29 Apr Nurturing a customer-centric mindset
At CX Training we believe that a customer-centric mindset always has to come first. Strategies can be developed, skills can be learnt, initiatives can be implemented, but behaviours won’t change unless your customer-facing staff are truly focused on responding to customer needs and building customer value.
So, what is a customer-centric mindset?, what alternative mindsets distract individuals from focusing on the customer, and how can businesses nurture a true customer-centric mindset?
The customer-centric mindset
The customer-centric mindset puts the customer at the centre of everything with a commitment to maximising customer value and enhancing the customer experience for its own sake.
There are many different elements to a true customer-centric mindset, and organisations may and should define this for themselves based around any deeper understanding of their own customers needs and value triggers, but it is commonly characterised by some or all of the following mantras:
- You can afford to be generous
- Put yourself in their shoes / Walk a mile in their moccasins
- The customer is more important than you and your immediate task
- The customer is more important than the company
- Every customer interaction is a moment to shine
- Lose every fight
- Understand more, give more, get more
Customer value is the main profit center
(Get the picture?)
It’s about empathy, yes but enlightened, curious, self-effacing empathy. It’s about effort and continuous improvement for the customer’s benefit. Its about taking risks for the customer and clearly prioritising the customer over both your role and the company.
Four alternative mindsets that hinder the development of a true customer-centric mindset are the fixed mindset, the organisational mindset, the compliance mindset and the technical mindset. All of these are commonplace in, and beneficial to, any organisation, but understanding them may help leaders cultivate more customer-centric behaviours.
The fixed mindset assumes that our intelligence and talents are static givens, and that success is the affirmation and application of these talents. Fixed mindset people are ‘know-it-alls’ who aren’t interested in deeper understanding, learning more or doing better. They think they know what customers want and believe they add value by sharing their insights. They talk, they don’t listen. The fixed mindset follows its own path, rather than responding to the customer.
The organisational mindset is focused on success for the organisation. This mindset might indeed look at interaction with customers – but will be driven by organisational goals rather than customer value. The organisational mindset asks ‘how can we make money from our customers’ rather than ‘what value do our clients need to see before they are willing to pay?’.
The compliance mindset is dutiful but internally focused and unambitious. Compliant-centric people look to ensure they are doing everything that their organisation asks of them. They are task-focused and will get the job done, but will often be oblivious to customer value. They are jobsworths! They might respond better than most to specific customer-facing demands and KPIs but will not take personal risks for the customer and lack the initiative to go above and beyond.
The technical mindset focuses on the technical detail, their own expertise and final products/services rather than customer value. Professionals such as lawyers, accountants and engineers often have technical mindsets – they focus on how their expertise can deliver superior technical solutions but are often oblivious to real client value in terms of time, the emotions, money, risk and convenience.
In addition to the above, people can lack confidence in customer facing activities or might simply find other activities more rewarding or stimulating.
None of these mindsets are necessarily ‘bad’ in themselves – and are often necessary – but they can often distract people from being truly customer-centric. Having a true customer-centric mindset means being able to recognise when to focus all you energies on the customer. Changing these mindsets often requires an appeal to sensitive emotions and deeply held beliefs about individual talents and roles, the organisation and the customer challenge.
Developing the customer-centric mindset
Developing customer-centric mindset amongst individuals might therefore be different from many of the other activities recommended for building a customer-centric organisation. An organisation might focus on cultural change, define customer-facing responsibilities, analyse customer touchpoints, implement voice-of-the customer programs, undertake a customer experience gap analysis, connect what needs to be connected and define desired behaviours and customer-centric KPIs.
All this might be very effective, but it is different from nurturing a true customer-centric mindset amongst individuals. Such organisation-led activity carries the risk of an organisational or compliance mindset – prompting individuals to primarily respond to the demands of their organisation, rather then being flexible in meeting the needs of their customers.
Even such initiatives as culture and value programs can be self-defeating in this respect, often leading to mindless compliance, cynicism and employee disengagement (which can kill the customer experience stone-dead)
As with so many other challenges, developing customer-centric mindsets is primarily a leadership challenge (across the whole organisation). Leaders need to coach individuals to more productive mindsets by challenging limiting beliefs, offering encouragement and removing the organisational fear that can lead to a compliance-centric mindset.
Team leaders need to truly ‘engage’ people in customer facing activities, instilling confidence, highlighting the intrinsic rewards that come from customer engagement, encouraging ideas and contributions, and recognising successes and advances. People need to feel free to try different approaches and share their experiences.
The customer-centric mindset then needs to be rewarded – and this might mean clearly prioritising customer-facing activities over organisational or role-based compliance. If organisations are willing to do this (?), the message needs to go out loud and clear:
Your team has to feel free to put customer needs before that monthly report. your team will never truly develop customer-centric mindsets if the organisation only rewards task-based productivity and process discipline.
CX Training helps organisations make customer experience their competitive advantage through tailored training solutions.