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CX maturity playbook: Culture

Actionable insight to uplevel and transform the CX culture in your organization.

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INTRO

How to use this playbook 

This playbook features one of the nine key elements that we measure in our customer experience maturity assessment: culture.

Here we provide you with specific actionable steps you can take to advance from one level of culture maturity to the next. 

If you have yet to assess your CX maturity, we suggest you take our assessment now, identify your current level for culture, and return to this playbook for how to move forward based on your score. 

The insight provided is in partnership with Jeannie Walters, CX expert, CEO and founder of Experience Investigators™.

ABOUT THE ELEMENT

Customer-centric culture

An organization has a customer-centric culture when all employees and leaders see the customer at the core of everything they do. This means that customer happiness, and not just satisfaction, is the driving force for all strategic actions and communications, both internally and externally. 

Customer-centricity frees leaders from the “inside-out” thinking that occurs too often in organizations. Instead of assuming they know the best for the customer, leaders put in the work to listen and understand their customers’ needs and wants. And it pays off—customer-centric businesses are 60% more profitable than their product-focused counterparts. That’s in part because customers see and feel that customer-centric culture. What happens inside the organization, shows up on the outside to customers. 

A mature customer-centric culture has the customer woven into every aspect of the organization, reinforcing and rewarding great customer experiences. Employees are empowered to listen to customers, understand their needs and act on behalf of them, and as a result, customers trust in the organizations’ consistency and quality.

Such a state is achievable through strategic action, which you can start taking today with the help of this playbook. 

The five levels below are defined based on general processes, rules, and expectations of a customer-centric culture. We recommend you start with the level that our assessment scored you as.

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Level 1 to Level 5

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, culture within the organization is not intentionally defined or nurtured. Customer experience is not a focus, so culture is not aligned with a CX mission or strategy. 

Culture is felt by employees based on how leaders and others treat one another. Standards, best practices, and recognition are ad hoc and not centralized along with the values of the organization. This often leads to communication challenges and questions around priorities, especially as it pertains to managing customer experience.

You might hear employees make such statements: 

I sell customers what we promise, but then the product team doesn’t deliver on time. So customers get confused and call me, which isn’t really my job. But it’s just the way it is here. — Sales Leader 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 happens when certain leaders understand and express the importance of customer experience as a strategy.

To move forward, focus on: 

  • Leaders invested in CX strategy 

  • Organizational values 

How to take action

To advance to Level 2, identify those key leaders in the organization who are working toward customer experience improvements for their own teams and parts of the customer journey. Then leverage their alliance to educate their teams on CX best practices and bring organizational values to the forefront of team culture. 

Step 1: Find your CX champions

These leaders intuitively know the importance of customer experience for your organization. They work with their teams to improve individual touchpoints along the customer’s journey within their responsibilities.

Often, at Level 2, these leaders work in silos—they are focused on specific outcomes for their parts of the journey. For instance, the leaders of Marketing, Digital and, Product teams see the connection between their own deliveries and results, like higher conversion rates, increased positive customer feedback, and improved retention rates.

To find and build an alliance with these individual CX champions, try these ideas: 

  • Host “lunch and learn” sessions on CX topics: Invite leaders to attend and present at these lunches and you’ll quickly find out which leaders are proactively taking steps for a better customer experience, even if they themselves don’t yet see it that way.

  • Communicate about CX best practices: Work with your internal communications team to share customer stories, provide direction on how to measure customer experience success, and highlight those leaders improving specific touchpoints.  

  • Look for customer comments: If you are collecting customer feedback, pay attention to the specific touchpoints, phases of the journey, or even employee names that are mentioned. These can point you to the leaders and teams who are delivering on their part of the journey.

Once identified, invite these leaders to start nurturing the future customer-centric culture you want to see. Encourage these champions to share their successes not just with their teams, but also with their fellow leaders.

Step 2: Communicate how your organizational values connect with customer experience 

At this level, your organization’s vision, mission, and values may be documented but aren’t necessarily internalized and lived by employees.

Your company’s values will shape the culture—and whether it’s customer-centric—as well as impact your business strategy. So ensure these existing values are not just documented somewhere but also communicated throughout your organization. 

