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Want to Build a Customer-Centric Culture? Start with Building Trust. (Part 1 of 3)

Medallia: Customer-Centric Culture

Most companies want to be great at customer experience management. But the practical question I often get is, “What can my company do to create a customer-centric culture?”

I’ve come up with a simple but effective recipe to help you get started on the right path. These recommendations come from research we have undertaken at the Medallia Institute, and from many years of observation and organizational “lore” around the things our top clients do to foster customer centricity.

The recipe includes three specific, observable habits you can work on that will help you build your company’s customer-centric muscle. The first of these is focused on building trust. I will explore the other two habits in upcoming posts.

Habit 1: Build Trust Through Recognition

Trust is the foundation for healthy interactions at home and at work. As you might guess, it is a key component in customer-centric cultures, too. To find out if trust is being built inside your company, check to see how often managers recognize customer-centric behaviors within their teams.

United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company, builds recognition into the way they work. For example, their contact centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida, came up with a fun idea to showcase team members who go “above and beyond” for customers. When an agent gets a “10” with a customer shoutout or compliment, they write the comment on a hard hat, add a gold star, and present it to the employee. Over time, agents accumulate gold stars from the customers they serve, as a way of celebrating positive feedback. Executives are also engaged with what customers have to say. They use Medallia’s mobile app to monitor comments on a regular basis, and include a customer experience story at company meetings, pairing it with employee recognition.

This one small action, recognizing the positives, is a powerful way to drive trust and customer-centric culture. A few years ago, our research team studied the attitudes and behaviors of about 1,000 frontline employees in the United States. We asked them how customer feedback was used within their organizations, and also asked about factors that described company culture and management practices. We learned that teams who reviewed customer feedback more frequently were more satisfied and engaged at work.

It turns out that those employees [who reviewed customer feedback weekly and received positive recognition] were five times more likely to recommend their company as a place to work, and 50% more likely to say they plan to stay with the company for at least the next six months.

But pairing regular customer feedback reviews with positive recognition supercharged the results. We looked at employees who said their teams reviewed feedback at least weekly, and also agreed or strongly agreed that they were appropriately recognized for their efforts. It turns out that those employees were five times more likely to recommend their company as a place to work, and 50% more likely to say they plan to stay with the company for at least the next six months.

Unfortunately, the opposite scenario is all too common. Many managers only make time to discuss negative or critical customer comments. While this may express an honest desire to diagnose and fix problems, it can take a toll on feelings of safety and trust. Employees who work in this kind of an environment may start to view the customer’s feedback as something to fear. They may avoid difficult or uncomfortable interactions, which can make those interactions worse for the customer instead of better — perpetuating a cycle of mediocre or downright bad service delivery.

Bottom line: No matter what your industry or size, you just can’t lose when you foster more frequent recognition. Just make sure it is authentic, and not limited to stories that end in a ‘perfect 10.’ What you’re looking for is to build trust, and to reinforce customer-centric values, even in difficult customer situations. Good luck!

Stay tuned for Habit 2: Making the customer your coach.

Join us at Experience ‘19 to further explore the connection between employee and customer experience success from companies including Scotiabank, Petco, MassMutual and Ford Motor Company.