Communication skills turning managers into leaders

Card Talk and the Customer-centric Culture

Most organizations want to talk about their internal culture. Yet leaders must steer the dialogue to address their out-facing culture. A customer-centric company culture sets the tone for internal values.

One of the hottest topics leaders want to discuss is corporate culture.  Usually, this topic is focused on internal culture and how to develop a team to be more collaborative and less contentious.

While this is an important conversation, perhaps the more important discussion is how your corporate culture impacts your customers.  In other words, an outward-focused discussion leading to a customer-centric culture.  As opposed to a company-centric culture.

Let’s talk about culture first.  Culture is all about values.  What does the company stand for?  Are its values more about the company (profits, efficiency, output) or more about the customers (problem solving, satisfaction, support)?

In a recent article in Strategy and Business, the authors talk about building a customer-centric culture in healthcare and the benefits that accrue from this perspective.  corporate needs by not focusing on internal financial metrics, but instead focusing on patient metrics.

The article tells the story of how some healthcare systems place patient needs over corporate needs by not focusing on internal financial metrics, but instead focusing on patient metrics.

Financial metrics talk about how many patients can be seen in a day and whether profitability targets can be met.  Customer metrics focus on engaging customers more thoughtfully to achieve greater member satisfaction.  Gathering these metrics embraces a willingness to improvise, problem solve and be agile in difficult situations.

One healthcare company estimated that it would save between $560 and $800 million by improving its customer engagement.  As the customer journey improves, the brand improves and team performance improves.

The point is that when a customer-centric culture takes precedence over a company-centric culture the bottom line still benefits!

What’s the relationship between the two?  Can you have a company’s culture is messed up?

The answer is that one of the big reasons the company’s culture might be messed up is that its values are out of order.  When a company re-focuses on customers, then its internal values follow suit.

In other words, the external focus gives employees an important purpose at work: They’re helping people – doing the right thing.  When employees are trained and rewarded to do that, it gives them an important purpose and mission beyond turning in good financials.

Where does Card Talk enter the conversation?  When the customer service rep is on the phone to a customer and he or she plays the Company Card, customers can tell that the rep is only interested in meeting company metrics.

But when the rep plays the Helper Card and becomes a customer advocate, then the relationship immediately improves.  What cards are your first-contact people playing when they interact with customers?

How can companies get started down this customer-centric path?  Find a few critical behaviors that aid customer-centricity, such as those recommended in the Strategy and Business article.

Then translate these behaviors into specific actions that first-contact people can implement to improve customer relations.  Is it having the phone answered by a live person right away?  Is it asking good questions to the customer that improve problem solving?

These are two good ways to get started.  Find the best path toward customer-centricity and your brand will improve dramatically!

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