This is a guest post.
Many businesses aspire to create a customer focused culture, but struggle to do so. Your true organisational culture can be hard to define, let alone actively cultivate. Despite what your mission and vision statements say, despite lofty-sounding posters on the walls, your true culture is “the way things are done around here” and may or may not be customer focused. Your actual culture consists of the sum total of the norms of behaviours that are created and reinforced by leadership behaviours and by your processes and programmes.
How can you make sure that the actual culture experienced by your customers and other stakeholders reflects and supports your organisational strategy? Your organisation’s talent management programmes can be powerful tools for building a customer focused culture. Here are some steps you can take to leverage them:
Define what “customer focus” means in your organisation
- What are the critical roles, tasks, and activities that impact customers either directly or indirectly? What do your customers need and want, and how would that look like in terms of specific actions and behaviours taken by your employees? Certainly customer facing employees will be most critical, but be sure to examine other activities and processes that impact the customer experience. Does customer focus mean quick response times, high quality products, a single point of contact for all customers, innovative products/services?
Identify the customer focused competencies
- What are the knowledge, skills and abilities that embody or underpin your organisation’s definition of customer focus? A good way to identify these is to observe or interview the people in your organisation who are most successful at customer service to see what competencies they tap into to obtain their success. Once you have identified the key customer focused competencies that enable success in various roles and activities, make them part of your organisation’s core competency model. Describe them in clear terms and embed them in job descriptions, employee development, performance management, and recruitment and selection programmes.
Identify learning activities to build key competencies
- Help employees at all levels and in all areas of the organisation develop customer focus competencies by making targeted training activities available to managers and employees. Learning activities can include formal training, on-the-job training, team-building exercises, modelling, coaching, etc.
Assess demonstration of customer focus competencies
- Now that you have clearly identified customer focused competencies and provided opportunities for employees to develop them, it’s time to hold them and their managers accountable for demonstrating progress. Regularly assess every employee’s demonstration of customer focused competencies as part of your on-going employee performance management activities and assign development programmes as required. Encourage managers and employees to regularly discuss and set development goals in customer focus competencies.
Set customer focused organisational goals
- Make building a customer focused culture an organisational priority by setting organisational goals, with measureable targets, to improve customer focus. Goals might include developing and implementing the competency model and developmental resources identified above, streamlining processes and improving customer satisfaction rates. Consider engaging your customers in the process of identifying relevant goals and milestones that will make a difference to them.
Cascade organisational goals to the individual level
- Once organisational goals are set, communicate them widely and provide tools to help managers and employees set departmental and individual goals that support the higher level customer focused goals. This builds purpose and accountability and ensures that everyone is aligning their efforts to improve customer focus. It is also motivating to individual employees when they understand how their work contributes to the larger organisation.
- Track both the employees’ and the organisation’s progress on their goals throughout the year. Take opportunities to communicate organisation-wide progress to all. Train managers to observe their employees’ performance and provide objective, targeted and constructive feedback on an on-going basis. This will help employees understand what is expected of them, what they are doing well (and should continue) and what they need to change (and how to do it). Hold supervisors and managers accountable for coaching their employees for improved customer focused performance based on the goals and competencies that have already been identified. Praise is a very powerful and usually underused behavioural motivator. Make sure supervisors and managers are watching for positive customer focused behaviours among their employees and praising success when they see it.
- Celebrate milestones as they are achieved and provide incentives and rewards for employees as they achieve performance goals related to customer focus. This will motivate workers to continue applying their best efforts to improve customer focus.
By analysing what customer focus means to your customers and building it into your talent management programmes through competency models, goal setting and performance management, you can create powerful building blocks to realise a strong customer focus culture.
As a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad is passionate about keeping a focus on customer needs and satisfaction. He writes regularly about how you can leverage your talent management programmes to support customer satisfaction, employee engagement and organisational alignment in the Halogen Exploring Talent Management blog (www.halogensoftware.com/blog/).
Thanks to the past tends to disappear for the image.