The Challenge of Culture Change in Improving Customer Experience

Curtis Kopf, VP Customer Experience at Premera Blue Cross has managed culture change in many companies

Curtis Kopf, VP Customer Experience at Premera Blue Cross, has managed culture change in many companies

Culture Change is Hard, But Essential to Build a Better Company

You may think that managing culture change in an organization with 4,000 employees would be tough.

But it’s easy compared to one of the places where today’s guest, Curtis Kopf,  VP Customer Experience at Premera Blue Cross, had worked before. At Microsoft he was dealing with 90,000 employees in 90 different countries!

That said, “easier” might be a better word than “easy.” Changing corporate culture is never really easy. But it is often essential if you want to improve customer experience.

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Improvement means making things better than they currently are, and to make things better you can’t keep everything the same. Change has to happen.

Have Empathy For Your Co-workers

Companies don't WANT to treat customers badly, but can slip into bad habits

Companies don’t WANT to treat customers badly, but can slip into bad habits

What struck me in my conversation with Kopf is the empathy he shows towards executives and employees at all levels.

While some of us get frustrated with senior executives who seem blind to customer experience, Kopf sees it in a kinder light.

Executives, he says, can lose track. They think, “My job is to make a profit, or to drive efficiency,” but what those really boil down to is the customer.

So sometimes you have to give senior executives a formal nudge to reconnect with their customers. Whether that’s spending a day on the front lines every few months, or calling customers to find out how things are going in their world, executives may need a customer experience focused colleague to remind them of how important that contact is.

Setting up a program that makes this sort of customer contact a regular part of their schedule, instead of a task near the bottom of the endless to-do list, will help refocus them on the customer.

Once senior executives have that focus, it becomes a lot easier to change the overall culture.

“I think a lot of companies have always cared about the customer,” says Kopf, but becoming truly customer-focused involves “building a new muscle.”

Also In This Episode

Culture needs a balance of common philosophies and innovation

Culture needs a balance of common philosophies and innovation

Kopf gave some wonderful examples of rewarding the right behaviors in employees, including Alaska Airline’s moving “Legends Awards” ceremonies.

Hiring the right employees in the first place is also important. While Amazon’s workplace culture has been criticized as being overly demanding and competitive, one thing they may have right: they have employees whose job, in part, is to make sure that the company doesn’t make panic hires at busy times.

If you don’t hire people who are the right fit for your culture, you are wasting your time and theirs. Either they’ll leave, or, worse still, they’ll stay and destroy the culture for everyone else.

That said, you also want to make sure that you aren’t simply hiring clones. “Innovation is really critical to customer experience,” says Kopf. And you won’t get much innovation if everybody thinks the same way.

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