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Why Your Customer-Centric “Breakthrough” Is Not Working

Once upon a time, there was a leader. Maybe she looked like you and had your role. Or maybe he was the CEO. That leader had an epiphany about customer-centric culture.

If we focus on customers, we will be a better organization.

We will create happier employees who care deeply about those we serve. We will have legions of fans. Our revenue will increase. Starting today, we focus on customers in a whole new way!

That leader makes a proclamation. A rallying cry. A speech that declares this day is “DAY ONE” of becoming customer centered.

Employees are excited. They can finally fix those issues they see. Department leaders begin to envision ways they can improve their customer’s experience. The internal communications team sends a video of the speech to employees all over the globe.

customer-centric culture

This is it, people. We have lift-off.

And people start talking about ways to focus on customers.

Until they don’t. They get back to work. They focus on their daily tasks. And they complain about what they can’t control. The big dream of the organizational utopia begins to fray around the edges.

And a few months later, people are rolling their eyes when a colleague says, “Remember how we’re supposed to be focused on the customer?”

This idea of customer-centric culture is more than an idea.

There is real work involved. And we are humans who get distracted, have to meet deadlines, and often don’t have enough resources to do things well. So we do the best we can, but that means focusing on short-term outcomes to please our bosses, customers, partners and colleagues.

'...people start talking about ways to focus on customers. Until they don't.' - @jeanniecwClick To Tweet

This leads to repeating the very actions that led to the need for that epiphany in the first place.

We rush to correct issues for customers, but don’t take the time to determine why those issues happened in the first place. We walk around thinking we’re the only one who gets it. Then soon enough, we begin resenting that other team – the one who makes our jobs more difficult. Then we slide right back to where we were before DAY ONE.

customer-centric culture

But all is not lost!

Sometimes becoming a more customer-focused organization happens with a few baby steps. And sometimes it’s a GO BIG moment, but that requires support and structure.

If you have experienced that DAY ONE moment or think it’s time to do something to make a change, here are a few ideas for you.


If your organization is ready, it’s time to really roll up your sleeves and start determining exactly what to do next. This means the first step in making sure you understand the customer experience in the first place.

Our Customer Experience Investigation™ process is all about walking in your customers’ shoes. And we don’t mean in the way you think they walk. We look for the paths they create, based on the barriers they’ve encountered with the channels, processes and journeys created for them.

Using tools like customer journey maps and day-in-the-life scenarios can help vastly improve the customer experience by creating moments where it’s obvious how to be more customer-centric. But you have to commit to the tools.


Take a few days and let us help you look at the experience from the inside-out. Understanding the customer experience is challenging because you are on the inside. Your brain works against you – humans literally can only see from their viewpoint. So walking through the journey with an outside-in perspective means bringing in someone from the outside.


You know the ones who “get it” before they have the training. Gather up those customer-obsessed gladiators in your organization and ask them to lead from within their teams.

Lead by example.

Help them connect with one another across your organization with structured or unstructured communication channels. Ask them to be peer ambassadors for the customer. Give them tools that foster creativity, like questions to ask or training on ways to better understand customer desires.

customer-centric culture
Amy Climer Ph.D. shares proven ways to foster creativity in many kinds of environments.

Some of the best ideas for building a customer-centric culture have come from brown bag lunches of employees who just know they care.

DAY ONE does not have to be the last day anyone cares about customer experience.

But it could be, if you’re not careful about what you are rolling out after the proclamation. Words matter. Yet actions speak louder than words.

Did you hear the rallying cry? Not the one saying, “Let’s have a more customer-centric culture.” The one that sounded more like, “You can do this – you can make the change!”

About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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