Customer experience meets employee experience

The keys to consistent customer centricity: A new approach incorporating culture, capabilities and operating model

In increasingly competitive markets, everyone wants to keep and win more customers. But how do you maximize the value of investments in customer experience (CX) to make sure that multiple efforts across your company are all driving the right business outcomes? Successful business leaders recognize that return on experience (ROX) is critical to creating value. After studying leading B2B and B2C companies across sectors and regions, PwC has developed key insights about customer loyalty, employee experience, operating models and culture that power and inform our straightforward approach to accelerate value from customer centricity efforts.

How to effectively invest in customer centricity

Not everyone agrees on what customer centricity means. We often hear vague references to “putting customers first,” as well as talk about being responsive to real-time demands, staying ahead of the customer with innovation or providing reliable products at low prices. Customers may welcome all of that, but no single element is necessarily customer-centric by itself. Customer centricity means strategically coordinating aspirations and making specific choices around capability systems, operating model and culture. If not done carefully, customer centricity can be an attempt to “be all things to all people.” That can be incredibly expensive, plus it rarely works and can confuse your workforce about what customers really value and how that should be delivered.

Instead, think about the impact your employee experience has on customers. Incorporate it into decisions about strategy, investments, technology, data, metrics, operating model and organizational effectiveness. Mobilize key employees across your organization to exceed the expectations of your most important customers in meaningful, interconnected ways. Avoid confusing employees by being consistent in messaging, making up-front decisions and consciously engineering the organization to reinforce your chosen approach to customer centricity.

In PwC’s recent Pulse Survey, 48% of executives told us they’re increasing their spend on customer experience, and our research has found that CX leaders see five times as much revenue growth as laggards. To make the most of your investment, remember to also empower your employees by encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors. How do you do that? Start by first understanding what kind of customer centricity model will work most effectively in your organization.

How to effectively invest in your customer centricity

“If you want happy customers, you have to have happy employees. We need to unleash the creative potential of staff.”

Executive at a healthcare organization

Match your customer centricity model with your brand strategy

Your approach to customer centricity should be explicitly built on your brand strategy and your organization’s purpose, bringing these to life meaningfully for your employees. What is your organization’s “why?” What emotions do you want customers to feel when they engage with your brand and afterward? What emotions will make them return?

It’s critical that your customer centricity model includes a system of metrics specific to your model. Our recent research shows that common metrics like the net promoter score (NPS) are no longer enough for companies that really want to differentiate themselves. Tracking and assessing your own data typically involves a combination of surveys and AI of unstructured data like messaging, voice-to-text and social media. This reveals whether you’re driving certain emotions in customers, confirming that their experiences follow your strategy. Through these measurements, you can align and focus your capability investments as well as engage your employees to enable these experiences and drive continuous improvement against your customer centricity model.

Customer centricity model

“Previously, we had been customer centric in an ideal customer way, rather than in a real customer way. We now want to focus on what our customers are actually telling us, rather than what we want them to tell us.”

Executive at a software company

The five customer centricity models

Consider your color palette

Click on each of the five customer centricity models below.
As you explore the models, think of them as a color palette from which you can choose two or three that most align with your vision. Your focus may evolve, and one color may get more focus for a period of time. Just be careful: You may see your organization as a blend of models, but you don’t want so many colors that you end up with a muddy mix.


“Customer listening is key. That should be a starting point, but to come up with a solution, our employees have to be a part of the conversation. We need to listen to them."

Executive at a leading healthcare company

Connect your customer experience and employee experience

In addition to identifying your customer centricity model and capabilities needed to deliver a better CX, you need to engage your employees. They’re the critical link.

First, understand the important role of employees in providing your customers with a positive and differentiated experience. Focus on understanding your employees just as much as your customers. That means pulling formal and informal levers as you assess and evolve your culture, as well as establishing a clear measurement system. To drive continuous improvement in CX and measure the value from your investments, you’ll want to continuously think about your customer centricity model — tracking the emotions you want your customers to feel and making sure that they’re congruent with your brand strategy.

Connect your customer experience and employee experience

Map your CX and EX journeys, identifying key points of human interaction.

  • Create informal employee communities.
  • Train employee communities on behaviors and ownership of CX.
  • Amplify your employee listening programs, going beyond annual surveys to mine ongoing discussion forums via AI and text analytics.
  • Engage employees about their interactions with customers.
  • Take action on employee insights and measure success against implemented changes.
  • Show employees change based on their feedback. They’ll feel more ownership and deliver a better customer experience.

Activate your culture by rewarding behaviors.

  • Diagnose your current culture, identifying how your existing cultural traits support and hinder CX-EX goals.
  • Understand your current state cultural traits and the inherent strengths and opportunities within your existing culture. In other words, don’t fight your culture — work within it.
  • Identify a critical few behaviors to evolve your culture to better support your customer centricity model and future vision.
  • Engage authentic informal leaders to spread these behaviors. Empower and reward your employees to “walk the talk on culture.”

Don’t let your formal and informal enablers off the hook.

  • There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to your operating model.
  • Make decisions around your operating model (organizational design, decision rights, incentives, etc.), based on your customer centricity model and how you want to drive value.
  • Use your customer centricity model to drive how you tighten the formal and informal levers of your operating model, simplifying your organization to reinforce and amplify your customer centricity model.
  • Make sure you’re sufficiently focused on informal enablers of your orgDNA like relationship networks, commitments, norms and mindsets to activate your cultural behaviors. This can help drive the right balance in your implementation efforts with more formal enablers like organization structure, decision rights, incentives and information.

The bottom line

If you want to differentiate your company through delivering better customer experiences, you need to go beyond chasing scores. There’s no golden metric for customer centricity. In addition to knowing your customers, concentrate on empowering your employees, from frontline workers to management teams:

  • Engineer your operating model so that it responds to the experiences of employees who deliver on the customer experience. Your operating model and key value processes should echo and amplify your customer-centric message. This will require thinking end to end to simplify key value processes and organizational infrastructure.
  • Reinforce how you want your teams to respond to customers by making sure that employees have a positive experience navigating your organization. Poorly defined or vague choices around the models can result in a lack of clarity in which people simply project their own prejudices and priorities, leading to a fractured and fragmented structure — suboptimal for executing on your strategy.
  • Test whether key messages are getting through to frontline employees and customers. This should be an ongoing process that’s essential to tightening the emphasis on customer experience. Add attribute scores to your measurement systems so you can collect more meaningful and actionable insights that connect to emotions on a regular basis.
The bottom line

“If CX starts with the employee, you have to think about how you want to build employee brand love and then translate that to your CX.”

Executive at a retail company

When it comes to improving experience and achieving true customer centricity, each initiative and investment influences others. Ultimately, this approach shouldn’t be net-new spending, given the potential savings in research and testing, savings from cost of quality and operational improvements and vendor rationalization. It’s also self-funding for building your own capabilities and the top-line benefits that will likely flow to your bottom line, which can then be reinvested to accelerate a growth flywheel. In the end, just remember that how well you succeed at customer attraction, retention and overall experience will increasingly depend on your employees’ experience.

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Samrat Sharma

Marketing Transformation Leader, PwC US

Christopher Hannegan

Principal, Transformation, PwC US

Luna Corbetta

Principal, Workforce Transformation, Pharma & Life Sciences, PwC US

Theresa LaMontagne

Managing Director, Customer Transformation, PwC US

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