Assessing how your company culture supports customer experience (CX) can be slippery business. Because culture is often ill defined and difficult to assess, many organizations focus only on what they can see—like corporate values with the word “customer” tossed in every now and then; CX posters in the hallways; and training classes for customer service employees. All of this is important and necessary work, but it only scratches the surface of CX culture.
When you focus only on the visible, tangible manifestations of culture, you’re like a gardener who judges the health of her plot by the color of the flowers. The hues of the petals will tell you a little about how healthy the garden is, but they won’t tell you much about the condition of the field, such as the mineral content, moisture levels, or earthworm population of the dirt. If you really want to improve CX, you have to dig into the stinky soil.
Edgar Schein’s three-level model of culture provides a helpful tool for digging. With this spade in hand, we can turn over the topsoil and examine the degree to which the artifacts of culture (its visible and tangible manifestations) align with its espoused values (what the company says it cares about) and tacit assumptions (the unspoken, unwritten, and sometimes unconscious rules and beliefs that govern employee behaviors).
And just as you can’t focus only on the parts of culture you can see, you can’t evaluate only your customer-facing employees if you’re going to thoroughly assess CX culture. Like artifacts, these employees are simply the most visible aspects of the customer experience, which is actually the product of employee behaviors and culture at all levels of the organization. To get to the root of culture, we have to look at the impact of leaders, managers, front-office staff, and back-office employees on CX.
If you’re looking to improve—or even just to assess—how your company culture supports CX, make sure you don’t simply stop and smell the roses. The only way to truly understand and align your culture is to dig down into the stinky soil.