Opinion: HR and management of a customer-centric work culture

The employee experience and the customer experience are closely intertwined, as Anouche Newman explains

Opinion: HR and management of a customer-centric work culture
The employee experience and the customer experience are closely intertwined, as Anouche Newman explains

Enhancing the customer experience is now accepted as a vital management discipline, and the implementation of robust customer service systems is a basic operational requirement for any business. HR plays a crucial role in the delivery of excellent customer service, largely because it has direct responsibility for the employee experience.

The HR department is the biggest service provider within an organisation so it must take an outside-in approach and really consider whether the internal standard of service is being treated with the same respect, measurements, and approach as frontline customer service for external customers. 

Is it a case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes? Or in other words, is your company walking the exceptional service walk itself?

End-customer alignment needs to permeate every aspect of the workplace strategy and starts with recruitment. At CSIA, we strongly believe that all roles within an organisation should be aligned to driving customer value. It’s therefore essential to attract the right talent, and mentor existing talent to treat the customer as a major stakeholder.

The overall employer value proposition (EVP) must clearly spell out the approach to attract the right talent. The people you choose to represent your organisation should have an authentic customer service mindset. It’s imperative that they understand the company’s customer strategy and the notion of internal service quality, regardless of which area of the business they join.

If HR doesn’t really care about the customer, your staff won’t either. HR professionals must clearly understand and articulate how value is created for the customer and the associated role and responsibilities of staff in delivering a great experience for customers.

After analysing your company recruitment process, ask yourself how consistently a customer-centric mindset is applied in the day-to-day operations of the business. All too often, unrealistic expectations are placed on customer service teams and frontline workers in organisations that lack a truly customer-centric culture.

Frontline staff are the foundation of any service- or product-centred organisation. They are the most visible to the customer, and bear the full brunt of the complexities of customer interactions. Not all those interactions are necessarily positive, and so keeping the team invigorated and motivated is key. 

If frontline staff lose their mojo, HR and executive ranks need to reflect on why these apathetic feelings arise. Do you have the right communication mechanisms in place? What about the right incentive and reward systems?

Being truly customer-centric is more than being responsive to customer needs. A company must reorient its processes and plans around the customer's needs and ensure its people have the required competencies, skills and tools to achieve the desired process outcomes and customer experience from the top down.

Inspiring staff is an ongoing journey, starting internally with the onboarding process that builds the foundations for a culture geared towards doing the right things for the customer. HR can then train and measure its focus on this critical group by building metrics focused on customer outcomes into individual employee development and performance indicators. Keep outcomes at the centre and output will follow. 

This top-down approach of customer centricity between HR and all departments helps drive the frontline’s passion for the end user, and the delivery of best-practice customer service. 

Anouche Newman
Anouche Newman is a passionate and expert advocate of creating meaningful and best-practice customer service and customer experience. As Chief Executive Officer of the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA), Australia’s leading independent customer service organisation, Anouche is responsible for developing the strategic direction of the institute with a strong focus on working with companies to achieve certification to the International Customer Service Standard. For more information on the Customer Service Institute of Australia, visit www.csia.com.au 


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