Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

Customer Experience & Culture Series Part Two: The Company Culture Connection

Company culture has a varied and significant impact on customer experience, yet to understand how this occurs, we first need to understand what culture is?

There are many different ways of describing company culture, ranging from the popular and overly simplistic “The way we do things around here to the more accurate and useful “Why we do things this way, around here”.


Considering the role of culture in terms of its impact on customer experience

How we view culture in the first place is significant, because if we can’t define what culture is and we can’t see our own culture, then it will be difficult to know how our culture is helping or hindering our customer’s experience.

If you have never really considered the role of culture in terms of its impact on customer experience then let’s pause a moment to first clarify the role of culture in an organisation’s delivery of performance. Consider this scenario. If you have ever witnessed a crowd of business people gathered on the pavement of a downtown street as a result of a fire alarm going off in the company’s building, then what you are witnessing is the company’s culture. That crowd is the company’s culture! You see when you take people out of your business you take the culture out of your business too. So picturing all the people standing on the sidewalk we can appreciate that not much work is being done inside the business and we quickly realise the role culture plays in a business.

When we literally remove people from our business we also remove our company culture. Culture is always an expression of peoples shared values, actions and mindsets. So when we consider that while the employees are standing on the street, then beyond any aspect of your business that is automated, no customers are being served, no phone calls or emails are being answered, no meetings are being attended, no problems solved or efficiencies improved. By making this graphic realisation of what a business is like when we take the people and therefore the culture out, we begin to realise the overwhelming contribution culture plays in running your business and delivering a customer experience.

Realising the overwhelming contribution culture plays in running your business and delivering a customer experience

Without the dramatic example of being able to see a business culture on the sidewalk during a fire drill, it can be very difficult to see or picture your own company culture. This is especially true when you yourself are operating within the culture you are attempting to see. Rather like a fish in water, a familiar surrounding social environment quickly becomes transparent. We look through it and not at it. When this transparency of culture occurs it is difficult to see how the culture is impacting positively or negatively on customer experience. To help you overcome the inability to see your culture in action, consider this short list of some of the symptoms to look out for that could indicate your cultures inability to optimise the customer experience.

Overcoming the inability to see your culture in action – 12 key symptoms to look out for in your organisation

  • A drop in performance; meaning potential and existing customers may not be catered to or having their needs met.
  • Drop in productivity; again this could indicate customers are experiencing the collateral output of lowered rates of productivity through longer waiting times to be served, or delays in product dispatchment.
  • Ongoing loss of staff; leading to a shortage of staff to serve customer needs.
  • Ongoing loss of key talent; meaning gaps occurring in leadership, innovation, problem solving and efficiency.
  • Regular breakdown in communication; this could occur between employees or worse still between employees and customers.
  • Increase in customer complaints regarding your staff’s attitude or levels of service. Poor morale and attitude often reflect a problem with the culture.
  • Troubling staff engagement survey results; low staff engagement scores could indicate a culture that has become misaligned with performance and the delivery of a great customer experience.
  • Slow pace of decision making or implementation; again leading to poor customer experience.
  • Increased absenteeism or theft; contributing to poor morale and increased pressure on employees who are present to deliver the required customer experience.
  • Staff complaints; clearly when staff are dissatisfied their mood drops which, if transferred to a customer’s experience of your business, is a problem.
  • Managers not coping with staff performance levels; poor management of poor staff performance can be a result of a culture that has become misaligned with best practice or of strong processes. The result again can lead to a disappointing customer experience.
  • Sales teams suffering from call reluctance, leading to infrequent or ineffective customer interaction.

Don’t wait until it’s convenient; get to work on your culture immediately

If any of these symptoms appear in your workplace your culture will need immediate attention. When these symptoms occur in a company culture, and especially if a few occur at the same time, your culture is costing you money, productivity performance and energy. Don’t wait until it’s convenient; get to work on your culture immediately, because if your culture is suffering you can guarantee your customers are feeling the effect.

John Lennon said that life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans. Well company culture is what happens to your customers while you’re implementing your business plans.

Michael Henderson. Corporate Anthropologist. Cultures AT Work.

About Michael Henderson - Corporate Anthropologist, Cultures at Work
Michael Henderson works internationally, as a corporate anthropologist. He has a degree in Anthropology, and is a specialist in human values within organisations and cultures. He has studied both traditional tribes and organisational cultures in over 40 countries and as a result understands what culture really is, how it forms, and the role human values play in culture. His work in aligning workplace culture to business strategy has been recognised as pioneering and practical. Michael is an award winning author of seven books on how to create and lead a high performance company culture.