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Culture’s Impact on Customer Experience

Culture's Impact on Customer ExperienceDefinition of Culture – 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 you’ve defined it 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.

If 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 you begin the discussion of defining the DESIRED culture of your organization, this is the time to consider….

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

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

How do 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?

Do you want 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 – or redefining – 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 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 on the best course to travel.

Make sure your culture is Unique! Even though you may have several competitors in the same space or industry, your culture as a company within that space needs to feel unique. Books are written about Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, Disney, Apple for a reason. They are successful companies with strong cultures. But don’t try to copy them or be like them. I tell my clients to try to be as impactful as them. All of those companies have competition in their space… yet they are unique.

I have my clients show me a marketing brochure. If I can remove my client’s company name and insert the competitions, yet all of the information is still accurate… then there is a problem. It all blends in. What makes you stand out? What makes you different? Your culture will help shape these answers. If you can’t think of anything… start figuring out what customers want that they can’t easily find as far as working style. That will help shape your culture and vice-versa.

Key components in setting a successful organizational culture…

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.

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.

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 in the interview when you discussed the culture of your company. You gleaned the impression that 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, 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 derail your culture work.

Open communication promotes success. Companies with free and open communication are far more successful in establishing an engaging 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 by employees
  • Disengaged staff
  • Minimum expectations delivered by staff
  • Low attendance at company events
  • Employee -vs- Leadership mindset
  • Declining customer loyalty and satisfaction

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

  • Morale will increase
  • Staff will willingly engage outside of their own responsibilities do more than the minimum
  • 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
  • That 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.

It’s a beautiful thing…

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