One unfortunate side effect of being a busy, successful company is that it’s easy to become so focused on the tasks at hand that we lose sight of our customer. If you want to be sustainably successful, you must create a customer-focused culture within your company. Let’s look at some ways to accomplish this.

Creating a culture isn’t an “inverted pyramid” scenario. If you want to change or redirect the culture in your company, that comes from the top. Your employees need to know that you are as focused on the customer as you expect them to be. If they see you modeling that behavior, they are much more likely to buy into your customer-centric philosophy. 

Next, if you really want to serve your customers, you have to know what they need. That means getting to know them. Make an effort to know their challenges; how they prefer to communicate; and the language they use to describe their needs. The more you know about them, the better

you will be able to understand what they want and how to deliver it. It’s easy to assume that people see the inherent value in what we do. But it isn’t always as obvious as we think — so describing the benefit of what we do from the consumer’s POV helps make a quicker connection.

Also, hiring the right people can be a time-consuming process, but it’s one that is central to your success. The wrong person dealing with your customers can undermine everything that your company is doing right. With good hiring and training practices – especially an emphasis on follow up! – you can create a better experience for all involved. 

What goes hand-in-glove with hiring and training is enabling your team to quickly address routine issues. The simplest way for that to happen is for your employees to have the power to make decisions about how issues can be resolved. When your employees have to put a customer on hold while they track down a supervisor to make a simple decision, it’s demoralizing to the employee and wasting your customer’s time. Everyone will have a better experience if routine issues can be simply addressed.

Also critical in this era of instant communication is responsiveness. Customers aren’t going to happily wait a week before receiving some kind of response from you. This is especially true when dealing with complaints. You don’t want to give the impression that you are avoiding the issue. Maybe you don’t have an answer when you respond. It’s OK to let the customer know that you are working on their problem. Set an expectation for follow up. What ticks people off the most is being left in limbo. So a little communication goes a very long way to relieving everyone’s anxiety.

Now, with all of that said, the customer is NOT always right! Some customers have unrealistic expectations; they only operate in emergency mode; and they drain morale and profit. So, while it’s important to have a customer-friendly culture, it’s equally important to clearly see the bad apples…and fire them before they erode what you work so hard to build.