Look right, look left, look right again: embedding customer centric behaviour

Standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to turn green (after seeing Muse play at the local arena), with what seemed like three thousand people, it struck me how safety is part of the culture in Perth. At home in Sydney (or in my previous homes in the UK), the sheer number of people coming out of a concert late at night would stop the traffic. The lights become almost redundant. But working with a large Oil and Gas client opened my eyes to a whole new culture of safety which is pervasive across Western Australia.

Driven by the requirement to minimise incidents in the field and the lost revenue that comes with staff absences, my client encouraged us to regularly consider our own safety and that of the people around us – not just at work, but at home as well. Over the course of a ten month period, the organisation’s focus on safety changed my behaviour, to the extent that on my return to Sydney I found I was now the only one waiting for the green light to let me cross the road. Safety was a key part of our every-day routine: from working at standing desks to help our posture, to computer programs installed on our machines to prevent RSI. It was an integral part of their culture and became part of mine.

Prompted by my experiences in Perth, I have been thinking about the importance of using culture to influence behaviour. Back East (and I’m sure elsewhere in the world), clients are asking us more and more about customer centricity. Cost pressures driven by a combination of technological changes, the pressures of the post GFC economy, and an increase in competition, mean that it is harder for organisations to compete on price alone.

Now they must turn their attention to the customer value proposition and increase emphasis on a tailored or personal service. The rise of social media means that customers can give instant and very visible public feedback if they get it wrong.  Making an organisation customer centric (incorporating a changed operating model, lean processes and a focus on the customer value proposition) is seen, by many, as the solution to all of this. But is it enough?

My question is: If companies are serious about customer centricity, what are they doing to embed it in their culture in the way Oil and Gas companies embed safety in theirs

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3 thoughts on “Look right, look left, look right again: embedding customer centric behaviour

  1. Thanks – I think so too. Even simple things like “safety” moments at the beginning of a meeting could be reapplied to customer centricity – what about if there was a “customer” moment at the beginning of a meeting that talked about good and bad instances of customer service we have seen at the weekends – it brings the customer to the front of mind and puts the onus on everyone to participate.

  2. Ilaria Gregotti

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    Good article Luella! What Oil and Gas have done well is to make HSSE part of how they do things – and apply zero tolerance to any deviation from the expected behaviours (so there are consequences for not exhibiting the right behaviours). They have also translated the overarching concept of Safety into very specific guidelines for each individual, in each function, at each level. When you work for an Oil & Gas company, even as a contractor, it is very clear what Health and Safety means for you and how you can contribute to the overall vision. Finally, the leadership are all singing from the same sheet and really fully behind it – they do what they preach and lead by example. It’s change management 101 on one level, and for Health and Safety the benefits case is very clear: nobody wants to be the cause of the next Gulf of Mexico disaster. So what does this all look like when applied to the context of customer centricity? Perhaps a good starting point for a piece of thought leadership that we should be thinking about . . .

  3. This frames the challenge well. Most people don’t think give much thought to the culture of their business, it’s simply “the way we do things around here.” Changing that is never going to be easy. While changing processes and enabling employees with new technologies is important, it’s not enough. Employees need to be equipped with new capabilities and motivated to behave differently over a long enough time that they are no longer even aware of the change.

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