Ten Principles To Create A Customer-Centric Company

Customer-centric companies put their customers at the center of all decisions. That means the customer is always considered as decisions are made, even if the decision will not make the customer happy.

Annette Franz is a customer experience expert and is known for her work helping her clients create journey maps, plotting out the interactions between customers and the company, and looking for ways to create the best customer experience. I had a chance to interview her on Amazing Business Radio about her new book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business. During the interview, she gave an overview of the ten drivers of a customer-centric culture. Here they are with my take on what they mean.

1. Culture Is the Foundation: There is a reason why this is No. 1. Without this, you don’t get a customer-centric organization. It starts with leadership defining core values. Then you layer behavior on top of that, and you have the foundation of the culture.

2. Leadership Commitment and Alignment Are Critical: This ties to the culture. Franz says, “You get the culture you design or the one you allow.” Leadership must stay focused and committed to core values. They must be the role models and demonstrate through their behavior. They set the example for employees to follow.

3. Employees More First: That’s not a typo. If a company puts customers first, Franz says, “Employees must be more first.” What you want the customer to experience starts with what employees experience. If they are fulfilled with their jobs, they will be more engaged and productive.

4. People Before Products: Seth Godin once asked, “Do you find customers for your products or products for your customers?” Once you understand your customers, you can develop products that they need. Sometimes a company will develop a product because they think it’s a good idea, which reminds me of the line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” That may work in the movies, but not in business. Make sure customers want what you sell.

5. People Before Profits: Profits and shareholder value are outcomes. Focus on what drives those outcomes, which are your people, both employees and customers. Employees taking care of customers, who keep coming back, are what will give you the favorable results you’re looking for. It’s okay to start your thinking with the end in mind (profit and shareholder value), but when you start to execute, do what’s right for your people first.

6. People Before Metrics: While metrics are very important, you have to empower your people. Franz says, “If you focus on moving the needle on those numbers you will do things differently than if you focus on the experience, which will ultimately improve the numbers.” And it is your people who will drive that experience and impact your numbers.

7. Customer Understanding: This is making the customer the cornerstone of your business. Franz emphatically states, “No discussions, no decisions and no designs without bringing the customer’s voice into the conversation.” Listen to the customer, know your customer and understand your customer.

8. Governance Bridges Organizational Gaps: Structure in any organization is needed, which includes executives, teams and departments within an organization. Then there is the operating model, which includes the tools and processes that allow you to execute. These must work together. That requires organization and governance.

9. Outside In Versus Inside Out: Outside in thinking is bringing the customer’s voice into the decisions we make. Inside out is when we think we know what’s best for our customers, and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not that every decision you make has to be favorable for the customer, but every decision you make should take the customer into consideration. Throughout the entire book, Franz makes the case that your focus must be on outside in thinking.

10. Forget the Golden Rule: The Golden Rule as we know it is to treat others as you would want to be treated. The Platinum Rule (with credit to Dr. Tony Alessandra) is to treat others the way they want to be treated. Not everyone wants to be treated the same way you do. This is what customer-centricity is all about. Focusing on customers and what they want!

At the end of our interview, I commented that all ten of these are important. Typically you try to get one or two ideas from a book. In this case, you get ten. And more than ideas, they are principles. Furthermore, you don’t have a choice of which one of the ten to implement. If you really want to have a customer-centric organization, then you must do all of them. Practice these principles, focus on people, both customers and employees, and watch the customer-centric culture come to life.

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Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author.

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