customer centric leadershipCustomer centric leadership is about priorities. The key is to clearly state your priorities to executives, employees and affiliates. Then reinforce these priorities in daily decision-making criteria and rituals such as annual operating plans, operations reviews, staff meeting agendas, recognition and incentives, performance reviews, etc. Johnson & Johnson has an excellent way of communicating their customer-centric priorities, as follows: 1) doctors, nurses, patients, parents; 2) employees; 3) communities; 4) stockholders.

Our Credo — Johnson & Johnson:
“We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality. We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices. Customers’ orders must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the world. Everyone must be considered as an individual. We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit. They must have a sense of security in their jobs. Compensation must be fair and adequate, and working conditions clean, orderly and safe. We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfill their family responsibilities. Employees must feel free to make suggestions and complaints. There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified. We must provide competent management, and their actions must be just and ethical.

We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well. We must be good citizens — support good works and charities and bear our fair share of taxes. We must encourage civic improvements and better health and education. We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

Our final responsibility is to our stockholders. Business must make a sound profit. We must experiment with new ideas. Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed and mistakes paid for. New equipment must be purchased, new facilities provided and new products launched. Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times. When we operate according to these principles, the stockholders should realize a fair return.” (source:

Beyond customer surveys and rhetoric, an organization has to do things uniquely to lead its industry peers in superior customer experience. Here are some customer centric leadership examples from companies that “put their money where their mouth is”.

At IBM, the executive leadership model includes customer-centricity guidance: within their “focus to win” core value are 3 components — customer insight, breakthrough thinking, and drive to achieve. Customer insight is defined by IBM as putting oneself in the mind of the customer, to see the customer’s business from their point of view.

At Toyota, the concept of “Next Process is the Customer” plays a significant role in defining the company culture. Next Process is the Customer means that everyone treats all downstream processes as if they were the final customer, all the while emphasizing that the final customer deserves and demands perfection.

At JetBlue, founder David Neeleman said he had three rules for employees: show up on time, take care of your co-workers, and take care of customers. He explains: “When customers fly JetBlue they feel special. You feel like the people serving you are actually pleased to have you on board. It’s okay to use the flight attendant call button. We relish the opportunity to serve.” JetBlue has been the top airline in JD Power’s customer service survey for the past 5 years, and it has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, more than any company except Whole Foods and Zappos. In 2009 JetBlue is profitable, expanding to 8 new cities and hiring 2300 people.

At Enterprise Rent-a-Car, response rates from customers to the company’s phone surveys run as high as 95%. Enterprise uses customer input as a front-line operating tool by measuring customer loyalty at the individual rental office level. This has enabled regional managers to hold branches accountable for improving customer relationships, and encourage employees to be more responsive to customer feedback. All Enterprise offices are ranked by their monthly Enterprise Service Quality Index score, but only employees in those offices that score at or above the average index score for the company overall are eligible for promotion, raises or bonuses.

As these customer centric leadership examples have shown, there are infinite approaches and styles for building a customer-centric culture, and the rewards can be fantastic. An attitude of anticipation allows greater flexibility and prevention of hassles for customers and for employees, and subsequently less wasted time, effort and money for all parties.

Customer centric leadership organically produces desired results for employees, communities and stockholders. Try it and see how much easier it is to achieve the results you seek for all your stakeholders.

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