Find Your Partner On The Path To Customer Obsession

Companies that were founded on customer obsession — like Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, and USAA — derive significant financial benefits as a result. That’s because a customer-obsessed culture helps customer experience professionals deliver high-quality, on-brand, consistent experiences that drive loyalty. Fortunately, even companies that weren’t founded on customer obsession can transform their cultures and see big returns on their efforts. For example:

  • Tom Feeney, Safelite Autoglass’s chief executive officer (CEO), launched the company’s customer experience transformation in 2008. Since then, the firm has seen NPS, employee engagement, revenue, and profit metrics improve substantially.
  • Cleveland Clinic embarked on its patient experience transformation in 2009. Since then, it’s seen significant improvements in patient experience ratings, employee engagement scores, and business and operations metrics like number of patients admitted and average wait time to see a doctor.
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How PURE Insurance Built A Customer-Obsessed Business

My latest report, "Case Study: How PURE Insurance Built A Customer-Obsessed Business," is a case study of a company using its customer-obsessed business model to stand out in the insurance industry. Since its start in 2006, PURE has grown more than 40% each year and has one of the highest Net Promoter Scores in any industry.

Entering the crowded competitive insurance industry was no easy task. PURE knew it would need to stand out. That’s why the founders decided to go with a member-owned business model (called a Reciprocal Exchange) that would help differentiate the insurer from other insurance companies owned by shareholders. For PURE, owners as members means alignment between business and customer goals. The company deepens and reinforces this commitment in several ways:

  • Targets a select group of customers. In addition to creating a member-owned business model, the founders of PURE also focused on a market niche with a distinct and attractive profile. The insurer targets responsible high-net-worth customers. For its homeowners insurance policies, for example, the homes of potential policyholders must have a reconstruction cost of at least $1 million. The company selected this segment because high-net-worth customers represented a favorable risk profile. This, coupled with the fact that the niche lacked significant competition, created an opportunity for PURE to offer highly competitive premiums and still be profitable.
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How Hampton Hotels Built And Sustains Its Customer-Obsessed Culture

My latest report, "How Hampton Hotels Built And Sustains Its Customer-Obsessed Culture," is a case study of the hotel chain. The brand has been on a nearly 10-year journey to differentiate its hotels from competitors on the basis of exceptional guest experiences. It all started back in 2004. As part of the brand's 20th-anniversary celebration, Hampton asked its hotel owners to make about 120 product upgrades ranging from curved shower curtain rods to easy-to-use alarm clocks. Within a year, competitors had copied all of the new features.

The next year, in response to the cutthroat competition in the hotel industry, Hampton embarked on a culture transformation intended to differentiate its hotels from competitors by delivering superior guest experiences. Along the way, the team at Hampton learned important lessons about how to create and sustain a customer-obsessed culture:

  • Leverage executive support. The Hampton brand team began by making sure it had executive support for a culture transformation. That was smart. In previous research, I found that every successful culture transformation has had active executive support. The team at Hampton took advantage of having a strong advocate for customer focus in the form of Phil Cordell, who was the global head of focused service and Hampton brand management. He backed the transformation and created a new position, senior director of brand program development and integration, and appointed Gina Valenti to lead the transformation efforts.
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The Innovative Tool That’s Transforming Customer Experience Training

Companies want customer-obsessed cultures that will help them differentiate in the age of the customer. But transforming a culture can be a challenge: It requires all employees to understand who their customers are, how customers perceive their interactions with the company, and what roles employees need to play in delivering the overall experience. Enter learning maps, which are fast becoming the centerpiece of small-group interactive training sessions at many companies.

In my recent report, "Executive Q&A: Learning Maps; Innovative Tools For Customer Experience Training," I answered some of the common questions related to creating a learning maps to help companies decide if they should develop their own learning maps.

What are learning maps?

Learning maps are large-scale visualizations that use data, graphics, and illustrations to tell a story. The maps are training tools that abstract significant amounts of information into a format that facilitates conversations and understanding for diverse groups of employees.

How are learning maps used to improve customer experience?

Learning maps are typically used in small-group interactive training sessions to help employees understand the company's customer experience strategy and their role in delivering against that strategy.

What are the common scenarios where learning maps add value?

Some of the specific use cases for deploying learning maps include:

  • Sharing a new customer experience strategy.
  • Changing a specific part of the customer experience.
  • Training managers.
  • Integrating employees from acquired companies.
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Customer Experience Rooms: What Are They? Should Your Company Create One?

In the age of the customer, companies must transform their cultures from product-centric to customer-centric. But that is easier said than done. Customer centricity requires all employees to understand who their customers are, how customers perceive their interactions with the company, and the roles employees play in delivering the overall experience. Customer experience (CX) rooms — immersive, interactive spaces that help employees better understand customers — have emerged as a powerful new tool for bringing customers and their journeys to life for workforces. Done well, CX rooms inspire empathy and understanding among employees and help build customer-centric cultures.

In my recent report, "Executive Q&A: Customer Experience Rooms," I answered some of the common questions related to creating a CX room to help companies decide if they should build their own CX room.

