Does your leadership have a monopoly on brainpower?

Monopoly on customer focused brainpower

In many organizations the leaders act as though they have all the answers.

In customer focused cultures the leaders recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere and their job is to create the environment in which creative thinking can flourish.

Who better than front line people to suggest ideas on how customer service can be enhanced? Why not ask finance how to improve the billing experience?

Unfortunately many organizations ignore this powerful resource by simply not asking or even worse asking and not taking any visible action on feedback received.

Customer focused cultures are closed loop environments where honest feedback is sought out, processed, acted on and communicated back.

I found a great story relating to this issue posted by Craig S. Fleisher on the Competitive Intelligence  forum.

To summarize:

A major international pet food manufacturer had been number one in its market space for decades; however, it had run into a period of market share erosion due to, among other things, new-fangled competitors who developed “gourmet” brands.

The CEO tasked their R&D and Marketing departments to work together to create a new product that could reverse this adverse tide. The R&D people went right to work looking at the composition of ingredients in all of their competitors’ foods, hoping to identify those “secret” ingredients that would help create a new success. They and their marketing colleagues “benchmarked” all of their competitors’ products.

About 12 months after the CEO’s challenge, the group had produced their newest product, which all of the data told them was going to be a huge hit and would help them regain and even add to their market share totals.

The product was launched with all the textbook marketing support a product manager could ever ask for. Coupons were given out, contests were held, web and media spots purchased, events held, celebrity spokespersons giving endorsements, and so on.

A year after its expensive launch, the new product barely registered in the marketplace. It had failed to achieve even a 1% share of its niche.

One late afternoon, the CEO called his executive team into one of their quarterly meetings and started asking questions of all his experienced executives who were a part of this task force about what had happened. Every one of the executives trotted out their reports, PowerPoint slide shows, pages of impressive looking statistics, and the like. The CEO heard for nearly an hour about city-by-city sales figures, competitor reactions, ad pick up rates, pricing considerations, channel efficiencies, etc.

Finally, after the marketing head had finished his spiel, the custodial staff member who had come into the room to clean and tidy it reluctantly chose to open his mouth. He commented, with a shaky voice, “I think I know what happened. I brought home several samples of the stuff you had laying around the offices and gave it to my dog Blackie (a big Labrador who was known for his ravenous appetite). You know what happened next? He sniffed it, took a few kibbles, and walked away. He never would go near his bowl as long as that food was in it. He hated it.”

The smartest guys in the room had clearly focused on the competition at the expense of testing its product ideas with customers and it took the company cleaner to point out their mistake!

Does your leadership welcome input from staff and customers?

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