Forrester Customer Experience Forum, Day 2: Corporate Culture Translates into CX Excellence
NEW YORK — On day two of Forrester's Customer Experience forum, speakers agreed that to make a lasting impression that inspires loyalty and trust, companies must focus on honing internal cultures that place their customers at the center.
Drawing from his research, Sam Stern, a senior analyst at Forrester, presented findings that point to strong links between positive customer experience and positive employee experiences. "Culture is so important that it eats strategy for breakfast," Stern said, repeating an often-cited quote. He noted that those who have succeeded at creating "customer-obsessed" cultures emphasize the desired attitudes they wish employees will take, and give them adequate guidance on how to conduct themselves. They also cultivate lore surrounding their organization's dedication to customers, and make visible commitments that speak volumes.
According to Stern, Southwest Airlines influences its employees with guidelines and reminders and has a rigorous hiring process. (Stern pointed out that Southwest has lower acceptance rates than Harvard or Stanford.) And while the Container Store suffered heavy losses after the 2008 economic downturn, the company made a conscious choice not to lay off any employees, demonstrating its commitment to them.
Naturally, not all organizations have traditionally been customer-centric, but that doesn't preclude their leveraging their strengths to improve experience, stressed Des Cahill, a vice president and head CX evangelist at Oracle. "You might ask yourself, 'How do I create a customer-obsessed culture in my company?'" Cahill said. "I would say that's maybe not the right question, because cultures are so hard to change." For Cahill, the key is in identifying key values and motivators and using those as a foundation on which to build.
In a conversation with John Dalton, a vice president and research director at Forrester, Alice Milligan, managing director and chief customer and digital experience officer at Citi, explained how the bank has been able to bolster its multichannel CX efforts while strengthening its culture. Partly, the company's efforts have called for a focus on hiring the right matches—workers who are "passionate" about the mission and can act as "change agents," Milligan said. While Citi has focused on improving digital channels by enabling customers to set up payment accounts on mobile, for instance, the company has also empowered employees by enabling them to provide suggestions regarding any changes they would like to see via "voice of the employee" programs. According to Milligan, employees are encouraged to participate with any improvements they have suggested and get involved in the launch of a new idea.
Karen Risi, managing director at Vanguard, also spoke about how the investment management company has shifted internally to meet the demands of its 20 million clients. For years, Risi said, the company had assumed the investors it was serving had more expertise than they actually had; recently, it learned that many customers desired more guidance. So the company developed its Personal Advisor Services, which aims to provide assistance to those customers who require help with managing their investments. Employees have been central to the process, Risi said, as they "are the face of Vanguard, the [people] with whom you build trust." Vanguard has had to train employees so as to make sure that users would be willing to discuss their private finances with individuals they've never met, and will likely never meet in person.
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