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Episode 003 – Integrating Your Core Values Into the Customer Experience

Shownotes…

Core Values Build the Company Culture into the Customer Experience

  • Core values serve as the guiding light for how everyone in your company interacts, communicates and works with each other, external customers, and the community.
  • Core values should be unique to your company.
  • Core values provide the framework to help guide many business decisions.
  • Use phrases or sentences as core values to convey the meaning.
  • Core values MUST be exemplified at the leadership level.
  • Core values should be evident in practice.
  • Core values help with recruiting and hiring decisions.
  • Core values should serve as foundation and guidance, not limitations.
  • Core values should be a focus during all performance reviews.
  • Core values should be reviewed with relevant stories regularly.
  • Display the Core Values throughout the Customer Experience.
  • Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

Episode 002 – The Impact of Your Corporate Culture on the Customer Experience

Shownotes

In this episode, we talk about the CULTURE of your company and how it impacts and drives the CX.

The Culture definition describes the environment created to achieve that mission and vision. 

This will be something that your staff will FEEL… not have to be shown a mission statement. 

Understand that your staff will have to FEEL, EXPERIENCE, and BELIEVE this culture for them to accurately execute the desired experience to your customers.

  • culture definition. The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another.

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.

Culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid (The Business Dictionary).

Needle (2004), stated that organizational culture represents the collective values, beliefs and principles of organizational members. Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits

Deal and Kennedy succinctly define organizational culture as “the way things are done around here” (Deal & Kennedy, 2000)

Every company has a culture whether purposely defined or not. The key is to be in the driver’s seat of defining your culture and being deliberate about shaping it before you are trying to reign in an undesirable culture that has taken hold.

Should you find yourself in the latter position… take heart, all is not lost. It is very doable, provided you make the commitment and persevere through the process.

When beginning the discussion of defining the DESIRED culture of your organization, this is the time to consider….

What would you like it look like to work IN your company and WITH your company? How is the engagement between leaders and staff, staff and customers?

What would you like the environment to be like? Relaxed and casual, or professional and formal? Is it an open working environment or one that uses high walled cubicles?

How would you welcome people in – both as staff and clients? Your culture will be apparent the moment you greet your first candidate or client. The friendliness factor, the thoroughness and follow up displayed exemplifies the culture of your company. Are you a company to be taken seriously, or are you one that looks great on paper, but in practice…. falls short?

Is there clarity around the purpose of your company and product or service? There will be a measurable impact on the success of your company when staff truly believes that what they do matters to the success of the company and the overall customer experience.

How much autonomy will you give your staff? Will they be trained and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities within the organization and with clients? Will they be afraid to take risks in making decisions based on the culture you are setting?

Do you desire a more formal and rigid top-down management style or do you want to empower people to act with the entrepreneurial spirit? Questions such as these will feed into the amount of risk your staff is willing to take in making decisions or working to solve issues for your customers and clients.

Take action in defining, redefining, or refining your culture by having purposeful conversations with key leaders around the desired culture of your company. As your discussions progress, the process will benefit by giving staff the opportunity to provide input. Staff will have different perspectives and ideas to be considered when crafting the ultimate outcome.

I stress that Leadership should ultimately have the most input on the desired culture definition. Leaders are guiding the direction of the company and if they are true leaders, they should have the insight and understanding of the best course to travel.

Key Things to Consider…

Setting the culture begins at the top. Regardless of the size of your company, the leaders set the tone and example in the congruency of their attitudes, actions, words, and considerations when working with customers, selecting products, and engaging with staff. Staff will follow the example set by leadership, both good and bad.

Hire people based on competencies AND culture fit. I can’t stress this one enough. My experience shows that 90% of all customer experience and culture work is accomplished simply by hiring the right people that will support and sustain your desired culture. Should you have staff that work against it, or at the very least – don’t support it, this work can be extremely frustrating and ultimately futile. Even just a few people with the wrong attitudes can throw the entire program off course.

Example…You have two people you are considering for the same position. One is competent, yet lacks the years of experience the other does. Yet, the first one actively engaged during the interview when you discussed the culture of your company. You formed the impression they would be very helpful in sustaining the culture you are working hard to execute for staff and clients. The candidate with years of experience didn’t openly say they didn’t like the described culture, but they asked a few times if they could bring in ways of doing things that had worked for them in their past job and if they could work as they needed to on their own as long as the desired outcome was achieved.

