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Here’s What A Customer-Centric Leader Should Look Like

Tough global competition has forced companies to rethink their business strategies and come up with innovative and different ways to manage their customer portfolios, along with looking to improve service interaction. To survive in this fiercely competitive world, organizations are prioritizing customer experience, which is the only differentiator between brands today. It’s time that companies make delivering awesome customer experience their number one priority. If they don’t, then customers – potential and existing – will not think twice before moving on to the competition. Hence, it is imperative that organizations become customer-centric and more importantly, hire leaders with a clear customer-centric vision.

What traits must a customer-centric leader possess?

A successful customer-centric leader is one who effectively guides his employees to deliver exceptional customer experience. While this sounds easy, it is no easy job! Making an organization customer-centric requires changing the internal and external processes, standardizing metrics and bringing about a change in the thinking of all employees across the length and breadth of the organization. Apart from creating new strategies, it also requires that these strategies are executed successfully!

Let’s look at 4 must-have traits that customer-centric leaders should possess to drive an organization into a customer-centric future:

1. They set clear and defined goals

If something can’t be measured, it can’t be achieved! Customer-centric leaders are certain about the objectives and goals of the strategies they are creating. Apart from this, they review the goals of every service employee and ascertain how far off the baseline everyone is. Their strategies are sturdy and start with the customer. They aim to standardize regular processes to make them more customer-centric and easy for the customer. Instead of micro-managing, such leaders empower their employees and let them own problems and find the best possible solution.

Such leaders also lead with a purpose. They understand that customer experience is not a single department – it must be ingrained in the culture of the organization. They align every single employee of the organization with their customer-centric ideas.

2. They understand the importance of employee engagement

Such leaders understand that engaged employees will lead to engaged customers. They understand that employees need to be trained to achieve the service standards required by the company and need to be empowered to provide excellent service. But only coaching the employees won’t do! They also successfully create a culture where employees feel empowered, appreciated and loved, ensuring that the customers feel likewise.

These leaders strive to create an environment where the employee is proud of himself and champions the idea of putting the customer first.

3. They encourage and reward innovation

Such leaders understand that employees are the ones facing the customer and they’d be the best ones to build newer, effective processes. They listen to the employees and build a healthy culture where best practices are shared.

They ensure that exceptional service levels are encouraged and rewarded. This will help raise service standards and the employees will feel the need to outperform their colleagues, encouraging healthy competition and creating an environment of passion and positive energy.

4. They hire a mix of talent

Once the strategies are set, such leaders ensure that they hire a good mix of experience and enthusiasm. It is but obvious that every job profile has basic minimum prerequisites but such leaders hire a bunch that will not only create a dynamic and positive but also a result-oriented, customer-passionate team!

How to become a customer-centric leader?

In order to become customer-centric, almost every business leader knows they need to fundamentally change how their organization engages with customers. While such leaders have a customer-centric vision of what the organization should look like and a logical plan for getting there, they are puzzled about how to fully engage the organization to put the plan into action. Vision isn’t enough. True change comes when the vision is attached to emotions and customer centricity is ingrained in the culture of the organization. Indeed, if people see that their leaders are living the customer values the organization puts forward, they will be willing to live these values themselves.

We would like to share three important steps that can help you become a customer-centric leader:

1. Provide direction and purpose

The first step is to provide the right direction and a clear vision for customer centricity. Propelling the vision must be a strategy that outlines how this differentiated customer experience will be delivered. Not a strategy for strategy’s sake, but a strategy for customer’s sake. The strategy should be robust and must be broad enough to cover organizational change management and have the right metrics to measure success or failure in delivering enhanced customer experience.

Finally, communicate your direction as clearly and concretely as possible and include prioritized actions with measurable targets. Most importantly include all internal stakeholders in strategy formulation so everyone feels vested in it.

2. Make everyone understand that this is cultural, not just a project

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when moving to a customer-centric vision is to assume that their job is done once the plans have been developed and cascaded. To sustain the momentum in long-term, constant and visible leadership energy for customer centricity is required. The leader must be seen and heard, expressing a genuine sense of urgency, commitment, and passion. Without these, it’s difficult for organizations to embrace the call to action.

3. Commit to customer-centric behavior changes

A customer-centric leader exhibits customer-centric behaviors that motivate others to follow suite.  Some key customer-centric behaviors as highlighted by Alain Thys from Futurelab are:

  • spend at least a day a month personally talking to customers to better understand their needs;
  • ask what is in this for our customers? at every decision, so that their team always considers the customer’s voice;
  • systematically include measurable customer objectives in performance reviews, starting with their own;
  • enable and encourage their staff to engage with customers by giving them time and resources;
  • call meetings to review customer feedback in their team at least once a month and invite other departments to these reviews;
  • set the example in going online at least once a month to seek out customer comments and make a positive (direct or indirect) contribution to their conversations;
  • seek to include customer lifetime value as a metric in all financial and investment decisions;
  • make a formalized, quarterly effort to seek new ways of focusing on their customers.

We would like to hear more on what has proven helpful to others. Please leave your suggestions and comments below.


Do you want to
improve your
Customer Experience?

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