How to Make Customers the Focus of Your Company Culture

For the past 20 years, companies have been attempting to make customer centricity a part of their organizational culture, but only 14% report success. Interestingly, only 11% of these companies believe their customers would agree.

Why so many companies struggle to implement a customer centricity program?

For some, the sheer volume of customer data available is overwhelming, while other companies may not have the technology to segment customers, or they might lack the operational capacity to offer them personalized communications and experiences.

As valid as these reasons may be, the most common, and perhaps the greatest hurdle, according to Harvard Business Review, is the lack of a customer-centric organizational culture. Most companies are product-focused or sales-driven, or they only consider customer-focused initiatives as a priority for things like marketing.

“To successfully implement a customer-centric strategy and operating model, a company must have a culture that aligns with them — and leaders who deliberately cultivate the necessary mindset and values in their employees.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

Here are 5 actions business leaders can take to build a customer-centric culture:

1. Make customer empathy an organizational value

“Customer empathy is the ability to identify a customer’s emotional need, understand the reasons behind that need, and respond to it effectively and appropriately,” says Harvard Business Review. “And it’s pretty rare.”  In fact, PwC indicates that only 38% of U.S. consumers believe the employees they interact with understand their needs.

Companies that pay attention to their customers have a competitive advantage. Plus, when companies stay connected to their customers and anticipate what they need, it drives innovation.

“Intuition isn’t enough. It takes active effort to build empathy and then dedicated action to address the pain.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

“Building your customer empathy — and acting in response to customer needs — can positively impact both your team and your organization,” says Medium.

2. Hire customer-oriented employees

“From the very first interaction with prospective employees, organizations should make thinking about customers and their needs a clear priority,” states Harvard Business Review.

During the interview process, hiring managers should ask every candidate—regardless of role—a question to gauge their customer orientation. Doing so helps organizations assess candidates and ensures that new employees share company views on customer-centric thinking.

Additionally, it sends a clear message to everyone in the company about the importance of customer experience in the organizational culture.

3. Share customer insights company wide

“For every employee to adopt a customer-centric mindset, every employee must understand the organization’s customers,” says Harvard Business Review.

Companies can’t silo customer insights within the sales and marketing departments if they expect other areas of their organization to gain an intimate understanding of their customers. The information needs to be shared with everyone.

After all, a customer-centric organization realizes that every employee impacts the customer experience in some way, even if indirectly. Thus, every employee can benefit from learning about customer successes and challenges.

Employees will be better equipped and more motivated to cultivate a customer-centric culture if they know how it affects results, suggests Harvard Business Review. That’s why it’s important for organizations to establish and monitor the link between employee engagement and customer impact.

According to Harvard Business Review, employee engagement drives 2/3 of client experience scores at IBM. The company knows, intuitively, that if employees feel good about IBM, clients will too.

5. Incentivize customer-empathy initiatives

“Organizations should reinforce a customer-centric culture through their compensation program,” cites Harvard Business Review.

Donna Morris at Adobe suggests that in order for employees to understand that customer-oriented attitudes and behaviors are expected of them, there must be “an element of risk” to it.

The company implemented a compensation program that ties every employee to the customer. In other words, the compensation plan makes the contributions to the customer that every employee makes tangible, as well as producing company-wide alignment because everyone is working toward the same goals.


Research conducted by Harvard Business Review in 2016 showed that the top 10 most empathetic companies increased in financial value more than twice as much as the bottom 100. Not surprisingly, greater empathy not only helps companies increase financial performance and innovation, but it also helps them improve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

“It pays to build your customer empathy. But it’s even more critical to act. Paying attention to customer needs and then taking those first steps to address them can lead to big rewards. It’s never too late to start being better.”

Source: Medium

Good leaders recognize that culture and strategy go hand in hand. “Only when customer-centric strategies are supported and advanced by culture will a company realize its customer-centric vision,” says Harvard Business Review.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.