B2B Industry Culture: What Should You Do for Business Success?
Culture is often a puzzling influence on business success. In this blog, I explore B2B industry culture and offer suggestions to improve it.
Since 2005, The Daniel Group has partnered with B2B clients to improve their customer experiences. We are pleased to see the progress our clients have made. However, over the past few years, some clients “hit a wall” in their improvements. They made many changes to their processes and systems, which resulted in improvement. However, these changes only take the company so far. Among those companies that continue to improve and perform at a high level, they either started with a great culture or worked to improve it over time. Culture is a critical difference between those clients who improve CX versus those who need help to reach their potential.
What is B2B Industry Culture?
There are many definitions of culture. For example, formally, culture is made up of the group norms that guide and inform behaviors. Another wise manager defined it as what happens when no one is looking. Because there are many definitions of culture, managers avoid discussing it too often. After all, what can you do about it?
Culture drives the organization more than processes, systems, etc. A positive culture is critical to delivering great CX, as well as delivering on other performance measures. Having a process, system, or procedure to cover every situation an employee may face is impossible. Culture is analogous to the autonomic nervous system in the human body. This system regulates involuntary physical responses, such as breathing, and responses to external stimuli, such as threats. We don’t have to think about breathing. The autonomic system takes care of it. Culture does something similar for a company. It influences employee behavior when the “what to do” is not defined by a process, system, or procedure manual. Culture helps define how employees react to their colleagues or customers in situations without clearly defined guidelines. There are plenty of these situations.
My Definition of Culture
I heard a speaker’s following definition of culture in a recent presentation. I love it!
Culture is not about creating a great place to work. Culture is about creating a place where great work happens.
Too often, we associate good cultures with the outward presence of things or benefits—pool tables in the break room. Free coffee. Onsite childcare. Friday afternoon beer blasts. These are outward manifestations of efforts to change/influence/develop the culture. While these perks may make a great place, their impact does not last for a time. Things often fall down once an employee finishes their coffee or the pool game and returns to work with other employees. Unless employees are emotionally engaged, it is unlikely that a place where great work happens will occur.
Tips for Creating Positive Culture—My Experience
We have a strong culture in our company. It is based on four principles:
- Respect for each other and our clients
- A determination to make a positive difference for our clients and employees
- Having fun
- Making a good financial return, so the other three principles can happen.
For our firm, it starts with selecting the right people to join the team. We look for people who have strong performance in their backgrounds. More importantly, we look for people who possess empathy or the ability to share their feelings and listen to and understand the feelings of others.
There is accountability, which includes both recognition for jobs well done and performance improvement when needed. Employees receive recognition for jobs well done. Recognition is not overused (we can’t devalue the currency). Likewise, if someone is not performing, we work with the employee to change the situation. A real culture killer is failing to address underperforming employees or those who do not reflect organizational values.
While no one wants to make a mistake, we all do. If handled properly, people can learn and grow from their mistakes. The most important thing is that people are encouraged to try! I tell each new employee that I would rather someone beg forgiveness than ask permission.
Why Does Culture Matter to CX?
As noted earlier, you cannot have enough processes, procedures, and systems to cover all the situations employees may face when dealing with customers. There must be a healthy “autonomic nervous system” that helps guide and inform employees in their decision-making and interactions with customers. Put more bluntly by Fred Reichheld, If you wonder what getting and keeping the right employees has to do with getting and keeping the right customers, the answer is everything.
In my next blog, I will discuss the connection between CX and EX and outline why it is critical to focus on both. With great employee experiences (EX), you are likely to have great customer experiences (CX).