Keys to Customer Centricity: Internal Culture and Incentives

It seems like a no-brainer that a customer-focused business will be rewarded with customer loyalty, revenues, and even employee loyalty, but getting there is a huge challenge for many businesses and requires significant transformation efforts.

Recently in speaking with a CEO of a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company, he expressed frustration in getting the organization to shift from being product and brand centered to thinking about the customer first. It isn’t surprising that this is the challenge given the long-standing focus of companies—CPG in particular—on products and brand.

We’ve explored this question with CMOs recently to learn where they believe the biggest challenges lie. Most are clear that the hurdles are largely internal—poorly incented employees, a product-siloed organization structure and a culture that doesn’t reward customer centricity. For many companies, a focus on creating an external image of customer experience without taking significant steps to transforming the internal culture, ultimately fails.

Below are three recommendations from those succeeding in building a customer-centric approach:

  • 1. Transform your internal service functions to be agile and customer focused.

Pick a place to make internal service exceptional to show your employees the impact client-first can have. We’ve seen CIOs drive a service-led approach that transforms the help desk and acquisition of new tools. The simplicity of the new approach inspires employees to think about the end-customer experience differently.

  • 2. Improve internal incentives to reward customer focus.

Some companies use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) as a metric included in executive compensation. Whatever your focus—incent the behavior you want. If you are incenting product sales then your client-facing teams are going to sling whatever product they have at your customers. If they are rewarded for considering an end-to-end customer experience, priorities will change.

  • 3. Develop an internal steering committee across functions that focuses on 3–5 significant changes that will drive a difference for clients.

Ensure that you have executives and junior employees engaged in the group. In addition, bring a subset of clients together to measure your success and test your assumptions. Focus on quick wins as well as longer-term goals that will demonstrate success across the entire organization.

Shifting the focus of an organization to think about the customer first rather than the product first is difficult. It takes incredible focus and relentless staying power to win over the past behaviors that people are most comfortable with. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and today’s constant reinvention requirements make that truer than ever. Driving a customer-first approach requires you to first consider the changes required internally and how to incent the change and behaviors you own culture first and incent the change you want to see.

Related Stories

The Customer Engagement Challenge

Posted on 02.20.2019 by in Engagement Strategy, Featured

An ongoing customer engagement strategy requires planning and an investment in the development of compelling content and interactions that keep your customers coming back. Here are tips in building a more systematic engagement approach with your customers.

Continue Reading »

Mastering Executive Engagement
What’s Holding You Back?

Posted on 01.10.2019 by in Engagement Strategy

Strong relationships with your c-level customers can accelerate change, uncover opportunities, and strengthen your company’s position. What keeps B2Bs from earning those relationships—and realizing their value? We’ve identified 10 common—but surmountable—barriers that hold B2Bs back.

Continue Reading »

Getting to a Customer Engagement Mindset

Posted on 12.3.2018 by in Engagement Strategy

Many marketers are stuck in an activity mindset, focused more on the event calendar and the client reference database than strategic conversations with customers. In contrast, an engagement mindset creates a strategy focused from the outside-in rather than from the  

Continue Reading »

All is Not Lost for Brick and Mortar in the Digital Age of Shopping

Posted on 11.28.2018 by in Engagement Strategy

A couple of years ago, I ventured out on Black Friday to find uncrowded stores, likely due to technology and the shift in the way consumers buy products. And last year on Thanksgiving night, I decided to switch it up  

Continue Reading »


Customer Advisory Boards

An advisory board is a powerful engine of engagement, insight, and business transformation. Make the most of yours.

A Board Success Factor: Business and Industry Expertise » Advisory Boards: How to Extend the Value »

Learn More »

Engagement Strategy

Like any good relationship, customer engagement is a long-term, reciprocal effort. When done well, meaningful engagement leads to better business results, faster.

Engage Your Customers to Help You Stop Pitching » Getting to a Customer Engagement Mindset »

Learn More »

Understanding the C-Suite

Want to improve your standing with your C-suite customers? Deliver what executives want: ideas, inspiration, innovation, influence.

C-Suite Insight: Digital Disruption » Looking to Engage Executives? First, Understand What They Want »

Learn More »