Managers: the Murderers of customer centricity

Managers: the Murderers of customer centricity

Almost every organization has the ambition to become more customer-centric. This often results in managers telling the employees on the frontline that they should take better care of the customers. However, it’s often those same managers who are the obstacle on the road to customer centricity. Let me tell you why that is the case and how to stop it.

A few weeks ago I was at an insurance company that wants to improve their customer experience. With that goal in mind, they had all their customer service employees take a two-day training on customer centricity. It was a high-level training with a price tag to match and after two days all employees got back to work, all energized and motivated. They really felt that they had learned valuable new skills.

I spoke to one of these employees. She told me about one of the phone calls she got on the day after the training. The customer had some questions about her insurance policy. Before long, the employee found out there was an overlap in her coverage, she was paying more than she needed to. With all she had taken away from the training, the employee told the customer about the overlap and informed her about her options. “If you simply lower the coverage on the one policy you will save money every month without missing out on anything. I can set it right straight away.” It goes without saying, she had just made one customer very happy. After all, this is not what anyone is used to when dealing with insurance companies. Not only was the customer happy, the customer service employee herself had a great feeling about her work.

Until the very next day. Her supervisor called her into his office. He had listened to the tape of that conversation and asked her to never pull something like that again. She had just cost the company money. Pure profit, straight out the window. It’s the customer’s own responsibility to double check their policies. This lady should have just paid closer attention.

In less than two minutes, the supervisor managed to flush a 2-day training down the toilet.

This story is not a one-off. Organizations often think that the people who are in contact with the customers on a daily basis are the key to a better customer experience. The customer service employees, the consultants and account managers. However, whether they act in a customer-centric way or not is largely dependent on the rest of the organization. Not only their direct managers, as in the example above, but also the processes, protocols and budgets put in place by the board, to name a few things. Unsurprisingly, people in direct contact with the customers, actually really want to be more customer-centric. It makes their job a lot more fun. Other circumstances are just hindering them from doing so. Therefore it’s vital that the middle managers and the people in charge of the protocols, processes and budgets also constantly keep customer-centricity in mind while doing their work. Customer centricity is everyone’s business.

The key to real customer-centricity lies in the boardroom

Fortunately, there are more and more organizations where everyone is concerned with adding value for the customer. Goeie internationale voorbeelden, to name a few. What do they have in common? Two things:

  1. They are all highly successful companies with often the best financial results in their field. They tend to grow at an incredibly high speed.
  2. They have all build a customer-centric culture that stimulates and facilitates customer-centricity on a daily basis.

The first point is highly influenced by the second, if not the main cause. It’s not hard to figure out the right order.

Companies that will win the customer centricity game in the next few years, will be the companies that have succeeded in building the right culture. Excited customers are their number one priority and every single employee knows they’re there to contribute to this goal. The responsibility of building this customer-centric culture lies at the top, not the bottom. The top needs to set the right example and set the transformation in motion. True customer centricity starts in the boardroom. True customer centricity starts with customer-centric leadership.

It all starts with a choice

Transforming a company into a customer-centric organization has a clear starting point. It starts with an explicit choice to make customer centricity the top priority. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy choice. It might mean you’ll need to change your leadership strategies, it may require you to hire new people and say goodbye to others who cannot or will not move the change forward. There is a very high probability that you’ll have to walk away from easy, instant cash in order to build a strong, long-term relationship with your customer.

Yet, this choice is also the start of building an organization that is awesome to work for and fun to buy from. A company that gets customers and employees alike excited every single day only knows winners. It’s a choice that is more than worth it.

What is your number one priority?