Lessons from 10 Customer-Focused Leaders
What do all customer-centric businesses have in common?
They are run by people who are obsessed with the customer experience and put customers first in everything they do.
Customer experience efforts only succeed when backed by leaders. A truly customer-centric culture begins with the leader. Companies that want to be successful in the customer experience need to have strong leadership from a CEO who understands and values the importance of the customer experience. Without a customer-centric leader, CX efforts are likely to fail.
Here are 10 customer-centric leaders and what they do to put customers first.
1. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
No list of customer-centric leaders is complete without Jeff Bezos, who set the standard for customer-centricity. Since Amazon’s early days, Bezos has left an empty seat at every meeting to represent the client. He instilled in Amazon culture the goal of building the most customer-centric business in the world. Every employee knows how their role impacts the end customer and works every day to innovate and provide excellent service. Bezos spends time every year in the contact center and makes every decision with the customers in mind. Customer-focused leaders demonstrate the importance of the customer experience to their employees and show the value of each role.
2. Tricia Griffith, CEO of Progressive Insurance
Tricia Grifffith spent years at Progressive before becoming CEO, giving her a solid understanding of the company and its customers. One of his main rules as a leader is to never stop listening to people. Griffiths leads like it’s still in beta mode to get her employees to think creatively, take risks, and make real connections with customers. This mentality has led to a business that is disrupting the traditional insurance industry. From powerful apps to smart marketing, Griffith encourages its employees to think big for customers. Customer-focused leaders are creative and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.
3. Lynsi Snyder, CEO of In-N-Out Burger
It’s no coincidence that Lynsi Snyder is consistently ranked among the world’s best CEOs and that In-N-Out Burger has the most loyal customers of any fast food chain – Snyder’s leadership style places the people at the center of everything the company does. Snyder has built a culture with strong benefits and growth opportunities for employees, which motivates them to provide excellent service to customers. She stresses the importance of high quality products and services and is unwilling to cut corners. Customer-focused leaders treat employees and customers like family and demand quality.
4. Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s
In his first three weeks on the job, Marvin Ellison redefined Lowe’s priority to focus on customers, restructured leadership teams, and rehired employees. A cornerstone of his time as CEO has been understanding customers better and getting back to basics, such as making sure items are in stock and easy to find and the online experience is convenient and intuitive. . It required new investment and restructuring at Lowe’s, but Ellison’s leadership and big actions show that customers are the center of the business. Customer-focused leaders take great strides in ensuring that everything about their organizations is geared towards customer success.
5. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks
Starbucks is known for creating the complete coffee experience – from the unique store décor to the welcoming staff and comfortable ambience. CEO Kevin Johnson places great importance on the customer experience and regularly communicates directly with employees and customers. His transparent messages, especially during the global pandemic, show his willingness to serve customers and help communities. Johnson has also taken steps to support employees, such as expanding benefits and mental health coverage. Its goal is to empower employees so that they can share their passion and service with customers. Customer-focused leaders are transparent and value both employees and customers.
6. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla
One of the reasons for Tesla’s rapid growth in recent years is that everything the company does is rooted in the customer experience. Founder and CEO Elon Musk sets the tone for putting customers first in everything from car design to problem solving. On numerous occasions, Musk has even interacted with customers directly via Twitter to answer questions and address their concerns. A customer reached out to Musk on Twitter to complain about cars being parked at Supercharger locations, which prevented other Tesla owners from recharging their cars. Musk responded and, within a week, had implemented a policy change at Tesla. Customer-focused leaders listen to customers and take responsibility for making significant changes.
7. Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe
The entire goal of 23andMe is to bring science to the general public and to help customers learn more about themselves. With this in mind, Anne Wojcicki engages clients throughout the process, such as involving them in new research and providing updates on relevant scientific studies. She meets regularly with all departments of the company, including key scientists, to ensure 23andMe is moving in the right direction to better serve its customers. Customer-focused leaders have the big picture of how their business can impact customers and move their teams in that direction.
8. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines
Gary Kelly goes against many industry trends to prioritize Southwest Airlines customers, such as not charging for baggage and providing free entertainment. Its primary goal is to carry on the legacy of a strong customer experience and innovate to bring Southwest into the future. It creates a people-centered culture by valuing employees and creating a fun and stimulating workplace. Kelly continually pushes himself and his employees to be better than ever before, especially when it comes to serving customers. Customer-focused leaders innovate and inspire the people around them to grow and improve.
9. Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy
In the ever-changing world of retail, Corie Barry knows the importance of staying close to customers. This is especially important during the pandemic, when Barry knew that taking care of customers during a stressful time would lead to long-term loyalty and success. Barry leverages employee and customer feedback loops. She strives to surround herself with a diverse team and encourages her management team to do the same. By listening to the field and listening to many perspectives, Barry can lead in a way that represents all of his clientele. Client-focused leaders celebrate diversity and inclusion and value feedback.
ten. Richard Branson, President of the Virgin Group
Richard Branson is passionate about customers in all of his businesses. He regularly monitors how employees treat customers and is known to call customer service or take Virgin Air flights pretending to be a customer. He is genuine in his interactions with customers and enjoys having fun with employees and customers, both through his Twitter feed and in real life. Customer-focused leaders listen to the real customer experience.
Customer-centric leaders set the tone for their entire organization. When a leader puts customers first, it permeates the entire company and creates a customer-centric culture.
Blake morgan is the co-host of the Be Your Own Boss podcast with her husband Jacob Morgan. Listen to all the episodes here.