find enjoyable and valuable. While there are numerous actions and areas to focus on when improving your customer experience, all efforts to shift your focus will fail if your entire company isn’t on board. Whether you’re already managing multiple teams or are just starting, imbuing your company culture with a Customer Experience focus will provide a unique competitive advantage for years to come.
Start From the Top Down
The CEO, which in most Small Businesses is also the Owner, is ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining a competitive culture that inspires innovation and development. As Forbes pointed out, “Culture is the secret sauce for some of today’s most innovative and competitive companies.” Without strong commitment and buy-in from the top levels of leadership in your company, it is nearly impossible to empower your team members to make purely customer-focused decisions. As the leader of your company, you are responsible for determining which initiatives and investments are priorities; without a clear signal that the entire management team supports a focus on Experience, your internal alignment efforts will wither. Create a culture where customer experience is openly and actively discussed, in addition to being the primary principle used in your own, and your team’s, decision-making process.
Lead by Example
The first place to start is by making your own decisions with Customer Experience in mind. However it goes much further than that. The experience you create daily for your employees shapes how they perceive your business, and the amount of effort they will put in towards your success. As Shep Hyken of Help Scout describes, “You must start on the inside, with your employees. What’s happening on the inside is felt on the outside by customers, and to be the best place to buy from, you must first be the best company to work for… Do unto your employees as you want done unto the customer- or better!” The experience employees have with your company is a large factor in how they perceive the value you, as the owner, intend for your company to provide. It is difficult to convince your employees that your company provides the “premier” experience for your market when they are using inadequate equipment to complete their work. Teach your employees to recognize opportunities to improve the experience for customers by making improvements to their overall employee experience. When your employees expect a great experience, they become more aware of when your company fails to meet that bar.
Check out what the Online Mattress Retailer Tuft & Needle had to say to Forrester about how they create a Customer Experience focused culture:
To solidify a lasting change for your current and future employees, you’ll need to redefine and expand key performance indicators. According to HBR, “The adage ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’ applies to customer centricity, too. Managers will be motivated and equipped to cultivate a customer-centric culture if they know if and how it impacts results, so organizations should ensure they establish and track the link between culture and customer impact.” This is because when your metrics are purely focused on profit, it makes it difficult for employees to justify decisions with long-term payoffs. Jeff Pruitt on Inc.com illuminates: “Every interaction within the company should demonstrate a commitment to the customer experience… whether it’s developing a new feature within your product or answering a phone call, your team should be able to deliver a consistent experience and make appropriate decisions that elevate the customer’s impression of the brand.” Zappos famously encourages their customer service team to spend as much time as the phone as possible, with one agent spending over 9 hours helping a single customer! Redefining what your management team considers success empowers employees to focus on creating exceptional experiences.
While metrics are a great place to start, some experience focused companies are going even further and incentivizing all employees based on Customer Experience Focused KPIs. Donna Morris at Adobe calls this “giving every employee skin in the game.” She says that for employees to know that customer-oriented attitudes and behaviors are expected from them, there has to be “an element of risk” to it. Adobe updated their compensation program to include a short-term cash incentive plan that reflects customer success measures such as retention, in addition to traditional revenue performance goals. According to Yohn, “The program not only makes tangible the contributions to the customer that every employee makes but also produces organization-wide alignment because everyone is working toward the same goals.”
Wrapping It Up
By starting from the top down, leading by example, and redefining what success looks like, your business can focus on tangible improvements that your customers find valuable. Make the quality of the customer experience you provide as a real a product as what you’re selling. The most successful companies aren’t just chosen for the products they provide; they’re chosen for the overall customer experience they create.
Want to know more about Customer-Centric Culture Change? Check out this video by Jeff Tobe: