6 Ways to Build a Customer-Centric CultureCompanies have been trying to adopt customer centricity for nearly 20 yearsnow. But the CMO Council reports that “only 14 percent of marketers say thatcustomer centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11 percentbelieve their customers would agree with that characterization.”Why do so many companies struggle to get customer centricity right? Thevolume, velocity, and variety of customer data that now exists overwhelmsmany organizations. Some companies don’t have the systems and technology tosegment and profile customers. Others lack the processes and operationalcapabilities to target them with personalized communications and experiences.But the most common, and perhaps the greatest, barrier to customer centricity isthe lack of a customer-centric organizational culture. At most companies theculture remains product-focused or sales-driven, or customer centricity isconsidered a priority only for certain functions such as marketing. Tosuccessfully implement a customer-centric strategy and operating model, acompany must have a culture that aligns with them — and leaders whodeliberately cultivate the necessary mind-set and values in their employees.To build a customer-centric culture, business leaders should take sixactions:Operationalize customer empathyEmpathy is one of those buzzwords that sound really good, but very fewcompanies actually understand what it means, much less practice it. Essentially,customer empathy is the ability to identify a customer’s emotional need,understand the reasons behind that need, and respond to it effectively andappropriately. And it’s pretty rare. According to PwC, only 38% of U.S.consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs.To instill empathy as a universal value, one that informs everything theirorganization does, leaders must do more than give it lip service. Slack, thebusiness communication software company, operationalizes empathy.Employees spend a lot of time reading customer messages and observingcustomers to try to intuit what they want and need. Customer support specialists
are encouraged to research the people they’re helping and create mini personasfor them to better understand how the customers are using Slack. The companyscreens for support people who know how to express empathy through thewritten word, and the company doesn’t allow them to cut and paste cannedresponses. And for partners who build apps on the Slack platform, the companypromotes nine best practices to help them practice empathy, including “outlineyour use cases” and “storyboard each interaction.”Hire for customer orientationFrom the very first interaction with prospective employees, organizationsshould make thinking about customers and their needs a clear priority. AtHootsuite, the social media management platform, marketing and humanresources executives collaborate to do this.