7 Lessons for Customer-Centric Leadership


Customer-centric leadership is essential in today’s business climate. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explains more and cites these well-known brands as excellent examples of customer-centric leadership.

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tips on leading a customer-centric work environment

In Review – 7 Lessons for Customer-Centric Leadership

As businesses continue to make the digital transformation, they’re adopting approaches such as Agile, which was once primarily the domain of software development, said Jennifer. This has led to design thinking, which is user-centric.

Jennifer examined some prominent businesses that evolved their stance to a more customer-centric approach. She explored case studies of customer experience and customer service to learn lessons in a customer-centric type of leadership.

Customer Experience

Jennifer began with Apple and Steve Jobs, who said that he wanted to start with the question: What incredible benefits can we offer our customers? Before he considered the technology, he considered the customer’s wants. Talk about customer-centric, that’s the holy grail!

Jeff Bezos of Amazon turned his attention to what a customer likes and doesn’t like, and that’s how he directed his company to work. Customers want low prices, a big selection and fast delivery, so that became the mantra at Amazon and the guiding principles for their business.

Customer Service

Jennifer also looked at Richard Branson, of Virgin Airlines, who focused on what the key to success is. Not surprisingly, he feels that it’s the customer. But to satisfy the customer, Branson employs the philosophy of empowering his employees. That way they’ll go above and beyond to serve the customer base.

How does he do this? By creating a customer-centric environment. But how do you do that?

Related: How to Be a Good Manager

Customer-Centric Leadership

The customer-centric environment begins with customer-centric leadership. That means, the leader is the one who is generating the energy behind this campaign. They create that focused environment, which in turn creates a good customer experience.

Jennifer offered these seven tips to embody that customer-centric leadership:

  1. Be Visible: You need to be in the front, interfacing with your employees and your customers, or you’ll never know what they want until it’s too late.
  2. Express a Passionate Commitment to Serve the Customer: It all stems down from the top, so you must set the tone and your employees will follow, especially if you back them up and give them the tools they need to do their jobs.
  3. Your Employees/Team Are Your Greatest Asset: You’re only as good as the people around you, so hire the best and train them as needed.
  4. Hire for Attitude: What is the right attitude for your company? Define it, and hire people who exhibit it. Branson does this at Virgin, where he hires people with the positive energy he wants to see reflected in all corners of his organization.
  5. Empower Your Employees/Team to Make Every Experience Great: That means, according to Jennifer’s case studies, allowing employees to make decisions. Even if some are wrong and you must quietly clean up after them. This is a big part of servant leadership.
  6. Engage Social Media with a Genuine Voice: Yes, everyone is on social media, but not everyone knows how to best use this powerful platform. Too many businesses are posting boring press releases. They need to engage their audience with sincerity and personality.
  7. Have Fun: Yes, all this is hard work. But if you’re not able to have fun doing it, that will show to your customers, and all that hard work will be for naught as it will appear insincere.

Pro-Tip: More ways to engage your customers include setting and communicating expectations to the customer while balancing the customers’ needs against the project control.

Take it Further: Customer-centric leaders often adopt the transformational leadership method. Learn more about this leadership style.

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Today, we’re talking about 7 Lessons in Customer-centric Leadership. Well, today, a lot of businesses are going through digital transformations and things are arising out of that like more agile software development, as well as, Mackenzie’s taken agile software development to the concept of agile businesses.

And when we think of these, we think of design thinking, and the intent is to become more user-centric. So if we take the concept of user-centric and we expand it to customer-centric.

What I wanna do in today’s whiteboard session is, I wanna look at some prominent businesses we have all heard of, that we highly respect, that are customer-centric. We wanna look at some case studies of some things that they do around customer experience, customer service, and we wanna extrapolate some lessons in customer-centric leadership that we can use to create a successful customer-centric environment.

So first of all, let’s look at customer service and customer experience in addition to customer-centric leadership. Well, one of the companies I wanna talk about is Apple. So Steve Jobs from Apple said that you have to start here, you have to start with customer experience.

So what they did at Apple is, he wanted to look at what incredible benefits can we offer our customers, and then work back. His idea was don’t start at technology, but instead start here and work to how to deliver that in the technology.

Also, Steve Bezos of Amazon said, “Work on things that your customers like and want.” He’s very specific in what their customers like and want, he knows that they like low prices, a big selection, and fast delivery. So Steve Bezos says that Amazon, everything they do, they focus on that. So, from there, customer service, so once you know the customer experience that your customers are looking for, the idea is to, how do we support that with our customer service.

So, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines says that the key to success is superior customer service. So he says that empowered employees go above and beyond to satisfy the customer. So how do we do that? So, how do we do that?

So he talks a lot about how to create a customer-centric environment.

So what we did is we took a look at some of the case studies and some of the things that they do at Virgin Airlines, and we looked at some of the seven lessons that they share about this.

So he says, “It starts with the leader.” So that would be like you. So the leaders will create the environment to create the good customer experience.

So here are the Seven. So Number one. Be visible. So, don’t find yourself locked behind your desk, get out and talk to your team members, your partners, your customer, get feedback and input, and feed that back into the system, and make sure they feel a part of the process to what’s being delivered.

Also, express a passionate commitment to serve the customer. So everything does start at the top, so the leader has to have that commitment, and then the team and the partners and everyone else follows suit. So be sure to provide an environment where you set up your team and your partners up for success by providing the things that they need to be able to serve the customer.

Then, number three. Your employees and teams, they are your greatest asset. So, hire for the people with the top talent and train them on how you want them to act. Again, provide them with the tools, the techniques, all of the things that they need to do to be great.

Then, hire for attitude. So at Virgin Airlines, they hire for people who are positive in nature, and they look at things as a cup half full. And, they look for people who again, can generate like positive energy into the environment.

Also, empower your employees or your team members to make every experience great. So what they say is, even though give them the leeway to make decisions, if something happens to those decisions, and you may have to clean things up, but they’re like, just go ahead and make the decision to make that customer happy, make their experience great, and then we’ll go and clean things up behind the scenes.

Number six is engaged social media with the genuine voice. Well, what does that have to do with the leaders? Well, most companies today specifically who are involved in digital transformations, do have some type of presence on the social media channels.

Well, you see the difference between some companies that just send out bland posts that really impersonal, but these is more like a personality, more like people really behind the scenes who are speaking in a genuine voice and tone, and can resonate with the customers. And then provide the team or the customer service behind those posts so that if people have questions, if people have input, then you’ve got someone behind the scene to address those with the customer.

And the seventh one is, have fun. It is proven that you can still do hard work, get the results driven, and have fun at the same time. So if you as a leader are having fun, you set the tone for the team, and the team actually loves that. And then the customer can sense if everyone is involved, engaged, and having fun. It makes a big difference, and it does all start with the leader.

So if you need a tool that can help you with your customer service, your customer experience, and help set up the environment for a customer-centric leadership environment, then sign up for our software now a ProjectManager.