Leading a Customer-Centered Organization

How to Build a Service/Quality System for Exceptional Results

A Customized and Practical “How-to” Half, One, or Two-Day Workshop

The need is huge. The opportunities are vast.

Research is clearly showing that high performing organizations are highly customer-centered. But customer satisfaction levels have been steadily dropping from nine to sixteen percent across many industries.

Technology such as automated phone systems, call centers, and e-commerce are alienating many customers. That’s often because they are designed to increase organizational efficiencies, not serve customers the way they want to be served. Walls between these technologies and the rest of the organization compound the problem. And when frontline producers and servers also feel alienated and poorly supported by their organization the customer is served a lethal service/quality cocktail.

Most attempts to improve customer service are too narrow and superficial. They fail to focus the organization’s culture and core processes on serving customers. That’s why fifty to seventy percent of these programs fail.

Jim Wrote the Books on Customer Service and Quality Improvement

Jim Clemmer and his associates have spent almost thirty years helping thousands of managers in hundreds of organizations build high service/quality teams and cultures. As cofounder of The Achieve Group, he worked with California-based Zenger Miller (now both part of AchieveGlobal) and Tom Peters to help executive teams implement a cultural change process called Toward Excellence. A key element of this process was entitled Existing for the Customer.

Jim’s first book, The VIP Strategy: Leadership Skills for Exceptional Performance, was built around Achieve’s “Vision Integrated Performance” model for improving service, quality, productivity, and innovation. His second book, Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, built upon Achieve and Zenger Miller’s highly successful experiences in helping organizations develop the skills, processes, and culture to reach higher levels of service and quality.

The “Leading a Customer-Centered Organization” workshop draws from the deep expertise of The CLEMMER Group associates, the Achieve/Zenger Miller experiences, and Jim’s best-selling books, Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, Pathways to Performance: A Guide to Transforming Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization, and The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success.

Workshop Menu

Each workshop is tailored to the audience and organizational circumstances. Following is an overview of the main sections that Jim can draw from in customizing a session for each Client.

Putting Customers at the Center

  • The Payoffs of Customer-Centeredness
  • Defining Customer Service and High Quality with the Three Rings of Perceived Value

Why Most Organizations Aren’t Customer-Centered

  • Research Shows 50–70% of Improvement Efforts Fail
  • Assessing Ourselves Against the Top Failure Factors
  • Moving From Bolt-on Customer Programs to Built-in Service/Quality Processes

The Performance Balance

For a brief overview of the material covered in this section click here and here.

  • Finding the Right Balance: Technology, Management, Leadership
  • Managing Things and Leading People
  • Soft Skills, Hard Results: The Power of Emotional Intelligence for Me and My Team

Pathways to Superior Customer Service/Quality

While some customer improvement programs may change a few short-term performance indicators, many initiatives fail to change the very character and fabric of the team or organization. These efforts often make surface-level changes. But few are integrated with a systematic and strategic approach to customer service/quality.

Transformation Pathways

The Pathways Framework has evolved over many years of best practices research and very successful use with hundreds of management teams. The process used here is a highly iterative one. It is tailored to the main areas that participants want to focus upon or feel they need to address in more depth.

Here’s the typical process used in a one or two-day workshop:

  • Differences Between Surface-Level Change versus a Deeper Level of Cultural Transformation
  • Overview of the Six Key Areas of the Compass Model (“Pathways Framework” below)
  • Gap Analysis (comparing current performance with desired performance) Around Each of the Transformation Pathways
  • Identifying the Team/Organization’s Most Critical Pathways to Higher Service/Quality
  • Exploring Best Practices and Brainstorming Options for Each Top Pathway (an extensive workbook provides a menu of highly researched “Issues and Ideas” for every Pathway)
  • Establishing Key Action/Implementation Ideas

Pathways Framework

For an overview of the “compass model” used in this section and more depth on each Pathway click here.
Focus and Context (Vision, Values, and Purpose)

  • Common Pitfalls and Traps
  • Centering Vision, Values, and Purpose Around Customers


