By Dylan Flavell, Managing Director

Reading time: 4 minutes

Apart from technology, the rise of customer experience (CX) is the dominant business theme of the past 10 years. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, CX is king. Ironically, customer expectations have never been higher yet at the same time, will never be as low as they are today. As markets converge and as quality, price and service are evaluated regularly by consumers, what is an excellent experience today will be acceptable tomorrow and under-par the day after. In short, CX is a journey, not a destination and a key ingredient for organisations who can go the distance is organisational culture. In particular, the ability to continually adapt and evolve as the customer landscape changes is becoming a requisite CX capability.

“Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied even when they report being happy and business is great.” Geoff Bezos, CEO Amazon

Over the past 12 months we have been working with three iconic Australian organisations in three different market sectors (retail, education and property management) to enable their CX journey through organisational culture. Whilst fundamentally different organisations, their challenges are strikingly similar and offer insight to those seeking to build organisations that can deliver consistently great CX.

The context for these three organisations had similarities; historically successful and experiencing market disruption in the form of new competitors and changing customer expectations. For all of them, the criticality of CX at a Board and Executive level has been established. A core part of our work with these organisations included performance culture diagnostics where three similar cultural patterns relating to CX emerged.

  1. Low confidence and capability to execute cross functional programs of work, or more practically – silos exist that prevent ‘joined up’ customer experiences
  2. Employees who don’t feel empowered to act in the best interests of the customer
  3. An awareness of customer needs/problems, but difficulty responding to these at the necessary pace

So for each of these organisations, whilst they had invested in their CX journey by addressing more tangible aspects of CX (e.g. customer strategy articulation, product development and technology transformation), those ‘counter-customer’ cultural attributes described above had gotten in the way of realising the benefits. This pattern emerges as a ‘competing tension’; being that CX requires a dual focus and investment on both the tangible aspects of CX as well as the development of critical cultural attributes that enable agility and integration. Both are necessary but a tendency to address one without the other is common.

Getting practical

Our evidence base and experience suggest some key steps organisations must consider to develop a culture that supports CX.

  • Quality diagnostic: Understand your organisational culture using a quality, systemic performance culture diagnostic. Engagement is not the same. Performance culture lifts the tone of the conversation to enable strategic change. Deep evidence shows that the cultural attributes described above: Cross functional integration, Empowerment and Customer Responsiveness, are highly correlated with CX performance
  • Performance linked: Connect your culture to your strategy. If you can’t describe the links, senior stakeholders will see culture work in a non-commercial light and will lose interest
  • Involvement: Ensure those who deliver customer experience are involved in creating culture change solutions. This is critical to both addressing what really matters and getting uptake from your teams

Customer centricity is here to stay, but what that looks like won’t stand still. Building organisations that are customer centric requires intelligent and deliberate investment in culture, in the same way we currently invest in technology and other tangible CX assets. Those organisations and leaders who recognise this and take a medium to longer term view that balances investment across both domains will be the customer kings of tomorrow