Having worked in a few companies and having gone through mergers both large and small, I have experienced a variety of cultures which has helped me to understand some of the things that make or break customer experiences.

Obviously there are a whole range of things that influence customer experiences but I just want to talk about one aspect of this, which is the concept of ownership and accountability.

I want to make a point and that is:

“Everyone in a business directly or indirectly influences a customer’s experience. From the person stocking the shelves, to the person printing out invoices, and the people serving the customers, we all have an impact on the customer experience.”

So why is it that so often you encounter and come across these cultures that are so focused on the job description, and deflecting accountability and ownership? And how does this affect the customer experience?

I will try to sum this up simply.

I remember working in this particular company where you felt like a part of a big family, everyone looked after each other. Our general manager would even get on the phones when our call centre was under pressure and help to answer phone calls. Everything we did at that company was a team effort, what we did was in the best interest of one another, and of our clients. Sure we all had a job description, but if someone needed my help to stuff a few 100 envelopes, well then I would make time to do it, because I knew my colleague would appreciate it and the clients would get their invoices sooner. My experience speaking to clients on the phone was that they were generally happy, they would ask about people at the company that they would speak to and feedback was always excellent.

As the years went on and the different mergers happened, as they do, things changed. One of those changes was that loss of team. No longer were you part of that family, seemingly overnight you were stranded and on your own. What happened? There seemed to be this shift from this culture of ‘we’ where team work and helping each other was commonplace, to this culture of ‘me’. Where everyone was obsessed with their job description, pushing responsibilities on to others and competing against each other to secure the “top spot”. So it was more and more common to hear angry and frustrated phone calls. As you might have guessed, our feedback surveys didn’t really come back with great scores, our customers were upset. Where had this team gone, when had we stopped putting our customers first?

This is a common problem, especially as businesses expand. Staff begin to lose their sense of family and trust and this becomes apparent to customers.

So how do you build and sustain a team culture that puts clients first and cares about each other?

I think the catalyst in the first scenario I described was the leadership, nothing was too small of a task for our general manager, and that simple act of answering calls in the call centre helped to frame the importance of the customer in everything that we did.

Regardless of this, it takes more than a title to be a leader. Anyone can be a leader and all it takes is for you to lead by example and voice a simple question – “how can we make this better for our customers?”

So I leave you with one thought and challenge – how can you shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’. How can you personally make a difference to not just your customers, but your colleagues in order to keep your customers coming back?