Many organizations want to be customer-centric, and will do lots of things to at least move in that direction. The standard translation of this desire looks like a series of statements or aspirations. For example, there will be a code, or a value system saying: ‘Understand the customer, listen to customers, empathise with the customer, be customer-centric’, etc.
For those of us on the behavioural side of things, these things that people are expected to do or to be do not meet any behavioural standards. So, it is impossible to do anything with them to shape a culture. Why? Behaviours create cultures! The terms listed above don’t have unequivocal meaning which is one of the key characteristics of a behaviour. So, they are not behaviours.
I don’t really know what ‘understand’, ‘listen’, ‘empathise’ or ‘being’ mean. Well, I do. But I am not sure they mean the same to everyone or that you and I are speaking the same language. Whilst I can say I am listening, you may say, no, you are not; I don’t agree you are, etc. I empathise, as far as I am concerned, but you may think I don’t. You may have a very different concept of empathy. Who is right? This is the wrong question. Nobody is wrong. But these concepts are equivocal. They are bad currency in culture terms.
In behavioural terms, ‘the proof is in the pudding’. Imagine that everybody in the management team, or the group, must bring a fresh customer insight to the table every time they meet. To do that, everybody would need to have spoken to at least one customer, which means that they would have listened to them, which would have made these people customer-centric (at least for a bit). So, ‘understand’, ‘listen,‘ ‘empathise’ or ‘being’, which are equivocal in meaning, will now be translated into something very concrete, very visible and behavioural: ‘always bring a fresh customer insight’ (to the table, to the discussion, to the conversation, to the review…). This is the behaviour. The rest is a set of aspirations, expected language, but not very useful for a behavioural-driven, building of culture, as we do in Viral Change™
My validity test is this: Imagine 100 people this afternoon starting their meetings with the ‘here is my fresh customer insight”. The organization will be customer-centric without a single session of training in customer-centrism. Imagine it…