Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last post, I outlined the 5 actions to take at the initiation stage. In this one I focus on the 8 actions to take during the implementation stage. Although shown as a sequence, some of these steps will occur in parallel or in some instances in a different order. However, the first step here is clearly the start.
1. Demarcation event – Implementing culture change needs a memorable watershed event where the vision is clear, the stakes are raised, the leader leads, and the experience is emblazoned in people’s minds. Usually a major Town Hall event, this must be skillfully executed to maximize staff engagement. The goal here is to get public buy-in from the senior leadership team and generate momentum.
2. Development of values and norms - The desired new culture needs to be made real. People need to see it, “feel” it and emotionally connect to it. They have to see it will benefit them and they need to have the skills and confidence to enact the new behaviors. In Virgin Trains in the UK, small cross-function teams worked to develop meaning to the values identified by their leadership and what the norms meant in everyday work practices.
3. Customer mindset and skills workshops – A large sample of staff attend workshops to help them understand what a “customer mindset’ is and practice behaviors that make customer culture tangible and relevant. Often workshop participants are cross-functional to reinforce the customer mindset and importance of organization wide delivery of value to customers. In large corporations, workshops may start with the top few hundred leaders, then cascade into their teams.
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4. Cross-function collaboration – Teams work together cross functionally to strengthen customer focus. Cross-function work teams come together to create or strengthen systems, tools and processes to increase customer engagement. These might include processes such as user testing during the new product process, customer feedback systems and tools to improve value at customer touch-points found to be lacking.
5. Market alignment – Several activities are initiated to reconnect with customers and the marketplace. These include customer Immersion (the subject of an earlier blog) of executives and non-customer facing people, customer research, customer co-creation activities and improved customer communication approaches.
6. Communication - What people see and hear needs to create a sense of fun and excitement for them to connect with the new cultural expectations. Stories are the conversations that create shared experiences and produce a common cultural bond between people. This is reinforced by communication of quick wins and shared stories at mini-town hall meetings and by internal social media.
7. Rewards and recognition – Leaders use public forums to recognize and reward people who are taking a lead in adopting the values and norms in their work to deliver more value for customers. The most powerful recognition is interpersonal with senior leaders showing approval, support or disapproval of employee actions or comments at particular venues such as mini-town halls and corporate events.
8. People changes – At some point coaching dissenters and blockers of change ceases and their removal becomes the focus, including the senior leadership. At the same time hiring criteria and orientation training of new staff reflects the new values and norms and infuses customer culture and relevant customer engagement skills.
My next post will outline the actions required to embed the customer culture as the normal way of conducting business.