Why smashing hierarchy and driving collaboration is essential to customer experience

Source: BRW Australia Photo: Nic Walker

Dr David Cooke, MD of Konica Minolta Australia.  
Source: BRW Australia Photo: Nic Walker

When Dr David Cooke was appointed managing director of Konica Minolta in Australia he was faced with a culture of strict hierarchy, strong silos and task oriented behavior.  He realized this was the first thing that had to change.

Why? Because the market for multifunction copiers and printers was changing. The market for these products was declining and the demand for outsourced solutions and services was emerging. The hardware was less important than it was in the past, customers just expected the devices to all work well and be built with high quality engineering. Quality products did not differentiate, customers wanted more, they wanted more sophisticated services and solutions to help them manage the costs of running their fleets and value add solutions that would streamline workflows and improve their operational effectiveness.

These new market conditions required a more flexible, agile and collaborative culture that focused on the changing customer needs if Konica Minolta was to thrive in the future. So his vision of KMA as the “company that cares” for its customers and its community was a means to differentiate KMA from its large competitors, promote a unified company view of improved service and value for customers and one that he felt his staff could buy in to.

His view was validated by a staff survey that benchmarked the level of customer-focused culture in the business by measuring market responsiveness on a 7 factor index. It showed that there was some work to do, but that staff were overwhelmingly ready for change, wanted transparency of information across the organization and expected the senior leadership to lead it and show the way.

David immediately looked for tangible initiatives that would demonstrate a unified company with increased collaboration and communication. In the first few months of his tenure he made the following changes:

  • the large corner office that was originally the haven of the previous managing directors was re-purposed as a “quiet lounge” for all staff
  • he moved into a glass fronted office next to the lunch room where he could wave or nod to his staff as they used this heavily used walk-way.
  • he replaced several of the functional heads with new leaders to strengthen the cultural change program and break down the silos
  • he increased transparency in the HR function by moving it from closed office walls to join others in the open plan office and appointed a new leader to facilitate the change program
  • he promoted an external focus by encouraging all staff to work for non-profit community organizations by enabling them to take days off to directly contribute

David’s approach to creating a less hierarchical structure, sharing of financial results and customer successes across the business is leading to more engaged staff, better customer service and growth in revenues at a time when overall market revenue is declining.

What’s the secret? Customer Focused Leadership – leaders that genuinely care about creating value for customers, the business and the communities that operate in.

3 Traits a Company Culture must have to create great customer experiences

warning-you-are-being-watched The way customers are treated by your company is a direct reflection of your company culture. If you have a culture based on fear and mistrust, customers will experience the ramifications. Have you ever felt like you were being treated like a criminal for returning a product or complaining about a service? It is highly likely that employees are punished for not following the rules, as a result customers are also punished for mistakes or speaking up.

Company culture can be a difficult thing to define, but just about everyone that works for a company can feel it or describe it in some way.

Software Advice, an online reviewer of HR technology, recently conducted some interesting research that demonstrates the wide range of views from employees on what makes for an attractive company culture. The most cited cultural trait that would attract employees? Honesty and Transparency.

Source: Software Advise

Source: Software Advice

Transparency

This leads us to the first of 3 must have traits, Transparency. Employees want to know where they stand, if the leadership is opaque and vague about performance expectations or what success looks like this is a recipe for low morale and poor customer experiences.

Empathy

The second must have trait is empathy. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s position, in this case understanding the customer’s point of view. What do customer’s experience? What are they trying to achieve? What are their frustrations and how can we eliminate them? A culture of empathy extends to how employees work with each other, what are the other department’s goals and how do we help them achieve their goals as well as our own. Companies that lack empathy end up with unhappy customers that leave.

Trust

The final must have trait is Trust. This relates back to my opening point, a culture of fear results in employees not trusting customers. The customer is out to get them, scam them, take advantage of them just like everyone else in this place! Low levels of trust narrows our thinking, employees go into a survival mode that results in short term wins at the expense of long term relationships.

Have you ever had the feeling you are not welcome when you walk into a retail store? (See the image at the top of this post) Unfortunately in retail, theft is a major problem, however, as with most major problems it is subject to the 80/20 rule. In other words most people are not thieves but the signage and the retail staff’s attitude can make everyone feel that way – not good for business…

Are these cultural traits present in your company?

Why feedback is crucial to customer satisfaction

Managers aren’t the only people equipped to provide valuable feedback into your organization.

A corporate culture that encourages feedback will improve customer relationships. Why? If we don’t know what’s wrong we can’t fix it. If customer’s can’t easily provide feedback they won’t, they will simply leave or worse complain to other potential customers about their poor experience.

Employees are usually the first people customers encounter and frequently have insight into common customer complaints and concerns. What is important is that the leadership listen to, prioritize and act on this feedback.

By practicing a policy of transparency and never punishing employees for providing feedback, you will improve your customer relationships and often increase employee satisfaction in the process.

Just as customers want to be heard so too do the staff in your organization. So develop the practice of giving and accepting feedback, it is a shortcut to getting the right things done faster and more effectively for your customers and ultimately your business.

Do you encourage feedback in your company?

 

 

Amazon’s customer centric moment of truth

jeff_bezos_amazon Image credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

I have been a fan of Amazon.com for many years, in fact I wrote extensively about them in my new book, the Customer Culture Imperative.

However some recent news about some of their practices have caused me to pause and question whether they remain true to their stated vision as being “the most customer centric company in the world”.

