Companies that were founded on customer obsession — like Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, and USAA — derive significant financial benefits as a result. That’s because a customer-obsessed culture helps customer experience professionals deliver high-quality, on-brand, consistent experiences that drive loyalty. Fortunately, even companies that weren’t founded on customer obsession can transform their cultures and see big returns on their efforts. For example:

  • Tom Feeney, Safelite Autoglass’s chief executive officer (CEO), launched the company’s customer experience transformation in 2008. Since then, the firm has seen NPS, employee engagement, revenue, and profit metrics improve substantially.
  • Cleveland Clinic embarked on its patient experience transformation in 2009. Since then, it’s seen significant improvements in patient experience ratings, employee engagement scores, and business and operations metrics like number of patients admitted and average wait time to see a doctor.

Successful transformations require companies to execute on multiple steps over several years.

Along the way, companies often run into pitfalls that derail these types of efforts, like lack of a clear customer experience vision, failure to get broad-based buy-in across the organization, or loss of interest before the transformation is complete.

Fortunately, there are companies that can help. In my latest report for Forrester Research, "Market Overview: Where To Get Help With Culture Transformation," I spoke with 14 consultancies about their most popular services. We learned that all of the companies:

  • Conduct extensive research with employees and their clients to understand the current culture and the challenges the clients face.
  • Map customer journeys to uncover root causes of culture issues. The consultancies like to involve stakeholders from their clients in mapping the journeys to establish a shared understanding of the current state.
  • Model return on investment (ROI) to support a transformation business case. At the beginning of a project, the consultancies like to establish how they and their clients will measure the impact of their work together.
  • Develop transformation road maps to guide important activities and milestones across multiple phases of a cultural transformation.
  • Provide coaching and training resources to sustain customer obsession over time. Cultural transformations require employees to modify certain behaviors. The consultancies help solidify these changes through ongoing coaching and training.

From there, companies have a choice to make when selecting a consultancy to work with. The 14 companies we profiled fall into two categories:

  • Culture transformation specialists. These firms help transform their clients' cultures into ones that are customer-obsessed by shifting specific employee behaviors through training and coaching. They do not offer other customer experience consulting services.
  • Customer experience consultancies. These firms offer a broader suite of customer experience consulting services, including customer experience assessments and customer experience strategy development. They make the cultures customer-obsessed as part of larger customer experience engagements with clients.

The culture transformation specialists focus on creating customer obsession. Companies like Ferrazzi Greenlight, Root, and The Grove Consultants in the US; Blue Sky in England; and Trainiac in South Africa are adept at shifting behaviors of individual employees and partnering with key stakeholders to change the dialogue in an organization. Each firm has its own strengths, which I document in more detail in the full report.

The customer experience consultancies transform all disciplines of customer experience, including culture. Companies like AboutFace, Almighty, Andrew Reise Consulting, Beyond The Arc, Manifest Digital, Mulberry, Prophet, Strativity, and West Monroe Partners have experience in creating customer experience transformation road maps that include work streams dedicated to shifting culture. There are differences between the consultancies in terms of their expertise and approach, and companies should evaluate several consultancies to assess fit.

No matter which partner companies choose, they need to set themselves up to get the most out of their partnership:

  • Evaluate their existing relationships for clues about successful partnerships. Before hiring a consultancy to help with culture transformations, companies should review their current and past vendor relationships and determine whether there are certain attributes that predict success. For example, does your company work better with partners that are local and can be on-site regularly?
  • Assess their culture transformation needs. Consultancies all complete their own due diligence about the current organizational culture of their clients. But understanding your current state before you hire a consultant will provide you with the criteria needed for selecting the right partner in the first place. Companies should review customer feedback and metrics, organizational research, and results from the latest employee surveys to understand the current state of their culture.
  • Beware of carpet baggers and arrivistes. With the increasing focus on customer experience and customer-obsessed cultures, companies should be wary of consultancy poseurs. What signs should you look for? Watch out for consultancies that don't have strong ROI or business case methodologies and conversations that start with customer experience but quickly migrate to customer service, customer relationship management (CRM), or branding.

For more details on the consultancies, including examples of some of their methodologies, head over to Forrester to read the full report. Or join me at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West, November 6th to 7th, to learn more about using customer journey and ecosystem maps to begin your culture transformation.