If you’re a CEO or C-suite executive and you want to create a customer-centric culture, you need to increase two things in the minds of your employees:

  1. Understanding of the customer.
  2. Empathy for the customer.

How do you do this? Well, you could and should start by formulating a customer-centered business strategy and ensuring that every employee understands how it translates into daily decisions and actions. But that alone won’t be enough. Why? Because you are still missing one key ingredient for success: Voice of the Customer.

That’s right, if you want to create a deeper understanding of your customer and empathy for your customer — employees must hear their voice … their stories. Real customer experience stories that bring their challenges, aspirations, experiences and outcomes to life in your company.

Are real customer stories that important? Well, according to Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton …

“When customers describe how a company’s products and services make a difference, they bring a leader’s vision to life in an incredible, memorable way.”

By elevating real customer experience stories, as a C-suite executive, you paint a more vivid and real picture of your vision, and your message about creating a customer-centered culture becomes much more credible. In fact, David Hofmann, an organizational psychologist, also said…

“Employees generally see customers as more credible than leaders as sources of inspiration. When leaders attempt to deliver inspiring messages, many employees react with skepticism, questioning whether leaders are just trying to get them to work harder.”

By blending real customer experience stories into organizational communication, you create more meaningful connections with your employees. So why don’t more CEOs and C-suite executives integrate real customer experience stories into their cultures? Here are a few reasons …

They believe stories are soft and have little impact on business performance.
Many executives don’t realize that real customer stories do matter, and they do impact business performance. They also don’t understand how these stories can dramatically improve the company’s culture and customer experience over a sustained period of time. But they absolutely do. In fact, Adam Grant said, “Stories can have a significant, lasting effect on employees’ motivation, performance, and productivity.”

They aren’t willing to invest the time and resources required to make it happen.
If you are serious about elevating real customer experience stories in the company’s culture, you must make capturing and sharing these stories a priority. And this requires that you invest in a continuous customer story discovery and distribution process. A sustained process that is focused on identifying, capturing and sharing real customer stories internally and externally. For this to happen, you must ensure the following elements are in place:

Ownership: An individual and team (insourced / outsourced) must own customer identification, data collection, story development and activation.

Alignment: Customer stories that are captured and shared should align with and help to achieve culture and customer experience goals in critical areas of the business.

Process: The entire process must be defined, documented and repeatable. It must produce a stream of real customer experience stories that are shared on a continuous basis.

Persistence: The initiative must have executive support and involvement. Real customer experience stories must be woven into executive, leader and manager communication.

Ultimately, as a CEO or C-suite executive, you must ensure there is an engine in place that produces real customer experience stories on an ongoing basis. Stories that model the behaviors, actions and outcomes you aspire to achieve. With this engine in place, you will see how the stories you secure and share begin to blend with stories that organically surface at every level of your organization. And that’s how you will know employees have a solid understanding of your customer, empathize with your customer and that your culture is truly becoming customer-centric.