Guess which one will be successful in your company? The first candidate. Provided they have the necessary credentials and training, you can train skills and competencies specific to your company. You just can’t train attitudes easily at all. The wrong attitude can dramatically derail your culture work.

Open communication promotes success. Companies with free and open communication are far more successful in establishing an engaging and successful culture. When staff feels free to ask questions and discuss core issues with leadership, they’ll be much more engaged and the culture is strengthened, thus the company “team” is united in working in the best interest of the customer and the company reaps the reward of their continued loyalty.

Consequences of not focusing on Culture?

You can be successful in spite of yourselves, but that is not the norm. Not taking the time to actively shape the culture is indicative of a “non-directional” culture prone to reactionary decisions, inconsistencies in customer experiences, and intermittent “lucky” successes.

Possible Indications of Needing Culture Work…

  • Employee turnover
  • Customer churn
  • Lackluster performance and attitude by employees
  • Disengaged staff
  • Minimum expectations delivered by staff
  • Low attendance at company events
  • Employee -vs- Leadership mindset
  • Declining customer loyalty and satisfaction ratings

Prioritizing the definition and execution of your ideal Culture will certainly pay off in many ways…

  • Morale will increase
  • Staff will willingly engage outside of their own responsibilities and do more than the minimum expectations
  • Everyone will understand and embrace the purpose of the company and actively work to support and promote it
  • Staff will feel empowered and engaged resulting in more thoughtful decisions to benefit both the company and the customers
  • Customers will benefit by doing business with a company where they feel they are part of an organization actively working to help them succeed in their responsibilities and goals
  • The Customer Experience will increase customer loyalty and generate referrals
  • Increased referrals and loyalty promote higher sales, resulting in higher profits, resulting in the successful longevity of the company.

A strong cohesive culture is a beautiful thing…

Organize and operate on your brand – cultivate your cultural priorities – design your organization to cultivate the way your company works together?

How can you reinforce the culture of your company? what does each of those values look like overall in each dept?

Creating culture changing employee experiences. – Look at entire journey – first as potential recruit… through to when they retire. How can you change it so staff experiences the culture you are going after.

Your action step – 

Have the discussion about what your ideal culture looks like. What does it look like? What does it feel like to be in your organization? What does it feel like to be an employee? Is it a relaxed, formal, or business casual atmosphere? Does leadership isolate themselves in closed-door offices, or are they typically working WITH staff out in the open? Is it open communication as in open door or are there distinct channels of communication? Does it feel super structured or loose? Is it fun and engaging?

Is it dictatorial? Is it a democracy? Is it quiet? Is it open spaces or high cubicles giving each staff member privacy?

There is NO right answer. Your culture needs to be true to your leadership team considering the reason why you are in business and the preferred style of your desired customers. Your culture will attract and DEtract for you to a large extent.

Your culture should also be one that fosters the success of your team in alignment with your goals of who you are, what you stand for, and how you enhance the world of your customer.

Something to consider as you are having this conversation is does your culture naturally foster the ideal customer experience you wish to deliver? They are interdependent.

You won’t be able to have a rigid, super structured and siloed, quiet and reserved environment if the experience you want your customers to have includes relaxed conversations, friendly interactions and impressions of your staff, open communication with help and instructions are given freely and immediately.

Sit down as a leadership team and have the discussion. Ask yourselves the following questions…

  1. What seven words or phrases describe the culture you want to have in our company?
  2. How do we as a company want to be known to our customers and staff?

Have everyone list those on their own and distribute.

Discuss, include and eliminate the words and phrases as a cohesive group. Debate, explain, justify, whatever it takes, but everyone must agree on the culture. There can be a degree of prioritizing if desired.

Limit the list of descriptions to 15 if possible. THESE ARE NOT CORE VALUES. This is describing the environment and what it looks like and feels like to be there. Go back to the mindset of describing Disney if that helps. 

You are now forming the structure of the IDEAL culture. You may not be there right now… but because you’ve had the discussion and agreed on it… every decision made from this point on should be considered from this perspective AS IF IT ALREADY IS. That will help your trajectory immensely.

Next – Have the discussion to determine the components necessary to support that culture. these are your core values. 

If you want to have a fun culture, you’ll need to have a degree of casualness built in.

Why Core Values Need to Be in Your Customer Experience Focus

 

Core Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.

My podcast related to core values can be heard here…

Core Values serve as the guiding light for how everyone in your company interacts, communicates and works with each other, external customers, and the community. The core values are the solid foundational building blocks on which your culture is built. They are your company’s principles, beliefs, or philosophy of values.

