A Penny for Better Customer Thinking!

Sirte Pihlaja
CEO, Customer Experience Optimiser, Shirute

Don’t fuck up your culture. This was the only piece of advice that their investor, Peter Thiel, gave to the founders of AirBnB, as he funded their company with 150 million. He told them he had invested in the company culture, not its business idea. It is true that the organisational culture of a company, in fact, is the main factor that enables growth and development and most likely is the reason when your customer decides to go with a competitor. Have you thought lately, how your company treats its customers? Or how it should?


Not too many company leaders have yet been capable of setting their company culture before all other development and measurement activities. And yet, it is said that culture eats strategy for breakfast – not to mention lunch and dinner. Every company, where these things are not integrated, risks loosing its own success and future.

If your company is planning to develop its customer experiences this year, do take into consideration that this also means an important change management journey from the point of view of the company culture. The customer experiences your company delivers to its customers are a direct reflection of the culture that your personnel is surrounded by in their working environment.

According to research, employees tend to be more engaged and more productive, when the organisation they work for has a purpose that inspires them. The renowned business thinker, Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) advises companies in his famous Ted Talk to start developing customer experiences – but also employee experiences – by defining their purpose and answering the question: why does this organisation exist.

CX guru Shaun Smith (@SmithCo_CEM) reminds us that it is NOT nearly enough to just define your purpose. This change must begin with the leadership setting an example, translating it to every single employee to embrace customer thinking. But can the leaders truly bring the purpose from the brand promise all the way to the customer encounters?

3 world-class examples of making millions through defining your purpose

What can we learn from the way that the world’s best brands act? We collected some learnings and best practices, that can bring your CX transformation forward:

  1. The founder of Zappos (@zappos), Tony Hsieh (@tonyhsieh) warns us that no single leader can force the company culture to a specific mold: that is exactly why Zappos has not defined any exact measures to take to manage your customer relationships. Instead, every employee has been assigned with the task of “representing and inspiring the culture”. Hsieh wants his employees to act on their own initiative to show, how much they truly want to care for the needs of their customers. To their customers, this tells how much Zappos cares about them. By doing so, Zappos has made its customers want to take care of Zappos in return.
  1. The founder of Southwest Airlines (@SouthWestAir), Herb Kelleher thinks that you don’t need control, if the company manages to create a working environment that supports people to genuinely participate. The personnel knows thus what they need to do and makes sure that customers are taken care of in the best possible way.
  1. Apple primarily recruits based on the attitude of the candidates. The company firmly believes that the right attitude is a personality trait, whereas everything else can be taught. And they have the results to prove it. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook (@timcook), and the director of their store and online sales, Angela Ahrendts (@AngelaAhrendts) could not be happier about this principle. When your employees enjoy their work, they do not tend to change to other employers so easily. At best, this means employment contracts and customer relationships that extend to many many years in the future.

The list of successful forerunner companies that are willing to bet on their culture is long, but not yet endless. In these companies, the mantra of the leaders is to lead by their own example, and to be continuously present to bring better customer thinking to the everyday operations.

What will you do this year to get your own organisation on this list?

This blog article has originally been published at Markkinointi&Mainonta magazine.


The writer of this blog, Sirte Pihlaja (Certified Customer Experience Professional, Trained Lego® Serious Play® Facilitator) is the CEO of the first Finnish customer experience agency, Shirute (www.shirute.fi). She heads the networking activities of the global Customer Experience Professional Association (www.cxpa.org) in Finland (www.cxpa.fi). At Shirute, Sirte helps companies to fulfill their purpose by developing their customer and employee experiences using creative methodologies – whenever she is not making her own clients happy. The renowned expert has been awarded internationally for her work in furthering customer experience management knowledge and skills and building the community of professionals in this field.

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Ian Golding will be leading the CX Masterclass training on May 7th and our CX brunch on May 8th. Do you want to learn how to build great customer experiences? Join us to hear great case examples on how leading brands revolve their organisational culture around their customers and employees. Get your tickets soon at www.cxmasterclass.fi. We look forward to meeting you.

Ian Golding is a renowned CX specialist, who advises leading companies with their CX strategies, as well as measuring and developing CX and listening to your employees. He is the first one to have achieved the Certified Customer Experience Professional certificate and acts as CXPA UK Ambassador.


“Ensure that you do right by your employees first, so that they in turn are able to delight your customers.”
– Ian Golding, Founder, Customer Experience Consultancy


CX Masterclass

Want to hear more about CX Masterclass and the reasons for you to attend? Read more and make a choice that you will not come to regret. Let’s meet in Helsinki!


Shirute organises this event in collaboration with CXPA Finland and corporate partners. During this one-of-a-kind training in May, you will hear many interesting stories about customer experience development from top companies in the world.


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Additional information:

CEO Sirte Pihlaja, tel. +358 50 5700 190

The Global #1 Best-Selling Business Book Customer Experience 2 Is a Shiny Example of the ‘New Normal’

Customer Experience 2 tops the charts as the #1 best selling book on Amazon e.g. in the “Customer Service” and “Consumer Behaviour” categories in multiple countries (USA, UK, Canada and France, etc), making the co-authors Best Selling Authors on three continents. Sirte Pihlaja, the CEO of Shirute, is a Finnish CX/EX expert, who has been evangelising CX all over the world during the last 25+ years. Her passion is using creative methodologies in creating great CX and EX. That is why she wrote about customer-centric culture and on the Role of Play in Business.


Does your company need a little shape up in customer experience management? We win over hearts and make your customers happy. We know how to inspire people to buy, engage and recommend! Let’s start running together to become a customer champion!


sales (at ) shirute.com


sales (at) shirute.com

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