Inside-Outside-In: The Virtuous Circle Of Customer And Employee Happiness

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Inside-Outside-In: The Virtuous Circle Of Customer And Employee Happiness

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Business leaders who focus on the people within organisations are sometimes viewed suspiciously by those whose efforts are geared towards customer experience.

Why invest so much time and effort on your internal culture, when the customer is everything, and your company lives or dies by their approval? Customer-centric leaders exercise outside-in thinking, bring the customer voice into everything they do.

Meanwhile, inside-out thinkers start with the organization, seeing culture as an essential driver of customer satisfaction. So when it comes to business strategy, which should come first, a company’s customers or its people?

Outside in

B2B brands have historically been guilty of short-sightedness when it comes to their customers.

Their focus has been on their brand and product, presenting features and benefits that they hope will be well received by customers, who have often been poorly understood. But the age of Big Data has provided fuel for a more customer-centric approach, which pays big dividends to those who do it right.

Now B2B brands are behaving more B2C, mining for insights and mapping touchpoints and interactions to create a seamless customer experience for potential buyers. This has created an army of advocates for the outside-in approach: keep your focus on the customer and tailor all your efforts to meeting their needs and expectations.

Inside out

But at the same time, the quest for happy customers often leads back to employee experience. An organization full of grumpy people will be hard pushed to delight the end user. Many companies have found that internal culture is the key to unlocking customer satisfaction.

Programmes that help to align individual values with those of the organization are reaping rewards. The Sustainable Living division of the consumer goods giant Unilever, which aims to integrate sustainability into the group's products and values, will unveil its next set of targets after an engagement exercise with more than 40,000 of its employees.

The division saw it brands grow 69% faster in 2018 than the rest of the business.

Loving and living your purpose

This is a great example of the power of purpose to enrich company culture and drive profitability. Many companies are keen to unlock their own purpose to achieve success. But the big misunderstanding in purpose is that people use it as a sales and marketing tool.

That is not what it’s meant to be. It needs to be loved and lived. Leaders have autonomy and inspiring leaders also have a strong purpose, but they also need a strong articulated purpose, for them as a person as well as for the organisation they lead.

If that purpose is articulated and shared within the organisation, then it is powerful, as its people can also find their own purpose within it and align it with theirs.

That, along with the right working environment, can inspire and motivate teams to make customers happy. When we approach customers with a clear purpose and vision of the world we want to create, we can have much more meaningful discussions about how we can help them achieve their goals.

The virtuous circle

So when asking – should we approach strategy from the outside in, or the inside out? The answer has to be both. Each aspect feeds into the other in a dynamic, sustaining loop – it’s a virtuous circle.

When strategic initiatives place high importance on company culture and customer experience, the result can be a perfect harmony of yin and yang. At GW+Co, we view businesses as living systems.

Our unique strategic framework, the Business Compass, uses a systemic approach to break down functional silos, transforming businesses to be more authentic, effective and impactful. At its core is purpose – the reason why a company exists. We help clients find this, and articulate it across culture, strategy and brand, sustaining values, vision and identity.

A systemic approach can appear more complex that a linear one. But it is key to surviving and thriving as the business paradigm shifts from structures and hierarchies to networks and webs.

Rather than short-termism and exploitation, we need to put in place initiatives that sustain long-term growth. Fostering a rich, purpose-driven organizational culture has the power to engage employees and delight customers. So why choose one over the other?

GW+Co is a London-based creative consultancy. Their international team of creatives and strategists work with associates from the fields of management consultancy, anthropology and leadership development. 

Gilmar Wendt founded the company in 2010 after a 15-year career in design and strategy, working with blue chips and privately owned international businesses. GW+Co has won numerous creative and design effectiveness awards. Notable clients include PayPal, Yale, Ergo and Zumtobel Group. www.gilmarwendt.com

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Inside-Outside-In: The Virtuous Circle Of Customer And Employee Happiness

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