Customer-Centricity Starts at the Top

“How do I get my employees to care about customer service?”

This is a common question that we hear. Senior leaders in all types of organizations recognize the power of Fanatical Support, and want to know how they can bring it to their company.

My advice is always the same: If you want to build a culture of customer-centricity, look to the corner office before looking to the front line.

Far too many managers and executives view customer service the same way as public transportation: it’s a great idea – for everyone else but them. The reality is that until customer experience is on your leadership agenda, any efforts to create a service-center culture will fall flat. Why? In my opinion there are two main reasons.

The first reason is that most companies are addicted to “bad profits”, a concept introduced by Fred Reichheld in his book “The Ultimate Question.” Bad profits are those made at the expense of the customer relationship. If your customers feel unfairly taken advantage of, it doesn’t matter how helpful or polite your customer service staff is. You must make a decision, at the highest levels of the organization, to actively avoid bad profits if you want to enable a customer-centric culture.

The second reason that customer-centricity starts at the top is rather simple – the tone at the top defines what is important and what is not. If your staff sees you treating customer service like a cost center to be minimized whenever possible, it sends a very clear message: customer support is a necessary evil, and we should do it as cheaply as we can. On the other hand, an equally strong message is sent when you place customer care at the top of your agenda.

A great example of someone who puts customer care first is Jason Knight, CEO of Wesabe. There is a link titled, “Talk to Jason” featured prominently on the Wesabe website. If you follow the link, you will find Jason’s direct phone number, along with the following note:
“Hi! I’m Jason Knight, the CEO and co-founder of Wesabe. Every afternoon, from 12 to 4 p.m. PST, you can reach me directly at (800) 511-8544. If you have comments about our product, questions about how it works, or just want to chat a bit about what inspired us to create Wesabe, please give me a call. Sure, I could have an intern man the phones, but I can’t think of any job more important at Wesabe right now than talking to our new members and people who are thinking of signing up. So when you call, you’ll be talking to me. I look forward to it!”

If Jason is giving out his direct phone number, what message does this send to his team? How do you think they will view the importance of their customer experience?

How does your senior leadership view customer support? Is it a cost center to be managed, or is it one of the top items on your CEOs agenda? I’m interested to hear your examples.

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  1. I could not agree more. Dimension Data conducts a global contact center study each year and for the past several years it has found that for more than 50% of the large enterprises surveyed their contact centers and customer service are not viewed to be strategic to their businesses!!! This, perhaps, will come as surprising and disappointing news that not all companies recognize treating their customers well is an important part of their business strategy. But, think about your own experiences as a customer — it may not be so hard to believe.


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