Organisational culture and its impact on customer engagement and growth

I’ve been fortunate to work for a companies that have had very strong and positive cultures, and it’s not a coincidence that those companies are also known for great customer service.

Organisational culture is critical for a successful business and employee engagement is inextricably linked to customer service. It’s a virtuous circle. Ultimately, if you hire employees who have the right values and the right attitudes, that rubs off on customer service and customer engagement.

It’s possible for HR to measure and track this association. There’s a range of metrics for identifying employee and customer satisfaction, from surveys to Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Two companies I worked for scored highly for both. A Great Place to Work found that high-trust companies had customer satisfaction ratings three points higher than competitors.

At WP Engine one of our values is to "Do The Right Thing" and this can be applied as a general overriding principle with everything we do, and every customer discussion we hold. People make day-to-day decisions based on what's the right thing to do.

Indirectly, there’s a profitability gain to this. First, you’re able to hire the best because you run an organisation where people aspire to work. When people are inspired by the work they do, they are more likely to go above and beyond for customer. They’re not just showing up to earn a pay cheque, they are coming into work each day motivated to do their best. Research shows that employees are three times more likely to give extra on the job when they feel that they’re at a great workplace.

This positively impacts customer loyalty and retention, as well as customers' willingness to upgrade, and their willingness to refer. Research makes it clear that word of mouth is a very strong source of new business.

The converse of this is an organisation with disengaged leaders and employees who don’t really demonstrate a passion for customers. This leads to a toxic culture where when something goes wrong, customers get blamed. In a healthy culture, people feel able to make mistakes and deal with them, rather than park the blame on someone else.

Take Amazon as an example: they invest massively in customer relations. "Customer Obsession" is one of their core values, and you can see how that translates into every aspect of their business. Their Recommendation Engine is a great example of web personalisation that benefits both customers and Amazon/Amazon vendors.

Even businesses who haven’t had a great customer culture can turn things around. Telstra has recently embraced NPS very strongly. With technologies such as live chat, customers can get questions answered quickly and simply. It’s a big turnaround from where they were five or ten years ago. It makes business sense: high trust companies see stock market returns three times greater than the market average.

Great Places to Work can be a good way to assess organisational culture. They have very in depth surveys that go into every aspect of an individual's role, the leadership of an organisation, the empowerment that people feel in their role. Companies that win those kinds of awards use it beyond just getting the rubber stamp, they use the framework to create action plans internally. If they see they can be better, they focus time and resources on doing those things better.

If you’ve got good leadership and everyone’s empowered, and you’ve got a team that shares goals and has shared ownership and values, then that can permeate across an organisation. To achieve this, try the following 3 steps: 

  1. Find out where you are currently- there are various surveys and methodologies for doing that, such as Great Place to Work and NPS. 
  1. Lead by example- executives and leaders have got to show that it’s important, and get personally involved in initiatives that come out of the assessment process. 
  1. Ensure you have a shared and consistent set of core valuesthat you hold people to and that you hire people on - not a piece of paper on the wall that gets ignored, but values that become part of your culture every day

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