Had enough of talking about how important customers are to your business, but feel not enough is being done to truly get your employees to think differently? Sarah Meurer from The Surgery considers what it takes to build a truly customer-obsessed culture inside your organisation.

27th December 2017

In recent years, the customer, once an important part of the strategic corporate mix, has become an obsession for many organisations; but why now, when customers have always paid the bills?

In simple terms, the commoditisation of the market has meant businesses must sell an experience as well as a service or product to buy customer goodwill. It’s this goodwill that makes customers stick with you when you get it wrong, or someone else appears to be doing it better.

It’s not just businesses that are becoming customer-obsessed. Regulatory bodies, such as Ofcom and Ofgem, are also listening and responding to the customer voice. They’re putting pressure on large utility and communications businesses who have previously monopolised the market to up their game.

These organisations, broadly sheltered and untouched by the volatility of the market, are having to improve their service to customers or risk losing important contracts. They face a huge cultural gap between not even “knowing” they had customers, to putting customers first and being 100 per cent obsessed about their needs.

Others are further ahead. E.ON Energy has one of the most sophisticated net promotor score programmes in Europe and is leading the way when it comes to putting the customer first. It is changing its business model to meet customers’ needs – whether that’s smart metering, online payment or empowering customer-facing employees to make decisions about customer accounts thanks to instant customer feedback.

To build customer goodwill, everyone in your organisation must be customer-obsessed, believe it and act on it. So often, we just point at the customer experience team on the second floor when things go wrong. Customer obsession requires business-wide cultural transformation and commitment.

It can feel like a huge mountain to climb, but the good news is that it’s absolutely possible. When done well it is extremely sophisticated, but the ‘how’ is not widely shared. Having worked with five organisations over the last year that are working towards building a customer-obsessed culture, here’s how you can shift employee mind-sets.


  1. Build and share a clear customer story
    National Grid’s purpose of “Bring Energy to Life” puts customers right at its heart as it talks about “exceeding customer expectations”. Having a well-crafted story about who your customers are and their pain points when working with your organisation, as well as their future needs, helps you to orient your strategy authentically around the customer.
  2. Bring the voice of the customer into your organisation
    Whether it’s replaying customer feedback as part of regular team meetings, including real customers in town halls and conferences, linking communications to customer pain points expressed as customer quotes, or delivering a sophisticated customer immersion programme, question how content could be delivered through the customer voice.


  1. Align work to the customer journey
    It sounds simple, but this part of the process is exceptionally complex. When your organisation’s operating model has been historically oriented around delivering strategic goals, it takes vision and steely tenacity to challenge the status quo. Start small, choose one customer journey and map which employee groups influence it. Set a clear goal – for example, we will reduce the time it takes to become a customer from two weeks to two days – then work with your colleagues to make it happen. When you’ve done it, tell everyone about it: good news stories proliferate and, before you know it, more parts of the organisation will want a piece of the action.


  1. Build customer capability in non-customer facing teams
    This is important: whether your employees work with customers directly or not, everything employees do ultimately impacts the experience of the customer. By creating a customer capability framework, you are able to benchmark the ability of your workforce to “think customer” across everything they do and make commercial decisions on behalf of the business as well as you customers.


  1. Use top-down and bottom-up NPS to listen to your customers
    Net Promoter Score (NPS) is used by many organisations to measure customer satisfaction and advocacy of the brand. The top-down score is derived from a customer, or potential customer, being asked at random whether they would recommend your company to a colleague. Bottom-up scores enable you to measure satisfaction at point of interaction with your company, eg a customer service call from a call centre. These scores allow you to benchmark yourself against the competition in and out of sector, set customer satisfaction goals for the future, and understand trends that may need to be addressed by your company strategy. Put simply, NPS helps you listen to your customers so you can become an organisation that meets their needs in the future.


  1. Introduce colleague NPS
    Setting and measuring objectives for the service that you, as a team, deliver to other colleagues within your organisation, using the same principles as NPS, can improve performance and efficiency. This is often challenged, as teams have their own approach; however, creating a consistent measurement tool enables the business to create more meaning out of the results. Improving performance from team to team will ultimately impact positively on the customer.
  2. Create cross-functional project teams to work on customer challenges
    Using cross-functional project teams to tackle customer challenges, opportunities and pain points provides an innovative atmosphere that can help improve the customer service experience for your organisation. Thinking outside of your federated teams ensures your organisations are joined up about delivering a great customer experience.

To hear from some of the organisations that are getting it right, join The Surgery team at Barn to Boardroom In the City on Thursday 1 February at 6.30pm to hear from Roche, E.ON and National Grid. The event will be held at Vauxhall City Farm and you can book your tickets at

The Surgery is a creative communications agency specialising in internal communications, design and digital – based in a barn on a farm in the West Sussex countryside. The IC offering is led by Sarah Meurer and Carly Murray who have both worked for large corporate organisations. To find out more about building customer goodwill from the inside out, or generally delivering world class internal communications, contact Sarah or Carly at The Surgery.

Leave a comment

To leave a comment on this article, please complete the form below. Your comment will be posted once verified by our editorial team.

If you are not an IoIC member and would like to join to receive Voice and other membership benefits, visit our Membership page.

Room Booking

Thanks for staying with us! Please fill out the form below and our staff will be in contact with your shortly. The see all of our room options please visit the link below.
See All Rooms