Instead of just including the organization’s values on a poster in the office, try incorporating them into decision-making. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate how these values influence the customer experience.

To help guide you, ask questions like:

  • Does this new service/product/improvement align with our values?

  • Are we living up to our values in the way we communicate and work together inside the organization? 

  • Would our customers see how this aligns with our values as an organization?

Lead with these values and questions. Encourage other leaders to do the same.

And if you don’t know or can’t find the organizational values, then that’s a challenge unto itself. It’s worth taking the time to identify and document them to improve your culture and better serve your customers. 

Lastly, if your organizational values do not prioritize the happiness of customers and employees, work with leaders to consider what customer-centric values should be incorporated in future goals. 

Level 2 

What it looks like 

At this stage, some leaders and teams are invested in customer experience and are making improvements to individual touchpoints along the journey that directly relate to their team(s).

Yet some leaders and teams still don’t see how they are connected to or accountable for customer experience. 

Certain leaders simply dismiss the customer experience strategy because they believe their work doesn’t impact the customer’s journey: They see customer-facing teams like Customer Service, Sales, and Marketing as those who should care about CX. 

These leaders could come from departments like Operations, Human Resources, and Accounting; they define themselves as serving “internal customers” or colleagues. However, this is often because the connection between their work and customer experience is not well-defined or communicated.

You might hear employees make such statements: 

Marketing keeps talking about customer experience. But our team doesn’t interact with customers directly, so it really doesn’t apply to me or our team. My job is to hire the right people and manage employees, not to handle customers. - HR Manager

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 is about ensuring every leader sees their role as directly related to the customer experience. This is also when leaders and employees start to feel ownership of the entire customer journey, and not just siloed touchpoints. 

Customer experience is discussed often and included in the overall growth strategy for the organization. And leaders work together to improve certain aspects of the customer journey.

To move forward, focus on:

  • A cross-functional leadership team

  • Customer experience strategy 

How to take action

To advance to Level 3, create a cross-functional team of leaders that can work together to improve certain key components of the customer journey. At the same time, educate leaders across the organization to see that their role is crucial to a customer-centric culture. 

Step 1: Develop a cross-functional leadership team focused on customer journey improvements 

Now is the time to move beyond siloed accountabilities and build a cross-functional leadership team on behalf of the customer.

Create a team charter focused on the overall customer journey. A cross-functional team needs to understand their common goal and how it’s tied to the overall customer experience strategy. This group of leaders will prioritize CX improvements and hold teams accountable for the changes required. 

Next, define the specific roles and responsibilities within the team structure. Develop criteria for prioritization and governance related to customer experience initiatives. 

Step 2: Educate and communicate how the CX strategy applies to each leader and team

At Level 2, some leaders may still believe customer experience is just an industry trend, or worse, corporate jargon. To advance to Level 3, you must educate and empower leaders across the organization to see their role as crucial to a customer-centric culture.

Work with your Learning and Development (L&D) team to introduce curriculum and opportunities for CX education. The learning paths should include both general customer experience education, like the business benefits of customer experience, and, more specific curriculum for teams and leaders, such as how to interview candidates for customer-centricity.

For example, the HR team could benefit from seeing how hiring, onboarding, and the overall employee experience are directly related to delivering CX success. 

Transforming a culture is an ongoing process of education, communication, and recognition. Empower leaders to recognize their team members and other leaders who are taking action towards a great customer experience. A customer-centric culture is built by daily actions, and peer recognition programs can create awareness throughout the organization. 

Level 3   

What it looks like 

At this stage, every leader sees their role as directly related to the customer experience. This is also when leaders and employees start to feel ownership of the entire customer journey, and not just siloed touchpoints. 

Customer experience is discussed often and included in the overall strategy for the organization. This means customer experience strategy and outcomes are in place to support the overall business strategy and outcomes. And as a result, leaders work together to improve certain key aspects of the customer journey. 

You might hear employees make such statements: 

We’re starting to work together to address issues for customers. For example, I’m working with our Payment Processing team because we’ve identified challenges during the digital checkout process. We’re focused on living up to our values for our customers and each other.  - Marketing Leader 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 3 to Level 4 happens when the leadership team expands to include a leader dedicated to customer experience. Also, at Level 4, employees reflect the customer-centric values of the organization throughout their entire employee journey. This means they know what’s expected of them and how to show up for customers and each other.  

