How do you get your employees excited about helping customers?

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The wrong priorities

‘Before we start with the customer experience part, I want to give you a quick update on our financial results and how far we deviate from our targets,’ the CEO goes on and on overwhelming employees with 10 minutes of tables, graphs, red and green numbers and arrows pointing hither and yon. Not a word is spoken about customers by this CEO who is fixated on how much above or below the company is from the annual target. Only when he introduces me, is the word “customer” used. I literally felt the vibes in the room change once the CEO started talking. The enthusiasm collapsed in a few seconds and weas completely dead by the time he stopped talking.

By starting the meeting like this, showing his obsession with the numbers, the CEO immediately undermined the belief that customer focus will become the company’s priority from now on. The theme you start a so called CX meeting with and how much time you spend on it will indicate where the focus truly lies.

That is NOT how you get your employees excited about helping the customer.

Let me give you the exact opposite example. A few months ago, I was invited to Milan by Antonio Gianno, Chief Commercial Officer of Hoya Surgical Optics, to support him in presenting the new customer strategy. This meeting was the perfect example of how it should be done.

A sincere speech

Antonio started the meeting with Hoya’s customer strategy. He gave an impressive 45-minute speech in which he explained in a very convincing and motivating way about the changes needed in the coming years to improve the customer experience. I then took the floor to further heighten people’s enthusiasm. By the end of the meeting, everyone was not only convinced that the new strategy was needed, but they also believed in Antonio’s sincerity and determination make it a success. That was not down to me, but to Antonio’s clever build-up in this meeting.

Too many top managers and entrepreneurs underestimate the impact of small decisions and choices in the process of getting people excited about a new strategy or project. If you want to get people excited about a customer centric culture, focus your message on that. Everything else – especially if it’s about financial statistics and revenue – is noise and creates the impression that you do not believe it is as important as you pretend.

The sad truth is that most companies are a Diamond in the Rough – the title of my brand new book about customer culture – when it comes to CX: full of good intentions (and beautiful PPT slides) and desires, but the real action and results fails to materialise. And I truly believe that the main reason for this inaction is that employees simply do not believe that their managers are sincere. The first CEO showed something different than the promised theme of CX, and it’s only logical that everything that followed after that seemed empty.

That’s why, in Diamond in the Rough, I describe the different components you need to make it very clear to all stakeholders that you genuinely want to build a customer culture. If you are truly serious about that, here are some useful questions you need to ask yourself first:

What vibe does your company exude?

Is your profile in the market positive or negative? When you are interviewed by the media, do you complain or do you announce an innovation? Some companies are portrayed by the media as complainers. This is a missed opportunity. A bright diamond has a positive media profile. If you want people to become enthusiastic about your company you must first and foremost exude enthusiasm and positivity. I call that the TOP GUN Effect.

What social influence does your company have?

In the past, companies were mainly concerned with their own problems. In some cases, a company may have acted to help their industry, but that was all. Today, companies influence all social issues. How far does your influence extend? And how do you use that influence to make a positive contribution? I call this evolution The Circle of Influence.

What credibility does your message have with your employees?

As described above, internal credibility is crucial in achieving a truly customer-centric company. Employees look at leaders’ behaviour much more than they value their words. Micro communication and leader decisions are essential. So ask yourself this: do your employees believe your ambitions in terms of customer focus?

If you want to learn more about creating a top customer culture, read my brand new book A Diamond in the Rough.