Key variables shaping customer responsive culture


A review of the evidence finds that half a dozen variables are routinely evident in customer-responsive cultures.

First is the type of employees themselves. Successful, service-oriented organizations hire employees who are outgoing and friendly.

Second is low formalization. Service employees need to have the freedom to meet changing customer-service requirements. Rigid rules, procedures, and regulations make this difficult.

Third is an extension of low formalization – it’s the widespread use of empowerment. Empowered employees have the decision discretion to do what’s necessary to please the customer.

Fourth are good listening skills. Employees in customer-responsive cultures have the ability to listen to and understand messages sent by the customer.

Fifth is role clarity. Service employees act as “boundary spanners� between the organization and its customers. They have to acquiesce to the demands of both their employer and the customer. This can create considerable role ambiguity and conflict, which reduces employees’ job satisfaction and can hinder employee service performance.

Successful customer-responsive cultures reduce employee uncertainty about the best way to perform their jobs and the importance of job activities.

Finally, customer-responsive cultures have employees culture have employees who exhibit organizational citizenship behavior. They are conscientious in their desire to please the customer. And they’re willing to take the initiative, even when it’s outside their normal job requirements, to satisfy a customer’s needs.

In summary, customer-responsive cultures hire service-oriented employees with good listening skills and the willingness to go beyond the constraints of their job description to do what’s necessary to please the customer. It then clarifies their roles, frees them to meet changing customer needs by minimizing rules and regulations, and provides them with wide range of decision discretion to do their job as they see fit.

Managerial Action

Based on the previously identified characteristics, we can suggest a number of action that management can take if it wants to make its culture more customers-responsive. These actions are designed to create employees with the competence, ability and willingness to solve customer problems as they arise.

Selection: The place to start in building a customer-responsive culture is hiring service-contact people with personality and attitudes consistent with a high service orientation. Southwest Air is a shining example of a company that has focused its hiring process on selecting out job candidates whose personalities aren’t people friendly. Job applicants go through an extensive interview process at Southwest in which company employees and executives carefully assess whether candidates have the outgoing and fun-loving personality that it want in all its employees.

Training and Socialization: Organizations that are trying to become more customer-responsive don’t always have the option of hiring all employees. More typically, management is faced with the challenge of making its current employees more customer-focused. In such cases, the emphasis will be on training rather than hiring.

Last, even the most customer-focused employees can lose direction every once in a while. This should be addressed with regular training updates in which the organization’s customer-focused values are restated and reinforced.