No Culture, No Customer

How many times have you seen the quote “Culture eats strategy for lunch” (or breakfast, as the original Peter Drucker quote reads)?

I’ve seen it everywhere for years. On more presentations that I care to remember, on more blog posts that I care to admit I’ve read. It seems to be the rally cry to get people to understand that culture is important. The genesis of the quote is much more interesting to me though. 

What is funny to me is that although the quote is attributed to Drucker, no one can actually find the source of it. What Drucker did do though, is argue that a company’s culture was so strong that it would trump any strategy that wasn’t compatible with the existing culture.

I have been able to find a real quote from him – in which he says: “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”

That is why I say, No Culture, No Customer.

Customers know when you’re selling a myth – just as much as your employees do!  And being a myth doesn’t make you attractive to customers.

There are way too many companies that are straying too far from their core to try to be the next Zappos or Amazon. I’m not saying you can’t study those companies, but every company has its own culture, and you really can’t copy it. What you have that makes up your company culture is your very own special sauce. The magic is in learning how to harness that culture for the benefit of your customers!

Hang with me here… Have you ever tried to duplicate a dish that you watched someone on TV make? It happens to me all the time. I’ll be watching something on the food network and it will stick in my brain as something I want to try. I’ll remember it months later, and without fail, I’ll never be able to find the show or the episode. I’ll start googling what I thought the dish was, and at the end of the day, I’ll throw something together based on what I have in my kitchen. The likelihood of me having every single ingredient that the chef did is low. The likelihood of me having every spice the chef had is even lower.

Without fail though, with enough taste testing, I’ll come up with something fabulous that is entirely mine. Inspired by someone, but mine.

That is what makes a culture yours. And that is what your customers can sniff out. Your set of spices and ingredients are the things you own. They are the parts of your culture that are so strongly tied to your DNA that you must figure out how to use them, not how to avoid them.

There are so many ways to inspire a culture to be focused on customers. And I’ll guarantee you that the majority of your employees come to work every day with a plan to do the right thing. We put things in the way of people. We force them to follow processes and procedures that they know won’t make it easy for them to do their job – in turn, making it difficult for your customer.

I’m super excited to be talking at CXFusion  – hosted by MaritzCX about this topic. If you attend, you’ll hear all the lessons I’ve learned as the first CXO in the land about how to truly engage the culture you have and how to turn the corner to customer centricity. Not everyone is a startup that gets to create a new culture from scratch!

In the meantime, keep your eyes on ChiefCustomer.com as we continue to share with you our proven customer experience design and cultural transformation tools!

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