Recently, I was presenting to a client and someone asked me, "How do you get an organization to embrace a customer first mindset?" Regardless of the project, it's an important question to ask. If you spend time and money on a strategy, you need to think about how you actually get your organization to adopt it. How do you get people inside the organization to buy in? How do you really promote a customer centric mindset?

Make Sure the Strategy is Clear and Understood

The first consideration, which might seem obvious, is that you need to get your employees to understand your strategy. There has to be a change process to communicate the reasons why a strategy change is necessary. This ties into my last blog about taking a more iterative approach for strategy. Don't wait until you're ready to put the changes in place to start communicating the initial concepts of your strategy, communicate as soon as you have your vision.
It is important to communicate because one of the issues with trying to create an internal culture shift is the huge resistance to change within organizations, especially when you are changing direction. Have the right discipline in place to make sure you're effectively communicating with people up front, so they understand that this change is coming.

Make sure that you're communicating all the intended results. Everyone in the organization should understand how this change impacts the customers they interact with, and the internal and external stakeholders.

Outside opinions matter

This might be sound biased coming from a consultant, but the value of an outside voice when you're trying to facilitate buy-in is invaluable. You can talk about a strategy and the reasoning behind it internally as much as you want, but sometimes you need an external partner to come in and say nearly the exact same things you've been saying. All of a sudden buy-in will skyrocket. It's one of those quirks of the human psyche; how many times have you seen someone's parents tell them to do something and they brushed their advice aside? Only to hear a friend give the same opinion and suddenly, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea. That's the power of an independent perspective. Having a third party come in and validate or help advance an agenda really improves overall adoption.

Be Thorough

Changing strategy is not just a single online training, it's not just something that somebody goes through once, it must be a pervasive part of how your organization is run. You have to change your culture and it has to be reinforced on a recurring basis-internally and externally. These things aren't going to work over night and employees might struggle, so don't be afraid to try different methods of communicating.

In one case, a client was having trouble getting their employees to understand the different customer personas leadership had defined. To combat this problem, leadership actually went out and found real customers who fit those profiles, to humanize them to their employees and bring to life the customer persona.
However, you choose to implement a customer first mindset, it's imperative to have an effective change and communication process that continues over time, reinforces the reasons why you're doing the strategy, and covers everyone inside and eventually outside the organization. Once you have the infrastructure in place, a customer-first mindset should truly touch all segments of the business. Don't forget to communicate your investment in your customers to the outside world, so that customers know they're a priority.

If you remember only one thing about this process, it's that communication is king. It can't be just internal or external, it needs to be pervasive and persistent. Communication must be reiterated multiple times. You can't just send one email. Of course you need the processes and infrastructure to support a shift to a customer first model, but if you focus too much on nuts and bolts of the strategy and forget the people involved-your strategy will likely fail before it even gets started.