  • From the Outside in: Bringing Customers into the Organization
  • Strengthening Internal Partnerships for a More Customer-Centered Organization
  • Working with External Partners (suppliers, distributors, alliances)

Strategy and Direction

  • Aligning Strategy, Structure, and Roles for Higher Service/Quality
  • Establishing Clear Goals and Priorities
  • Designing a Goal Deployment System for Disciplined Follow-through

Measures and Rewards

  • Balancing Leading Indicators (operational and service/quality) with Lagging Indicators (financial)
  • Establishing a Feedback Rich Culture for Continuous Learning and Improvement
  • Traditional Management-Based Reward Systems and Recognition Practices versus Leadership-Based Approaches
  • Keys to Effective Reward and Recognition
  • Continuous Improvement through Reviewing, Assessing, Celebrating, and Refocusing

Processes and Systems

  • Managing Processes at the Tactical, Cross-Functional, and Strategic Levels
  • Vital Steps to Strategic Process Management for Higher Service/Quality
  • Key Organizational Support Systems
  • Identifying Symptoms of System Problems That Impede Service/Quality Delivery

Learning and Development

  • Elements of Effective Education and Communications Strategies, Systems, and Practices
  • Aligning Skill Development in Technology, Management, and Leadership with Service/Quality Improvement
  • Common Reasons That Most Groups Aren’t Teams
  • Twelve-Point Team Effectiveness Framework
  • Symptoms and Causes of Organizational Innovation/Learning Disabilities
  • Keys to Innovation and Organizational Learning
  • Building a Strong Planning Process and Infrastructure for Successful Implementation of Customer-Centered Changes and Improvements

Timeless Leadership Principles for Team and Organization Success

Unimproving managers rarely develop improving organizations. A customer-centered culture and leadership are closely related. Part of changing “them” involves changing me. High performing, customer-centered cultures are only possible through high-performance leadership. High performing leaders are well-rounded and constantly expanding their personal “leadership wheel” across the “Timeless Leadership Principles.”

This section builds on Jim’s best-selling book, The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success and may also draw from the accompanying Practical Application Planner.

Depending upon the length and focus of the workshop, the process typically used starts with an overview of each of the following Leadership Principles. Participants then assess their team/organization. From here, small breakout discussion groups or the whole group (depending upon workshop size and objectives) review application exercises and brainstorm potential application ideas. The workshop usually finishes with setting practical action plans.

Focus and Context: Points of Origin

  • Where Are We Going?
    • Are we confusing goals and vision?
    • How alive is our vision?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?
  • What Do We Believe In?
    • Do we have core values?
    • How alive are our values?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?
  • Why Do We Exist?
    • Do we have a powerful purpose statement?
    • How alive is our purpose?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?

Responsibility for Choices: From Victim to Victor

  • Identifying and Eliminating “Victim Speak” in Our Team/Organization
  • Ten Ways We May Be Disempowering Ourselves
  • Strategies for Busting Our Barriers to Peak Performance
  • Focusing on Areas of Direct Control and Influence While Letting Go of No Control Areas/Issues

Authenticity: Let’s Get Real

  • Assessing and Addressing Trust and Credibility Gaps
  • Leading by Example: What Behaviors Do We Need to Change to Change Their Behavior?
  • Identifying and Dealing with Our Biggest “Moose-on-the-Table” Issues (see ../articles/articles.aspx?article=261)

Passion and Commitment: All Fired Up

  • Assessing our Leadership Against the Top Ten Commitment Indicators
  • Prioritizing our Key Factors for Engaging Much Stronger Commitment in Our Organization
  • Loyalty Leadership: Retaining Our Top People

Spirit and Meaning: Matters of the Heart

  • Identifying and Addressing Our Five Biggest Spirit Killers
  • Which Stage Are We at on the Hierarchy of Spirit and Meaning?
  • Establishing Our Preferred Stage and How to Get There
  • Keys to Bringing a Deeper Sense of Pride to Our Team/Organization