Why do companies create CX rooms?

Firms create CX rooms to help employees understand the current customer experience their company delivers and to better understand the intended experience the company wants to deliver. The CX room that Ingrid Lindberg, chief customer experience officer at Prime Therapeutics, created at a previous employer demonstrated how complicated it was for customers to know which of the company's many phone numbers they should call or which of the firm's many websites they should visit.

How do CX rooms help improve customer centricity?

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5 Steps To Create And Sustain Customer-Centric Culture

My latest report, 5 Steps To Create And Sustain Customer-Centric Culture, is now live on Forrester.com. The report answers the question I hear most often from clients: What are the steps in the process to actually transform organizational culture to be customer-centric? We interviewed companies that have successfully completed this transformation, and companies that are in the midst of that process right now. We learned that there are five steps companies must take to create and sustain customer-centric culture:

Step 1: Secure Executive Support (No, Really). We do not want to sugarcoat this step. Customer experience professionals who don't already have commitment from their executives need to either get it or give up their hopes of transforming their organization's culture. Every successful transformation we studied began with a customer experience epiphany by a CEO or COO. If that realization hasn’t happened yet, CX pros can help create the spark of inspiration with executives. For example, Brad Smith, the Chief Customer Officer at Sage North America, established a program where executives sign up to spend time in the call center or join sales teams on customer visits. And he created a new leadership routine of bringing customer stories to their monthly meetings.  His goal was to get senior leaders to see the importance of customer focus.

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How To Build A Customer-Centric Culture

In my latest report, "How To Build A Customer-Centric Culture," I describe how customer experience professionals use three tools to embed customer focus in their organizations:

  • Hiring. Firms need to attract customer-centric candidates, screen out applicants who lack customer focus, and onboard new employees in a way that reinforces their customer-centric DNA.
  • Socialization. Companies must communicate their intended experience vision, train employees to deliver the intended experience, and reinforce customer focus with routines. 
  • Rewards. Organizations should use both formal and informal incentives that reward employees for behaviors that lead to better customer experience outcomes.
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Drive Customer-Centric Employee Behavior With Rewards And Recognition

In my latest report, "Drive Customer-Centric Employee Behavior With Rewards And Recognition," I describe how companies modify their reward and recognition programs to drive more customer-centric employee behaviors.

Many companies tie rewards to a rise in either Net Promoter Scores (NPS) or customer satisfaction scores. Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of mistake that leads employees and partners to game the system. Porsche discovered that its stellar NPS was the result of dealers offering freebies to customers in exchange for higher scores. Similarly, when it noticed that satisfaction scores and comments didn't match, music retailer Guitar Center had to retool its rewards and recognition system to prevent store associates from massaging customer survey results.

My report describes the process for ensuring your rewards and recognition reinforce customer-centricity, rather than tempting employees to game the system. To avoid common pitfalls, companies must:

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Communications, Training, And Routines: How Companies Socialize Customer Centricity

In my latest report, "Communication, Training, And Routines: How Companies Socialize Customer Centricity," I explain how companies that want to create a more customer-centric culture use communication, training and routines to help employees adopt a customer-centric point of view. The report provides the following examples and recommendations to help companies socialize customer-focus with all employees. 

Communicate the importance of customer-centricity. Effective communications programs share updates with employees about initiatives to reinforce customer focus and highlight the importance of customer experience to the organization. As part of their customer-centric communication programs, companies should connect senior leaders with frontline employees and ensure that all corporate communications reinforce customer focus.

  • Companies like Avis Budget Group and E-Trade focus on changing the tone and content of all corporate communications.
  • General Motors (GM) assigned leaders the task of explaining the new customer focus to their respective departments. Involving senior leaders in this way reinforced to all employees that customer centricity was now an organizational imperative.
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Q&A With Kathleen Cattrall and Aaron Frazier Of VCA Animal Hospitals

Earlier this year, I spoke with Kathleen Cattrall, interim chief experience officer at VCA Animal Hospitals about the company’s customer experience transformation efforts. VCA is a publicly traded company (fittingly, its NASDAQ ticker symbol is WOOF) that owns and operates more than 600 pet hospitals in the US and Canada. Its work to create more customer-centric hiring processes features in my latest report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees."
 
Kathleen and her colleague Aaron Frazier were gracious enough to answer a few more questions about their progress in building a more customer-centric culture and what they’ve learned about creating great pet-owner experiences. Here are some of their insights.
    
Q. How did VCA know it needed to improve customer experience? Was there a “burning platform,” or did someone senior at the organization decide it was time to make a change?
 
A. Art Antin, co-founder and COO, was the real visionary here. VCA was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Art was frustrated with clients visiting less frequently. Our customer retention rate was lower than VCA wanted to see. Complaints were escalating, and they all pointed to a poor customer experience. Art said, “We’ve spent 25 years becoming the leader in veterinary health services. We’ve accomplished more than any other company in that regard. We need to focus the next 25 months on improving our customers’ experiences with us.”
 
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