When business leaders try to build a customer-centric culture, they often overlook a key issue that can doom the whole effort: Many employees don’t think they have a customer.

Executive Summary

For leaders who are trying to engineer a more customer-centric culture, the message to the workforce should highlight two customer-impacting roles of either serving the customer directly or serving someone else who does, writes Watermark Consulting's Jon Picoult. Period. "The 'two roles' concept highlights the real essence of every employee's accountability, he says, explaining that before an organization can deliver a great experience to its external customers, it must first deliver a great experience among its internal ones.

Sure, the customer is front and center for staff who have regular day-to-day contact with policyholders—agents, customer service reps and claim adjusters among them. For those members of the insurance workforce, being customer-focused makes intuitive sense. After all, it’s hard to completely ignore customers and their interests when you’re interacting with them on a daily basis.

But there’s a whole subset of an insurer’s staff who have little to no contact with policyholders—groups such as information technology, human resources, legal, compliance, actuarial, finance, product development and marketing. For individuals in those departments, the line of sight to the customer is much murkier. To them, the C-suite’s clarion call for customer-centricity can feel less relevant and motivating because, from their perspective, they never engage with the company’s customer.

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