Core Values provide the framework to help guide many business decisions. When weighing options – refer to the Core Values and the answer should become clear.

Core Values should be unique to your company. Just as your culture should only be able to describe your company alone, the Core Values follow the same idea. Consider examples of Core Values of the big names in business or your niche, but don’t copy them. Don’t try to be them. Try to be as impactful and distinct as they are… in your own way. Otherwise, customers won’t be able to state what is memorable about you and the way you work with them.

Avoid Truth, Integrity, Honesty, and Ethics as stated Core Values. Yes, I went there. My explanation… only because I feel these are inherent in any honestly run business. These will also likely be included in virtually every other company’s core values as well. Get to the Core Values that really mean something in a truly non-generic way. Your company Core Values shouldn’t be able to describe any company other than your own. So don’t include the ones that come standard with every other “Core Values Workshop” mindset. Let’s assume those as a given. If they can’t be assumed, then you’ve got bigger issues than defining other Core Values.

Use phrases or sentences as Core Values to convey the meaning. A word to summarize the intent is great – but extend it with a sentence to demonstrate the meaning within your organization in a specific way. Example – Fun: We work hard, and we play hard. Fun should be included during the work day as well as our outside team activities.

Core Values MUST be exemplified at the leadership level. As with culture, leadership must model Core Values in their actions, behaviors, thoughts, and communications for them to be believed understood and embraced by staff. Should this not be the case, you’ll be lumped into the same category as the notorious, now defunct, Enron. As little as 18 months before their demise, Enron had crafted a Core Values list that was clearly only worth its weight on paper. Had they truly personified those core values, they might still be around today.

Core Values need to be evident in practice – not just written on a document because they sound good. After a visitor spends a day within your company, they should be able to look at your Core Values statement and they are evident by how the company and staff operate as a whole and were apparent and displayed in their own personal experience.

Core Values help in recruiting and hiring decisions. While I’m a huge advocate of diverse thinking and perspectives, the Core Values of staff personalities and characteristics should hold true to the company Core Values. These Core Values, along with your defined ideal culture, should be openly shared and discussed during the interview process. Pay particular attention to how they engage in this part of the interview. Share examples of how Core Values are internally and with external customers. Prompt discussions with candidates on how they might envision the Values being exemplified in the prospective – or past – roles. Their stories will display an accurate understanding of the Core Values and their creativity in displaying them to customers.

Core Values should serve as foundation and guidance, not limitations, for the folks you believe in and invest in to best represent your company and work with your customers. Similar to using the core values to guide business decisions, staff will use them in making daily decisions in their responsibilities. When deciding upon a course of action, if there is a Core Value to support one method vs another, the answer becomes clear. The Values, as a whole, should not be limiting in nature, but provide clarity and direction.

Core Values guide performance reviews. How well your staff lives by and exemplifies the core values of your company should be coached and rewarded. Let’s say you have “Taking Creative Risks” as one of your Core Values. If you have someone who does their job very well, gets along well with others, and customers rave about them personally… yet they take few – if any – risks, they should be coached in this area. First – be certain they really understand what taking creative risks means within your company. Share a few examples of creative risks that you yourself have taken or – concealing the identity – the risks that coworkers have taken. Since risks are never guaranteed as a positive outcome, be sure to share some that did and did not turn out as planned, but keep the way the risk was created and ventured for the benefit of the company or the customer as the main focus.

Core Values are ingrained by frequent and regular discussion and relevant stories. I’m a huge fan of daily and/or weekly team huddles. Have staff share stories about how a Core Value contributed a decision or action for a coworker or customer. Stories are how people relate, internalize, and learn information and concepts. Hearing examples from those around them, staff will start to build on those or take key components and create their own way of modeling those Values.

Embed the Core Values throughout the Customer Journey and Experience. When mapping out your Customer Experience, be sure the Core Values are consistent and evident in every phase and impact point. Pick key moments of influence in the customer journey and consider how the Values can be seen and felt by the customer in each. Have the Core Values in your marketing material, on your website, in the lunch room, conference rooms, walls, feature an “Employee of the Month” who models the Core Values in a newsletter, etc. Talk about them, discuss them, challenge them, find ways to integrate them into conversations.

By intentionally identifying, setting, and modeling Core Values, the more they will become the DNA of your company, distinguish you from your competitors, and make you memorable in the minds of your customers.

It’s a beautiful thing…

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