Create a Customer-Focused Leadership Team
Establishing a customer-focused culture starts and ends with a very specific and superior type of leadership. First, you need to hire leaders who have a strong foundation in management expertise with skills and “tricks” for maximizing the talents of their teams and keeping them focused on their customers. Second, these leaders must know how to lead by example, so everything they say and do becomes the model for what their employees say and do. Third, your team of leaders must know how to reinforce and reward success, particularly as it relates to supporting a positive, productive customer-focused culture.
Interestingly, people often believe it’s up to the workers who are on the “frontlines” of customer service to set the tone for and maintain a customer-focused culture. But that’s a serious misunderstanding. It’s you and the members of your leadership team — those who are behind the scenes, navigating operations and delivering commands — who should establish and foster that customer-focused environment.
In creating such an effective leadership team, keep these three points in mind:
Choose leaders who truly cherish customers. A+ leaders must have this characteristic built into their value system and believe that the customer’s opinions, wants, wishes and needs are at the heart of your company’s success. Research what their track record has been for supporting customers in the past. How have these leadership team candidates demonstrated this value in problem solving, growing business and making big decisions? These hires must be passionate about and genuinely care about people to the extent that they can put their own feelings, thoughts and possible prejudices aside and really understand what customers are communicating, wanting and needing.
Select a leadership team that knows why and how to recognize and reward success. When customer-focused goals are accomplished, your leadership needs to notice and emphasize what’s right, working or delivering results. Drawing attention to success usually leads to more success, and it also demonstrates how specific activities and behaviors are directly tied to goals, influence change and drive customer loyalty. A great leadership team gets why it’s so important to recognize and reward success, and it will use this as a tool to jumpstart and maintain goal-achievement. Whenever you’re creating a leadership team, look for leaders who’ve used recognition and rewards as a means for inspiring achievement.
Embrace your own leadership role: Being the effort’s key sponsor. If you don’t do what you’re asking others to do, the effort is going to fail. In fact, lack of sponsorship is the number-one reason why projects, programs, agendas, etc., don’t succeed. Asking your team to be customer-focused? Then you’ve got to be customer-focused! And that’s best accomplished by using the classic EMR model: what you say (Express), do (Model) and honor (Reinforce). For example, when you talk at a meeting or send any written emails to your leadership team and/or any direct reports, you’ve got to Express your commitment to a customer-focused culture in your communications. You’ve must also set a good example, or Model it, by acting and interacting with customers according to your customer-focused values. As the saying goes, “eat your own cooking” or lose credibility. Finally and most importantly, to sponsor the customer-focused culture, Reinforce and strengthen it by setting expectations for success, and creating awards and recognition aligned to those expectations.
What makes it tough for you to succeed as a sponsor and being a model for your leadership team?