Building a Customer-Centric Culture

How many of you would agree with this statement: Most CEOs have no clue how to build a customer-centric culture? If you agree--and I'm sure many of you do--have you ever wondered why this is?

I contend it's because most of them believe that their corporate culture is too hard quantify, too hard to deal with. Ask a CEO to explain corporate culture and his or her answer is often humorous: "Oh, that's the soft stuff." I disagree. Getting people to use new information technology in innovative ways is the hard stuff. Getting people to help the customer use the new technology to run their businesses better is the hard stuff, too. And putting that technology to work, that's the soft stuff.

So how does an executive go about building a customer-centric culture? By continuously focusing on customer value. Period. In other words, not by concentrating on running his or her business better, but by helping the customer run his or her business better. For example, FedEx gives customers control over their experiences by allowing them to interact directly with an online tracking system. FedEx's culture is extended beyond those interfaces, since the company also provides customers with information on how to use and customize the system. (Even the delivery drivers can show the customer how to use the system.) The business processes that impact the customer are set up to allow them to, essentially, run FedEx. At the same time, these processes are tuned for speed and convenience, using customer profiles to design tailor-made interfaces.

So how does FedEx create this culture? First, the main focus is on people. The technology enables FedEx employees to make speedy and convenient transactions possible. The technology makes the transaction happen, but the people do the rest. They help the customers learn how to use FedEx to their advantage, allowing the company to build stronger relationships with them. FedEx allows its customers to run their own businesses and are constantly challenged to develop ideas in which the company might interact better with its customers.

How do you think a culture like this originates? You should know the answer by now.

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