Over the last few months, I have been exploring in detail my perspective on seven ‘tips’ that will enable any organisation to become genuinely customer centric. Each article has taken me on a personal journey, delving into my own experiences of putting into practice (with varying degrees of success), the things I continue to share with, teach and guide, practitioners and clients alike, all around the world.

As I have committed my experiences, thoughts and knowledge to writing, several common themes and ‘connections’ have risen to the surface. For example, in writing about ‘How to Ensure Customer Experience is a Key Element of Your Business Strategy’ last month, I made the point that there is little benefit to attempting to engage your people in better understanding the role they play in improving the customer experience, if customer experience is not actually part of the business strategy in the first place.

Another example is the subject of this, my penultimate article, in the series. If I point back again to last month’s article, there is little point having customer experience as a key element of your business strategy, or indeed having a strategy at all, if your people do not even know what the strategy is, or that it even exists! If you have an aspiration to lead or be part of a sustainably customer centric organisation, then you must master the art of COMMUNICATION!

“If you want to be sustainably customer centric, you must tell everyone that is the case – and then tell them again – and again – and again. Communication is such a vital component – the more creative and inventive you are in getting the message across, the better!”

You quite simply cannot ‘over’ communicate with anything that is core to your business AND customer strategy. If you want your people to buy in to your strategy; to support it; to be advocates of it; they need to know what it is and what it means for them – what you want/need them to actually do. If you have the intention of becoming a more customer centric business – you need to tell your people. Not once. Not in a poster on a wall that quickly becomes a ‘dust gatherer’ – but continuously – indefinitely.

Over the years, I have communicated the importance of Customer Experience to the companies I have worked within almost to the point of irritation (I am sure there are many who may agree!!) – I have done so because as a leader committed to helping the organisations I work with to genuinely achieve their customer centric goals, I know how important it is to continuously instill the message – instill it until the message has become embedded into the psyche of those you are communicating to – until mind sets have been fundamentally shifted.

Communicating the Customer Experience needs to be continuous, innovative and engaging. I and brilliant teams of people have done some quite radical things to get the message across. In 2010, two of my amazing colleagues came up with a communication campaign that we ended up calling ‘Feet in the Street’. Working for an online retailer, we were very conscious of the fact that many employees had never actually had the opportunity to ‘see, touch and feel’ the experience our customers were having daily.

The Shop Direct Board of Directors with the stiletto shoe at the launch of ‘Feet in the Street’ in 2010

So, to bring it to life in the most effective way possible, we re-created the customer journey in the centre of our head office building, with an enormous red stiletto shoe as the centrepiece, foot prints on the floor led our people through real life displays of the four stages of our customer journey. It was brilliant (even if I do say so myself) and a fantastic way of keeping Customer Experience ‘front and centre’ in the minds of our people.

If a continuous stream of messages is not translating its way across all floors, corridors, smartphones, tablets and PCs, then it is unlikely that the intent to become customer focused will become a reality. There is no right or wrong way to communicate – it just needs to be consistent, engaging and to a degree fun. Last year I judged the inaugural Gulf Customer Experience Awards in Dubai. One entrant, the Dubai Islamic Bank showed how powerful the right level of communication can be.

Every member of staff in the organisation – from the CEO down – wears a badge that represents their focus on the Customer. The Customer 1st badge is worn on the left-hand side of their bodies – close to their heart – it is powerful stuff. This type of ‘internal marketing’ continues with the regular distribution of Customer 1st branded ‘treats’ – from chocolates to games. The purpose is to continually remind everyone of the importance of the customer.

Failure to communicate effectively will have consequences. Lack of communication can lead to the following:

  • Employee disengagement and demotivation
  • Misinformed customers and colleagues
  • Various stakeholders making assumptions and drawing their own conclusions to certain scenarios
  • Expectations failing to be met
  • Unnecessary cost
  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Financial under performance

The key to these examples is that with good, honest, sincere communication, they are completely AVOIDABLE. If you keep your plans a secret from the very people who allow your business to exist (customers and colleagues), then the likely result will not be a pretty one.

Fundamentally, failing to communicate well and often with PEOPLE is also a potential sign of a lack of acknowledgement and appreciation of those very people – almost a lack of HUMANITY!

The truth of the matter is, that unless you are able to get EVERYONE in your organisation working together to a common purpose to achieve a business benefit, it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve an improvement in the Customer Experience. It is impossible to even deliver the experience that is intended. Unless everyone knows exactly what the common PURPOSE is – it is impossible for people to collaborate to achieve it!! It is not complicated!

So, if you are reading this thinking any of the following…

  • I cannot remember the last time my leaders explained what is happening in the organisation
  • I have no idea what direction our business is going in
  • Why does function X never involve me in decision making?
  • Why are my objectives different to other functions?
  • No-one ever asks me what I think
  • Why does no-one listen to us or our customers?
  • Why do they keep blaming us?

… then you may be working in an organisation that is missing an essential customer centric ingredient that is required (with others) if your business aspires to serve up continuously improving customer experiences. The power of communication must never be underestimated!

This post was originally written exclusively for my column on CustomerThink – a global online community of business leaders striving to create profitable customer-centric enterprises. The site serves 80,000+ visitors per month from 200 countries.

You can read my column here!