thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Changing the Culture

By on January 5, 2011

“The culture you create permeates everything you touch.” (The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy. With the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy created “an entity that stood for more than the simple goal of winning a Super Bowl.” That’s what has to happen in business, as well. There must be a shared purpose that goes beyond a narrow definition of winning based solely on selling and profits.

I have witnessed this to be true in the customer-centered organizations that I have known and worked with. The employees in these organizations all come to work with a purpose that goes far beyond the products or services that they sell.

Butterfly_lrgCulture is what gives an organization its wholeness. It takes it beyond a two-dimensional, robotic entity to the organic, three-dimensional identity that is recognizable both inside the organization as well as outside. And this deep, full culture begins and ends with its leaders. Just as every leader that is focused on building success the right way, Dungy established the values of family (inside the organization and its employees) and the complementary values of significance and making a difference (to everyone outside of the organization). The message, as in every great organization, was about how they together could impact the world.

Every truly customer-centered (beyond lip service) organization that I have encountered operates this way. All decisions are made based on these principles. They set the tone for behaviors and, as a result, there is a flexible system that does not need to be burdened by a lot of policies and procedures. So, the second message is that the people in the organization know that they are working for leaders who will support them. As Dungy reminds us, “In addition to knowing the importance of the cause, they also knew that they answered to a leader who had their backs.”

Real customer-centricity will not happen without a strong culture that is empowered to think first about customer needs. Changing the culture of your business from product-centric and rules-driven requires leadership that expects employees to “do the right thing” for customers and that supports the decisions these employees to close the gap on customer needs. Making that commitment to center your organization around the customer will take your performance to a new dimension. In exchange for this new, customer-driven strategy, your business will respond with a new dimension of winning that you did not realize was possible.


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