Only 38% of companies self-report as being customer-committed; and therein lies the problem: The challenge isn’t having a purpose, but living that purpose. Here are 4 ways to ensure a customer-centered purpose impacts the very people it was intended to.
Inarguably, in its moment of inception, every company acts on an unfulfilled need in the marketplace. Most business visionaries find new ways to create value for customers and for the world at large, building capabilities, teams and organizations with a strong sense of purpose. But something happens as companies grow in scale and success. The conviction of their founders becomes diluted.
Over the years, a scrappy team of generalists focused as much on customer service as corporate strategy may evolve into siloed departments of specialists with specific remits, unable to grasp the deeper meaning of the organization. Eventually, purpose becomes watered down to words on a website rather than the reason employees go to work each day. Most of us know this story well and agree corporate purpose is critical. But why? And how? Finding an answer that’s more than abstract and idealistic isn’t so easy — at least it wasn’t, until now.
Understanding how purpose propels business
To better understand the link between purpose-driven companies and business outcomes, and more importantly, how companies are finding ways to thrive through purpose, Gongos recently sponsored a study with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. Together, we found that customer-committed companies — those with a purpose focused on the customer that is deliberately embedded throughout the organization — are more than just better positioned to do right by their customers and society. Being customer-committed leads to a better employee experience, higher customer engagement, stronger brand differentiation; and ultimately, bottom-line growth.
However, we also learned that only 38 percent of companies self-report as being customer-committed; and therein lies the problem: The challenge isn’t having a purpose, but living that purpose through the actions of employees. Here are four ways to ensure a customer-centered purpose impacts the very people it was intended to:
1. Communicate your purpose clearly, often and with conviction.
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Spending focused time with key leaders to develop or reengage in your company’s authentic, customer-centric purpose is the first step necessary to give it legs. For purpose to be internalized in the minds of every employee, it needs to be a part of the everyday fabric of the employee experience. Reinforce your purpose at every opportunity by creating connection points in your decision-making, meetings, processes, and internal and external communications. Don’t just tell, but show your employees how they are the gateway for purpose to be felt and understood by every customer.
2. Never stop listening.
A deeply embedded purpose is more than a guiding light for employees. It’s one of the ways customers find meaning in your brand. Continue to talk to customers and listen to what they say about their needs and experiences. Use empathy as the catalyst for how your organization strives to fulfill its purpose. Ensure the customer is humanized in authentic ways, socializing their perspective; and identifying new channels for communication and immersive avenues that serve as a constant reminder of the humans that the organization is serving.
3. Connect the “why” of each team to the customer.
The biggest barrier to employee engagement in purpose is not having enough time. This is because employees struggle to see how their day-to-day work connects to fulfilling the promise your organization has made to the customer. While no employee is, or should think of themselves as, responsible for delivering on every aspect of a company’s purpose statement, they should develop a view of the unique value they bring to the organization and customer. Through both individual reflection and team discussion, work to surface these “whys” and develop a clear understanding of how each team lives out a customer-centered purpose. As you think about tangible goals for yourself, your team and the organization, directly connect the things you wish to achieve with how they will help the broader organization achieve its goals.
4. Incentivize purpose-driven behavior.
What is celebrated and rewarded in your company culture is one of the clearest drivers of decision making and prioritization at all levels within the organization. Look at the formal and informal ways you recognize employees and ensure that delivering on purpose is the driving force behind those mechanisms. When celebrating team successes, ensure that the narrative ties directly to the company’s purpose. These stories will illustrate how each employee’s achievements contribute to organizational growth and encourage others to find new ways to contribute to the company purpose, as well.
For companies seeking to deepen both employee and customer experiences, our research and experience show that crafting and executing on a purpose centered on the customer has potential to pay big dividends — provided that purpose is deeply embedded into the mindsets and actions of employees. When aligned with the customer and backed by leadership, purpose gives your organization the energy it needs to thrive in good times and in bad.