I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their site on July 7, 2022.
Culture can be defined as core values plus behaviors. Designing a culture is deliberate and purposeful. To ensure that “customer-driven” and “customer-centric” become “how we do things around here” for everyone – as opposed to “sales-driven” or “performance-driven,” which is happening much too often right now, acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for each core value must be defined, socialized, and operationalized.
Putting the customer in customer experience and at the heart of your business starts with a culture that is deliberately designed to do just that. There’s a commitment from the CEO and the entire leadership team that this is how we’ll be doing business.
Your core values are defined, and there is at least one customer-driven value, e.g., listening, people first, customers first, deliver WOW through service, customer obsession, curiosity, obsess about our members, focus on the customer and all else will follow, strong relationships create guests for life, innovation, service excellence, collaboration, customer trust, etc. You get the idea. You don’t have to have values that mention the customer, just values that align with the customer-centric culture that you want to create.
Next, the associated acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for each value are outlined and linked to outcomes. If there isn’t a specific customer-driven value, then the values and behaviors must include clear direction and connection to customers and the customer experience.
This information is then socialized and operationalized; these are critical steps (don’t skip them). If employees don’t know or don’t understand the values, you can’t expect them to live them. Operationalizing the values includes hiring, firing, and promoting through the lens of these values, and doing the same for decision-making and development of policies and processes. Having this at the foundation of your business ensures that all employees know how they’ll work and how they’ll interact with each other and with customers.
So, for this article, I want to call out one of those items, specifically: decision making. Who makes decisions in your organization today? How are they made? What is the process? How are these decisions informed?
There’s this concept called values-based decision making that needs to be implemented throughout your organization to ensure that you make decisions the right way. What is values-based decision making? Why is this important? How do you make decisions based on your core values?
Values-Based Decision Making: What Is It?
The best and simplest way to define “values-based decision making” is this: making decisions through the lens of your core values and the outcomes they facilitate or drive. For example, if your values drive toward a customer-centric culture and organization, then the decisions you make will be through the lens of customer-centricity, through the lens of putting the best interests of the customer at the heart of all you do, through core values that support and facilitate a customer-centric culture.
Values-Based Decision Making: Why Is It Important?
When you make decisions through the lens of your core values, it’s one way to demonstrate “living and breathing” the culture you desire. You can make decisions quickly and clearly – and with confidence. There’s no doubt in your mind about whether you took the right or the wrong approach to make the decision; you did it based on what’s important to the foundation and the DNA of your organization. Decision-making can also be a great example of an appropriate or inappropriate behavior relative to a specific core value, further helping to codify that value.
It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. ~ Roy Disney
When conflicts arise or when decisions are challenged or challenging, basing the outcome on your set core values makes everything easier. Your values keep you on track and never let you stray too far (or at all) from who you are as a company. When you make decisions through the lens of your values, those decisions are more resistant to change and to challenges.
There are no surprises; everyone knows what to expect when decisions need to be made. And that builds trust, ultimately. Similarly, decisions can be made in the absence of the leader, and that translates to empowered employees (a benefit you probably didn’t even think of). That’s why many refer to culture as “what people do when no one’s looking or watching.” You know what the right or wrong decision is to be made because the values informed that decision. The values are your compass.
Values-Based Decision Making: How Do You Do It?
There are many tools available to help you make decisions, or you may have developed your own in-house decision-making framework. Some decisions are easier to make than others; regardless, there are questions you should always be asking yourself (and others involved) about the process of making that decision as it relates to your core values. These should become part of your framework.
- What is the decision to be made?
- Are there other options besides the one you’re looking at? What are they?
- How do all of the options align with your core values?
- How does each one conflict with your core values?
- Are there values that cannot be compromised?
- Which values, if any, would you overlook?
- Which option is the best option, based on what you’ve just said? Why?
I know. Core values seem to be hard and fast, so how can you ever question compromising a value to make a decision? It’s less about compromising than it is about prioritizing. In some instances, you’ll be making decisions that satisfy different values, and because of that, you’ll have to figure out which values matter to the decision and which don’t. Don’t take that part of the exercise lightly.
When you make decisions through the lens of your core values – whether you’re a leader or not – you’re supporting and advancing the culture that you’ve designed. Remember, you get the culture you design or the one you allow. Let’s deliberately design the culture to be what it’s supposed to be (customer-centric, right?), and anchor all you do in the core values. You’ll see more consistency across the organization, and that consistency builds trust and leads to further clarity for everyone.
People who live a life of purpose have core beliefs and values that influence their decisions, shape their day-to-day actions, and determine their short- and long-term priorities. ~ Frank Sonnenberg
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
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