How Well Are You Positioned to Make The Shift to Being a “Customer Company”? Answer these 10 Questions to Find Out
It takes something to run a marathon. It takes something to orient your organisation around the customer. It takes something to be a “Customer Company”. And it takes a lot more than technology or changing some processes here an there.
What does it takes to be a “Customer Company”? It takes passion. It takes steadfast commitment. This passion and commitment has to reside in the hearts of your senior management (“Tops”). And this passion and commitment has to be visible and experienced throughout your organisation.
Why does it take this level of passion and commitment from your Tops? Because an authentic shift toward customer-centricity requires changes at multiple levels: priorities, policies, practices, processes, people, and platforms. This kind and scale of change only occurs when there is genuine passion, commitment and leadership from the people at the very top of your organisation.
How can you work out if the Tops in your organisation have this kind of passion and commitment to creating a “Customer Company”? There are dreams. There are intentions. There are fine sounding words. And then there is how people show up in the world: their being and their doing. Which is my way of saying that you should pay attention to how people show up in the world, not what they say. With that in mind, I propose that you ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do the Tops know how many customers we have gained over the last month, how many we have lost, and the impact on our business?
2. How much time and effort did the Tops expend last month serving our existing customers – in the stores, in the call-centres etc?
3. What actions have the Tops taken, over the last month, to walk in the shoes of our customers? Have they bought one of our products? Have they attempted to assemble-use our product? Have they called customer services to return a product? Have they read our marketing literature etc?
4. When was the last time the Tops called our customers to thank them and learn what enticed them to choose us over our competitors?
5. When was the last time the Tops rang up customers who have chosen to stop doing business with us to find out what caused them to leave us? And what it will take to win them back?
6. When was the last time that the Tops met with a cross-section of our frontline people, individually and/or collectively, to get access to their experience and their thoughts on what is and is not working for them, for our customers? Is this type of meeting a regular event or a one-off?
7. Have the Tops ever been undercover to experience the reality of being on the frontline?
8. Do the Tops know how many of our frontline employees have left us, why, and the impact of this turnover on our customers, and our business?
9. How much time do the Tops devote per week, per month, per quarter on discussing what they have learned/experienced by talking with our customers, and our frontline employees?
10. What changes are the Tops making in terms of priorities, policies, practices, processes, people and platforms?
The shift towards an authentic customer-centred orientation is a huge shift for just about every large organisation. That means organisational change. At the heart of all effective organisational change lies effective communication. Effective communication is radically different, I say distinct, from what passes for communication in the workplace.
If you are going to make the kind of organisational shifts that are necessary to cultivate customer relationships, call forth the best from your employees, and excel at the customer experience game, then I advise you to listen to the wise words of Danny Meyer, in his book Setting The Table:
Communication is at the root of all business strengths and weaknesses. When things go wrong and employees become upset ….. nine times out of ten the justifiable complaint is, “We need to communicate more effectively.” I admit that for many years, I didn’t really know what this meant……… I thought I was a pretty good communicator, but then it dawned on me: communicating has as much to do with the context as it does content. ……. Understanding who need to know what, when people need to know it, and why, and then presenting that information in an entirely comprehensible way is a sine qua non of great leadership…..
People who aren’t alerted in advance about a decision that will affect them may become angry and hurt. They’re confused, out of the loop; they feel as though they’ve been knocked off their lily pads. When team members complain about poor communication, they’re essentially saying, “You did not give me advance warning or input about that decision you made. By the time I learned about it, the decision had already happened to me, and I was unprepared.” Team members will generally go with the flow and be willing to hop over ripples, as long as they know in advance that you are going to toss the rock, when you’ll be tossing it, how big it is, and – mostly – why you are choosing to toss it in the first place. The key is to anticipate the ripple effects of any decision before you implement it, gauging whom it will affect, and to what degree. Poor communication is generally not a matter of miscommunication. More often, it involves taking away people’s feelings of control. Change works only when people believe it is happening for them, not to them. And there’s not much in between…..
Are you present to the big difference between a satisfied customer and a happy-grateful one?
There is a satisfied customer. There is a happy customer. And there is a happy-grateful customer. Too often we are not present to these distinctions. You and I can create satisfied customers simply by taking care of the functional aspects of the customer experience. To create a happy and grateful customer requires the human touch that evokes positive, life affirming emotions. And, I say that the human touch makes all the difference when it comes to repeat business and customer advocacy in a services centred business. Allow me to share a story with you.
“I like Hussein. He’s friendly, kind and genuine.” That is what my daughter said to me, with a big smile on her face, as we were leaving The Daruchini, our local Bangladeshi restaurant in Binfield. I found myself feeling the same way. What had turned a usually satisfactory experience, at this restaurant, into a happy memorable experience this time?
How do you create a memorable customer experience?
On a cold windy rainy day, my daughter and I had turned up at The Daruchini, a Bangladeshi restaurant, to pick up the takeaway meals that my wife had ordered. Walking up to the bar, a young man greeted us with a smile. We did not know him, yet he seemed to know us. He confirmed the order and the price with me. Whilst he was doing this his colleague spoke to him in a language that I did not understand.
To my surprise, this young man turned to me and apologised for speaking his native language. So I asked him what language they were speaking. “Bangladeshi” he told me. Then he asked me where I came from, originally. I told him that I came from Pakistani administered Kashmir. At this point, he turned to my 12 year old daughter and asked her, in a friendly way, if she had ever been there. My daughter shook her head. I said that I had not been willing to take her there as I considered it too risky. The young man agreed with me and told me that I had made a wise choice. Right there I felt accepted, acknowledged, validated, understood. I noticed a connection and found myself asking for his name. He told me his name (Hussein) and I shared my name with him.
Then our takeaway food order arrived. Hussein opened the refrigerator where the drinks are kept. And he asked my daughter if she drank Fanta (fizzy drink). She smiled and said “Yes.” Hussein hand her a can of Fanta. I noticed that I was surprised. I noticed that I was feeling happy. And I noticed that I felt gratitude toward Hussein for his kindness towards my daughter. I thanked Hussein and we left the restaurant.
We got into our car and were about to drive off when Hussein caught up with us. He told us that it was likely that our food order had been mixed up with another food order. So he asked to take the food order away so it could be checked. He apologised for the mix up. And told us that he would be back in a couple of minutes with the correct order.
Shortly, afterwards Hussein was back, walking across the car park in the rain. He apologised for the mix-up and for keeping us waiting. Then he told us that he had given us an extra dish, free of charge, to make up for keeping us waiting. Once again, I found myself surprised and feeling happy. This is when my daughter said ”I like Hussein. He’s friendly, kind and genuine.”
What is the lesson here?
It occurs to me that how Hussein showed up, his attitude and his little acts of kindness, cannot be scripted. They cannot be turned into process . It occurs to me that your organisation will either create space for these qualities to show up or will suppress them. With that in mind I have three questions for you:
1. Does your organisation recruit and retain people like Hussein?
2. Does your organisation create a space for your people to be genuinely friendly, responsive, and kind with your customers – to respond to the unique customer situation?
3. Does your organisation call forth the best of your people – their humanity, their ability to connect with your customers? Or does your organisation suppress the best of your people through rules, scripts, process and fear of breaking the standard rules?