Building a Client-centric Culture

Lots of organizations TALK about their company culture or investigate ways to change the culture. Clearly that is a good thing. But family businesses have a built-in need to ensure constant cultural change. You see when subsequent generations succeed ownership of the business they tend to lead differently.

Sometimes those differences are massive and at other times they are subtle but the team members can be very confused or even incensed over how that change occurs.  They may feel unimportant or underappreciated or o the other hand they may see it as an opportunity to manipulate leadership to “get what they want.” This can have a deleterious effect over the client relationship since it is our team members that are dealing with the client on a daily, weekly monthly basis. This happens with the sales team, account management, customer service, technical services and even accounts receivable, accounts payable and even the receptionist.

Often time’s client contact occurs at various points in the organization. For this reason it is critical in a family business that we focus on the selling culture. The more we can ensure behaviors which are consistent with the culture we desire to reflect the better customer experience we can create. As we examine all of the customer touch-points we can identify areas of alignment and misalignment. This correlates perfectly with the “culture hacking” precept which has previously been discussed.

You might have amazing customer service. You could be the leading provider of cutting edge technology. You may have an amazing Web presence. It’s possible that you have the world’s most compelling value proposition. But if your revenue-generating sales team isn’t reaching its potential, here are some key actions which can help your company to create a more effective client-centric culture:

1. Listen and Learn. I am not telling you to interrupt people when you hear them speaking with clients (internal or external) in a way that makes you grind your teeth. Listen, learn and discuss this with the rest of your leadership behind closed doors. People tend to change their behavior when Mommy or Daddy are watching and this does not give us a clear vision of the true culture.

2. Focus on Language. Help people to learn the right language. I’m not talking about proper grammar but rather the language of the client. Speaking in terms of what is most important to them.

3. Drive results. Customer relationships are built on common perceptions and shared values not just numbers and deliverables. So look at all the results. Certainly the numbers are a pre-requisite and all that count at the end of the day but “getting there” requires us to modify our focus to the small wins that happen with every person in every department, every day.

4. Trim the tree. We all know the negative impact that just one team member with a bad attitude or poor behavior can have over the rest of the team. Putting aside HR laws which we of course need to comply with don’t prolong the inevitable. Let people go free to pursue a career where they will be happier and more productive. That might mean higher turnover but that is better than threatening the culture which impacts the lives of ALL the employees and clients.

5. Elevate self worth. Recognition is important to everyone. Yet employees battle fear and rejection every single day. From customers, other team members, vendors and even their leaders.  If you want them to produce you need to promote how honorable and noble their work is throughout your organization. In your talk and demeanor, elevate the importance of the client-centric function to all the departments in the organization.

8. Build training and coaching into the culture. Training and coaching should be a consistent process in the organization, not a once or twice per year event. It’s your company’s job to give your people the tools and training they need to succeed in customer interactions as well as other function. Sales cultures have well-defined systems to help their people grow, learn and achieve. This is especially important for new hires but you also need to have some way to deliver on-going advanced sales training ideas for your entire sales team.

9. Enmesh self- accountability into the culture. Believe it or not, most people need and welcome regular accountability. Spending regular one-on-one time with your people not only gives you a chance to mentor and train with them; it shows that what they do is important and that you care about their success. Part of the reason why coaching has become so popular in recent years is because companies are stretched thin by tight budgets and managers are not able to spend enough individual time with their people so they seek outside reinforcement.

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