Many CEOs and CMOs would probably pat themselves on the back for the customer centric culture and excellent “value add” they have created. However, the truth is that fully knowing how well a company delivers to a customer’s experiential framework can be a real challenge in this day of multi-channel media impressions and individualized customer journeys.

Even the strongest customer centric culture tends to significantly overestimate a customer’s evaluation of their goods or services—by a lot. A long standing Bain study indicated that while 80% of the studied companies believe they provide superior value, only 8% of their customers agree. Even among companies with well-intentioned “Voice of the Customer” programs, only 29% of the companies believe their efforts are truly effective. And in these days of overly frequent post-experience surveys, one report indicated that only 6% of customers respond to follow up “NPS” surveys and only 36% of those respondents complete the survey (So I’m not the only one who is tired of being peppered with post-experience surveys!).

Aligning the Customer Centric Culture with the Customer Experience

The challenge is not new, but the complexity of today’s marketing communications and the customer journey is. How can we know what the customer is thinking, how they are reacting? How can we know with confidence what the team is delivering?

Of course we want to “intercept” those negative customer comments and fix the experience before the customer slinks away to never return or leaves a nasty note on one of those Internet rating systems (and yes, one “star” has been proven to lead to more—or less—sales).

While I have just come across a system that may (no firm answers yet) provide better response rates and excellent analytics, I suggest truly effective leaders will look first to make sure their primary customer relationships are positive and improving through the programs in place. In other words, do the homework and be truly disciplined and objective to evaluate what already exists.

Getting to know your customers and their experiential expectations better by building relationships across the system is a basic and good place to start.

  • Behavioral economists generally believe less than one-third of a customers’ considerations (and connection to the company’s products and services) are built on the rational. Is the Brand and its customer centric culture based on only rational attributes or both the rational and the emotional connections which drive loyalty? Are the Brand’s and company’s cultural values repeatedly dramatized?

Way more often than not, management stops communicating and repeating the Brand’s core values and culture long before the team living with and projecting those values fully embraces them.

  • The track record for social media effectiveness seems to be—not surprisingly—that content and connecting the customer to the Brand platform and a customer centric culture are paramount. Learn the customer’s interests first before telling them what the company wants them to hear. After all, it’s not what the company wants to say but rather what the customers want to hear as it relates to the brand, products or services that matters.

Working with a restaurant client, I was struck by a big bump in Facebook’s analytics that went beyond what the social media calendar had projected. It was based on a restaurant customer’s simple photo and comment on a piece of artwork rather than the menu or service or décor. The level of engagement was easily better than five times the average, and this customer’s experience demonstrates how the customer vision is through an experiential lens.

Effectively utilizing the social media experience is important and, as with other aspects of today’s technology, can benefit the needed sales and relationship building aspect of any customer centric culture. The highly disciplined and strategic consumer packaged goods companies (CPG) are moving more and more dollars toward social media to give social media a bigger portion of the media budget because of perceived sales gains.

  • Are the training and developmental programs impressive enough to teach, dramatize, and reemphasize the customer centric culture’s belief system? Are bonuses and promotions tied to outstanding customer service? This may sound obvious, but, all too often, they are critical pieces which are taken for granted or have not been updated and refocused in years.

It is never the wrong time to take another look at the core programs which are meant to drive a customer centric culture and its sales building impact. But the approach needs to be “tough” and objective, whether it’s dealing with the Brand and Culture, social media and other communications practices, customer friendly technology, or training and development.