How to change your company culture to improve CX

For many businesses, the lens of internal culture needs to refocus on CX. Molly Raycraft investigates the most successful way to do this.

B2B marketers often don’t like to draw similarities to their B2C counterparts, yet both should have their customers at the heart of the company. Industry experts – CMO of Finastra Martin Häring, head of brand and internal communications at DNV GL Rob Coveney, and senior director of marketing at Cisco Emma Roffey – offer their tips on how to instil CX as a primary focus.

A customer focus should be at the heart of B2B businesses

Providing a quality CX can build trust and a healthy rapport between your company and clients. Just because your customers are those in the corporate field doesn’t mean they’ll be any more satisfied with shoddy communication and unwillingness to co-operate.

“B2B is no different from B2C in that we need to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and break through the clutter, confusion and noise. If you are CX-focused, you’re helping them through the decision-making cycle and making their lives easier,” explains Emma.

Despite whatever product or service you are selling, you need to know what the customer wants. “It is extremely important that people have an ongoing dialogue with customers, listening to their specific needs, understanding their challenges and identifying new opportunities to work together,” says Rob.

Many companies slide into a heavy emphasis on functions and product lines instead of the consumer. Something Martin warns to steer clear of: “This is a false economy and should be avoided. It can result in a very siloed approach to business growth that neglects customer satisfaction.”

The benefits of having a customer-focused workforce

Martin highlights that if a workforce is striving to meet the needs of its consumers, they’re ensuring repeat business. “Customers are in effect a business’ most important influencers. The more the workforce engages with them, the less likely they are to speak with competitors.”

He also warns that companies shouldn’t forget their clients are experts. Higher engagement with them ensures you can give the workforce truthful feedback on their expectations.

“Inviting customers into the early stages of product service development will create opportunities for co-innovation, allowing businesses to better tailor their services to them and up-sell. Showing customers they are respected as experts and advisors will also deepen the relationship a business has with them, proving they are at the heart of their business.”

Emma is confident there aren’t any downsides to having a customer-centric approach, while the benefits are many, including “improved teamwork, fewer silos, marketing effectiveness and efficiency and creating content more fit for purpose”.

"We need to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and break through the clutter, confusion and noise. If you are CX-focused, you’re helping them through the decision-making cycle and making their lives easier"

Drive the change and be patient for methods to bring results

The best methods to implementing a successful and long lasting transition involve getting senior management on board, consistent internal communication and ensuring a cross-functional approach – all things that can’t be built overnight.

A refocus on CX needs to be dispersed from the top downwards. Getting approval from senior leadership is the first step to implementing this approach.  Martin explains “[they] must demonstrate commitment to a customer-first strategy and explain the implications of failing to the wider organisation.” A good way to achieve this is by recognising good work from teams in light of the company’s focal change – a ‘show and tell’ technique, which Emma embraces.

Rob also emphasises how imperative it is for executives to practice what they preach without sounding patronising. “Avoid situations where employees feel told to be more CX focused without opening two-way lines of communication between leaders and employees on what customer-centric behaviour constitutes. It’s wise to profile examples across the business, displaying the behaviours that you are trying to instil in an organisation.”

Send a clear message about the changes you wish to see. Communicating a single definition of what your company deems as CX-centricity will ensure the workforce understands the common end-goal.

“Customer-centricity can mean many different things to different people in different units around the world,” explains Rob.  “One person’s perception of customer-centric behaviour could be another person’s perception of customer alienation.”

Similarly, Emma urges: “Real clarity is needed around roles and responsibilities plus the need for detailed process – do not underestimate this. Everyone wants to clearly understand their role in this change, what they are accountable for and how they can deliver a positive impact.”

The transition to prioritising CX won’t work unless there is a cross-functional approach in place. “Once there’s buy-in from board level and the needs of the customer are integrated into the core strategy, objectives and KPIs, the approach needs to be driven across the whole workforce,” advises Martin. “This forces cross-functional involvement, the breaking down of silos and creation of a unified and interconnected company.”

Internal communications are imperative to dispersing the CX message. A briefing pack, distributed by managers, can be a great way to inspire staff to better engage with customers, says Rob. “As with all internal strategy and change communication, it pays to reinforce the message to employees over time and throughout the line of management. It also helps to support the message with proof, by sharing and celebrating successes with employees as they happen.”

Be realistic with timescale and persevere. The biggest hurdle for some companies is introducing staff to change. “Some adapt and embrace change far faster than others and some, as you know too well, never make it," explains Emma. This also has an effect on the time scale; the change of mindset towards prioritising CX is likely to take a lot longer than expected and this requires perseverance.

“Once there’s buy-in from board level and the needs of the customer are integrated into the core strategy, objectives and KPIs, the approach needs to be driven across the whole workforce”

Ensure that your new focus sticks around for the long-term

Martin recommends a formal agreement of who will champion a customer-centric approach from within the business. “In many cases, this role will naturally fall to the CMO, or in some cases others have created the role of a chief customer officer. Either way, it’s essential to have a ‘customer champion’ who brings the clients’ needs, desires and pain points to the table when discussing business strategy, and pioneers the CX-led approach,” says Martin.  He deems it as critical to maintaining a customer-led business for the long term.

The easiest way to figure out whether your new approach has stuck is to call on data – have you experienced the beneficial changes you were expecting? If not, perhaps your message hasn’t permeated throughout your team as much as you thought.

“It’s not just key to measure your outputs but the outcome of your activity,” advises Rob. “It’s also important that you keep measuring over time. Changes in organisational focus don’t happen overnight, and when you do start to change, you should ensure you are collecting data that shows when you may need to act to maintain it.”

Emma suggests holding reflective meetings for the company to support the change of mindset among staff. “Provide ample training, feedback mechanisms and a safe environment where people can be honest and share how they’re feeling.”

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