Growing and Developing: All That We Can Be

  • The “Fish Tank Factor”: Measuring the Size of the Environment We’ve Built
  • The Coach’s Playbook: Assessing and Strengthening Coaching Effectiveness
  • Helping Team Members Get the Most from Training

Mobilizing and Energizing: Inspiring Peak Performance

  • Identifying Top Team/Organization Energy Drains and How to Plug the Leaks
  • Eight Factors to Build High-Performance Teams: Assessing Our Effectiveness
  • Meeting Effectiveness Checklist: What Should We Keep, Stop, and Start Doing?
  • Steps to Recharging with Recognition, Celebration, and Appreciation
  • Information versus Communication: Keys to Inspiration through Verbal Communications

Workshop Options

Customizing any “Leading a Customer-Centered Organization” workshop starts with defining the key objectives and outcomes of the session.


For Management and/or Frontline Staff

This is generally an interactive and inspirational session that reinforces or provides participants with an “edutaining” overview of the keys to service/quality and leadership. A few assessment and application exercises may be selected on the basis of preworkshop discussions and customization.


For Management and/or Frontline Staff

Participants complete a greater number of the assessment and application exercises from The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and/or extensive “Leading a Customer-Centered Organization” workbook. Participants may assess personal, team, or organizational effectiveness across Transformation Pathways and/or the Timeless Leadership Principles. This helps determine which Pathways or Principles they want to complete as a whole group or in small discussion groups (depending upon the key issues and number of people in the session). The amount of time and depth in each agenda area is determined by preworkshop discussions and customization.


For Management Staff and/or Blending with Staff (see next option)

Participants typically complete all assessments and application exercises in The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and may start selected ones in Growing the Distance: Personal Implementation Guide. They get deep into the key leadership issues that need to be addressed and develop detailed action plans. Key priorities, next steps, and follow-through processes are established.

Progressive Blending for Staff and/or Various Management Levels

This starts as a half or one-day session for staff and management together with organization or team assessments, issues to be addressed, and implementation brainstorming. Everyone gets the same message, develops common language, and gets involved in the improvement process (which dramatically increases commitment to change). Jim then facilitates a senior management team priority and action planning session the afternoon of the second day to make decisions and begin implementation. Sometimes the progression is first a half-day with everyone, continuing with a day including all management, and a final half-day with just the senior management team.

Confidential Preworkshop Web-Based Assessments (Optional)

These assessments can be built around the questions in The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and/or Transformation Pathways. All or selected assessments (depends upon the half, one or two-day version) are completed confidentially and anonymously on The CLEMMER Group web site by each participant before the session begins. Scores are tabulated and a summary report is brought to the workshop for discussion, prioritization, and action.

This option provides:

  • The truest views of how participants really feel about the organization or team’s strengths and improvement opportunities
  • A savings in the time used at the workshop for completing and scoring the assessment exercises
  • Pre-workshop learning that allows for deeper discussions of each Pathways leadership and change concept or principle
  • A more balanced discussion based on objective data of everyone’s perspective rather than a few of the most vocal or powerful participants
  • More thoughtful and authentic assessments since participants don’t feel rushed or that someone is peeking at their scores over their shoulder

To view the Transformation Pathways assessment click here.

What You and Your Team Can Expect From This Workshop

  • Define what outstanding customer service and quality looks like for your organization
  • Get practical tips, tools, and techniques clearly showing you how to develop a highly customer-centered organization
  • Extensive “how-to” workbooks with hundreds of practical application ideas (with one and two-day workshops only)
  • Assess your current customer-centeredness against world class standards
  • Pinpoint service/quality performance gaps and priorities to be addressed
  • Integrate and coordinate your organization’s current change and improvement programs
  • Establish the key elements and priorities of your service/quality planning process
  • Identify the barriers to energizing and mobilizing people to put customers at the center of your organization and establish practical action plans to overcome them
  • Clarify/redefine technical, management, and leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Reflection time to reassess personal and professional priorities
  • See how to leverage team and organizational strengths
  • Refocus and pull together service/quality programs and initiatives
  • Recharge and reenergize
  • Learn how to build strong teams and foster individual commitment