As recently reported in PC World, the FTC filed a complaint against them for billing parents millions of dollars’ worth of unauthorized in-app purchases made by their children.

To me this raises some alarm bells, targeting kids in this way is problematic. Kids are clearly less sophisticated and financially literate consumers, vulnerable to impulse purchases.

Also it sounds as though employees at Amazon had their own concerns, this quote was cited in the PC World article:

“One internal Amazon communication said that allowing unlimited in-app charges without any password was “clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers”

As a customer centric business, you have the interests of your customers as a first priority. This approach builds trust and long term relationships, the outcome for business is sustainable ongoing profits.

Is making it easy for kids to spend hundreds of dollars on in app purchases reflective of a company with its customer’s best interest at heart?

Jeff Bezos is a well known long term thinker, however this sounds like some short term profit thinking to me.

What do you think?

Diagnose Your Customer Culture

Harvard Business Review:

I hope you enjoy our post from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

What happens when you deliver poor customer experiences and get complaints? You might ignore your customers —  or worse, blame them — and lose them for life. Or you might fix their problems and earn their loyalty. What you and your employees will do depends on your customer culture.

In truly customer-centric companies, all individuals (regardless of their roles) base their decisions and actions on the belief that what’s best for the customer is best for the business. New evidence shows how a strong customer culture drives future business performance and supports market strategies. Our research, based on a quantitative study across more than 150 businesses, spanning various industries and functions, identifies seven cultural factors that drive customer satisfaction, revenue and profit growth, innovation, and new product success. These are important predictors of future results and early indicators of risks and opportunities related to retaining customers and acquiring new ones…

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Some of the best research ever done on customer centricity

Image

We are often asked about other research that has helped shape our view of creating customer cultures.

Here is a list of a few of our favorite research articles and books the influenced us deeply when writing “The Customer Culture Imperative“:

Kotter, John P. and Heskett, James L. (1992), Corporate Culture and Performance, New York, Free Press.

Homburg, Christian; Pflesser, Christian (2000), “A Multiple-Layer Model of Market-Oriented Organizational Culture: Measurement Issues and Performance Outcomes,” Journal of Marketing Research; Vol. 37 Issue 4; 449-462

Basch, Michael D. (2003), Customer Culture: How FedEx and Other Great Companies Put the Customer First Every Day, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Kirca, Ahmet H.; Jayachandran, Satish; Bearden, William O. (2005), “Market Orientation: A Meta-Analytic Review and Assessment of Its Antecedents and Impact on Performance,” Journal of Marketing; Vol. 69 Issue 2; 24-41.

Enjoy!

How Zappos makes sure customers get a great experience everytime

customer service image on blackboard

You see countless articles every day that claim improving a single part of your customer service strategy is the “key” to something. Experts promise how listening to your customers, delivering more timely service, improving employee training and many other things offer a path to providing a better customer experience. The reality is that your customer service is like a machine with many moving parts. These parts include your call center’s hold times, your field sales teams’ ability to make an emotional connection, the helpfulness of information available on self-service portals and more. They all need to function well, and – most importantly – function well together in order to offer an amazing customer experience and rank among the best names in stellar service. Ultimately this requires a customer culture (read more in our new book here)

The most well-known companies in customer service have earned their reputation by recognizing and executing against this reality. This is demonstrated in call center reviewer Ashley Verrill’s recent article, which examined how Zappos perfects quality assurance management for a better customer experience. QA is not typically showcased as a big part of the “machine,” but the Zappos strategies she highlights do more than improve the accuracy and fairness of agent scoring. They also involve the voice of the customer and service reps to improve the experience for all parties involved:

Quality Assurance and Customer Service Reps Join Forces: Each QA team “advocate” is required to spend at least five hours on the floor, taking calls. This helps them stay connected to the real challenges and opportunities reps face on a daily basis and promotes active participation between the two groups.

Scoring Weighted to Reflect Zappos’ Values: (which you can view here): The scores that have the greatest impact on the overall quality assurance score are those in categories that do more to deliver the “Zappos Experience.” The most important factor for Zappos is forging a personal emotional connection with every customer. Also important is the solution to the issue. Knowing what’s most important to your company helps you evaluate your reps based on what matters most.

Self-Check Sessions: Every six months, Zappos evaluates its QA form and asks agents to grade their own calls. This not only helps continue the improvement of QA evaluation – it also empowers agents to voice opinions and innovative ideas.

Involve the Customer: Zappos manages call quality using traditional methods such as traditional Net Promoter Scores, as well as more unique strategies including “sharing great calls” and “customer props.” Again, this empowers the agent to tout an exceptional connection they made with a customer and also gives a voice to the customer, who is invited to give his or her take on the experience.

Custom Coaching with a Clear Path of Progression: Although Zappos has certain standards in place for measuring QA, team leaders are encouraged to personalize training exercises to best fit the learning style of the rep. Providing customized coaching optimizes the agent’s learning potential, interest levels and excitement. Zappos’ leaders take it a step further by outlining exactly how reps will move to higher-tier roles – creating an incentive for reps to continuously be improving their service quality.

You’ll find a pattern with the majority of Zappos’ tactics for quality assurance management: they are constantly creating opportunities for feedback. Whether that feedback comes from the customer, the agent, the QA team or management, all suggestions are welcomed as vehicles for innovation. It doesn’t matter which part of your customer service “machine” you’re working to improve – when you incorporate viewpoints of all parties involved, the closer you get to providing stellar customer experiences.