How to create a customer-centric culture within your organisation

With the advent of the internet and social media, the new business mantra is that selling is not just limited to salespeople anymore, writes speaker, author and mentor Tony Hughes on behalf of SugarCRM.

In a world where every consumer has the ability to instantly damage or build a supplier’s brand, customer service is the new sales model. “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all,” says American business author Michael LeBoeuf.

tony hughes headshot

The power of a customer-centric culture

One example that epitomises the effects of good company culture happened in the aftermath of the QF32 incident where an Airbus A380 carrying 440 passengers experienced a failure mid-flight.

Safety, transparency and accountability are cornerstones for all Qantas pilots, and this embedded culture shone through as flight Captain Richard de Crespigny assumed the role of customer service and public relations leader once he and the team had the aircraft safely on the ground.

His open and honest disclosure and personal guarantee to passengers in the airport terminal after the event, transformed the stressed passengers into the best brand advocates Qantas could have hoped for.


Putting it into practice in an online world

So how can business leaders enable a culture of customer focus and sales awareness throughout their entire organisation?

Every employee who touches a customer in any way needs to be an advocate of the brand and seek opportunities to deliver value and generate revenue.

The business website, along with digital and social media strategies should empower staff to engage with customers and stakeholders and hold meaningful conversations, not just to support sales and marketing messages but to improve service and build relationships, loyalty and new interest.

The real power of social media can be found by monitoring conversations and using the platforms to gather valuable insights about what is happening in the marketplace.

Rather than restricting employee usage of the internet and social media in the workplace, businesses should embrace these platforms, and educate and empower staff to use them effectively to support customers and sales strategies in ways relevant to their roles.

Of course, employees need to understand that with this sort of freedom comes responsibility and accountability. But when implemented well, it’s powerful.


Service people are salespeople

Looking beyond a résumé and recruiting people who share an organisation’s customer-centric values reduces the risks to its brand.

To underpin a culture where everyone is a brand ambassador, tools like customer relationship management (CRM) systems are vital. Even better, CRM solutions with embedded social media feeds bring today’s two most powerful tools together to provide a ‘single source of the truth’ about customers.

But implementing a top CRM tool is pointless if employees aren’t encouraged to use it effectively.

People should be plugged in to the full view of each customer, empowered to engage in meaningful ways, and rewarded if they go above and beyond in delivering exceptional customer service and relationship-building, regardless of their role.


Key ingredients for creating a positive customer-centric culture:

  • Focus on what’s relevant to customers when defining culture, and create emotional connections for every employee,

  • use a mirror, not a manual, to transform the organisation by living the values and culture,

  • carefully hire only those who are culturally aligned and have the right attitudes and values,

  • empower and liberate all employees to embody the culture and represent the brand, and

  • trust people to step-up, and reward those who create customer magic.