To move forward, focus on:

  • Team and role descriptions

  • A dedicated CX leader  

How to take action

To move to Level 4, focus on customer-centric job descriptions for both new and current employees. And bring in a CX leader to the C-Suite to guide the entire organization’s customer experience strategy.

Step 1: Create customer-centric descriptions for current  and new employees 

Job descriptions, for both existing and new roles, should be anchored in cultural values and customer-centric ideals. In other words, each role should be defined within the context of the customer-centric culture and values of the organization.

First, include in job postings and role description templates, a brief introduction that highlights what’s expected of each employee as it relates to the customer-centric culture.

For instance, you could say something such as: “[Organization] is committed to building trust and creating a friendlier world for our employees, our customers, and our communities.” 

By including such customer-centric language before a candidate even applies for a position, you are sending a message about your culture and setting expectations from the very beginning of the employee relationship.

Next, include similar language to incorporate cultural values into current role descriptions. Ensure each employee sees how their specific actions and behaviors are tied to driving the overall customer-centric culture forward.

You can even invite employees to co-create this language with leaders. This can empower employees to live up to these values and truly internalize what kind of culture is being built.

Step 2: Hire a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) or Chief Customer Officer (CCO)

This leader will be responsible for organizing, developing, and measuring the success of the customer experience strategy. 

More than 90% of enterprise organizations had a CCO or a CXO in 2020. They often reported directly to the CEO, although some will report to the Chief Operations Officer (COO) or the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

These leaders are responsible for improvements along the entire customer journey, as well as leading customer feedback strategies and driving customer experience optimization.

When it comes to culture, they communicate CX goals across the organization and share results that’ll inspire customer-centricity. 

CX is still a team sport, however, and the CXO or CCO can’t be responsible for making all the changes required. That’s why a cross-functional team is so vital to delivering success. The Chief Experience Officer is the leader of that cross-functional team focused on customer success. It is up to them how to prioritize investments to gain the most return.

Employees see the investment in a CX leader as a sign of how seriously the organization is taking customer experience as a strategy. This leader is there to drive the discipline required to deliver on that strategy.

Level 4   

What it looks like 

At this stage, there is a CX leader dedicated to the overall customer experience and they work with other leaders to act on improvements needed throughout the customer’s journey. 

The culture of the organization reflects a customer-centric perspective, through ongoing education, communication, and recognition for employees who live up to the overall values of the organization.

Employees understand the value of this C-Suite leader and how they contribute to the success of the CX strategy. There is also a holistic approach to the customer’s journey, and employees are empowered to act in the best interest of the overall journey, not just at the touchpoint level.

The culture is one of collaboration and cooperation on behalf of the customer. And teams feel good about their work and the outcomes this collaboration achieves.

You might hear employees make such statements: 

We’re all focused on one goal, and that’s delivering great customer experiences. I had an idea for an improvement and my manager was totally supportive in helping make that happen. We worked with several different teams to connect everything in the customer journey. I know what we do really matters to customers and it’s a place I’m proud to work. - Distribution Manager

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 4 to Level 5 occurs when the culture of customer-centricity becomes the identity of the organization, and activities to support this mindset are woven into every aspect of the business.

At Level 5, employees feel heard and respected by colleagues and collaborators throughout the organization. Leaders and teams work to improve the customer’s journey based on a holistic, collaborative approach and centralized customer data. Decisions are made according to the overall values of the organization. 

The CXO and team provide ongoing support and education around CX best practices, so employees are empowered to use techniques like customer journey mapping to innovate around the customer experience. 

The employee journey is reflective of the customer journey and is also based on values and innovation on behalf of the employees. Employees are proud of their work and how it contributes to the culture of the organization.

To move forward, focus on:

  • CX support and training

  • Employee journey

How to take action

To advance to Level 5, establish ongoing training around customer experience techniques and best practices. Then apply those best practices to the employee journey itself.

Step 1: Offer ongoing CX best practices training and support

At Level 4, people throughout the organization want to deliver on customer experience success. They understand how it all fits together within the holistic customer journey. So, to advance your culture to a Level 5, empower them with the tools and knowledge to act.

The CX team, led by the CXO or CCO, can take the lead on this. It could be helpful to partner with the Learning and Development (L&D) team in building a “train-the-trainer” program around techniques like customer journey mapping, service blueprinting, and how to measure CX success.

There are also opportunities for on-demand learning with digital courses, either within the organization’s Learning Management System (LMS) or leveraging free online courses

The CX team can also offer support to individual teams who are embarking on customer experience initiatives by:

  • Partnering with teams on programs to provide guidance on CX best practices.

  • Facilitating cross-functional teams who work together to improve and innovate on the customer experience.

  • Socializing what’s working across the organization, and recognizing those leaders, teams, and individuals who are contributing.

Step 2: Align the employee journey with the customer journey

Culture is defined by how employees behave, interact and feel about their role at the organization. That means understanding their journey is critical.

The same journey mapping techniques to understand customers can be applied to understand employee challenges, needs and opportunities. Does the journey reflect the desired culture and overall values? That’s the question employee journey mapping can help answer.

The employee journey starts before the candidate is hired and doesn’t end when an employee leaves. The ideals of the customer journey should be reflected in the employee journey. If these are misaligned, then the culture is not really universally represented. 

Invest in employee journey mapping to understand:

  • How to attract and hire people who are excited about the customer-centric culture.

  • Where additional support, tools, or technology would empower employees to deliver on CX success.

  • What rewards, incentives, and recognition are most meaningful to align employee behavior with cultural values.

Culture shows up in the everyday actions of employees, regardless of their role. It is how they are asked to “show up” for each other and for customers. And culture doesn’t stay just inside your organization. It is visible to customers, suppliers, and partners, through their experiences. When values are aligned and employees feel valued and empowered, customers feel that way, too.

Level 5   

What it looks like 

At this final stage, employees are connected around common customer-centric values, goals, and outcomes. There is a feeling of collaboration and camaraderie, even when there are disagreements or some conflict.

At Level 5, employees can define the common purpose of the organization, as well as their role in that purpose. They see each other as peers, regardless of title, and treat one another with respect and empathy.

This culture is transparent and seen by customers. Customers feel respected and heard, and feel a sense of ownership in their relationship with the brand. They see employees as ambassadors for this culture.

Employees, leaders, and customers all feel a sense of belonging and pride in their connection to the organization. They are constantly working toward what can be improved, and are transparently communicating about what work is planned to improve the customer journey.

Techniques like customer journey mapping and employee journey mapping are ongoing and regularly used to move the experience forward. Employee rewards are based on cultural values, and employees are recognized for their contributions to living those values.

You might hear employees make such statements: 

Covid-19 forced us all to transition to remote work. But we were able to adapt quickly because as an organization we share common values and goals. The C-Suite communicated transparently with both us and our customers, and I appreciated that trust and reassurance. I can be honest about what’s going on and also reach out to others to collaborate on solutions. I’m grateful to work in such a great place and feel like I belong here. - Production Assistant

Where to go from here 

Level 5 is not the end of the rainbow. It takes consistent effort and attention to maintain a great culture. It’s an evolving process as you add employees, reorganize corporate structure, introduce new customer experiences, and transition employees to other roles.

Culture needs nurturing. It works best when there is authentic communication and ongoing visibility around those shared goals and outcomes.

To nurture a great culture:

  • Share customer feedback in an ongoing and consistent way.

  • Recognize creative solutions to internal and external challenges.

  • Offer employee well-being programs and encourage team leaders to support employee self-care.

  • Educate and empower employees with new and creative ways to contribute to a customer-centric culture.

  • Recognize important milestones and moments along the employee journey.

Empowering employees with a shared vision is a key step in creating a customer-centric culture. Continuing to communicate, educate and evaluate how to live up to that vision is how to maintain and grow that culture in the present and into the future.

CONCLUSION

Closing thoughts

Culture is going to happen whether it is intentional or not. Creating and maintaining a customer-centric culture means focusing on it in an ongoing, authentic way. 

As you take action, retake our maturity assessment to track your progress. Remember, you shouldn’t expect to make all major improvements at once—this is a slow process, but each change will add up to positively impact the quality of your customer experience program. 

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