I recently had the opportunity to deliver a keynote address at a large conference in San Diego. At the start of my talk one of the questions I like to ask the audience is:
“How many of you recently had a bad customer experience?”
More than 100 hands went up (probably 80% of those in the room). While this may sound dramatic, sadly it’s not unusual. Poor customer experiences are going to happen with any company you do business with at some stage. However great companies realize they will not get it right every time and make proactive preparations to deal with things that may go wrong.
Unfortunately the company in this next example fails multiple times on this front. It clearly does not have a customer centric culture. (Before you read on – full disclosure I have been a customer of this firm and this is based on my own experiences).
I am not going to name and shame the company but rather use it as an example of what not to do in business. It is a large fully integrated, international property and infrastructure group headquartered in Australia.
We are not talking about large corporate or commercial projects, but residential housing. The firm has has a number of residential housing projects around Sydney, Australia and no matter who you talk to, the experience has been bad. Poor project management and supervision of contractors and sub-contractors has resulted in countless defects. Now it’s not all bad – they do fulfill their legal obligations to fix defects thoroughly – so long as you are prepared to wait for them to do it at their convenience.
The thinking is: “we will get a painter, plumber or electrician to your house to fix the defect when there is someone in the area – or if we have several jobs to do in your area that we can group together”. Forget the fact that the hot water system has gone – you can wait 3 days before it is convenient for them to come. Forget the fact that the job of fixing a leak is half done – it can be weeks before it is completed. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Lack of response to consumer requests, poor communication and lack of a “customer perspective” all contribute to the heartache.
Yet this firm espouses some admirable core values – respect-collaboration-integrity-excellence-innovation. However it’s vision: “to create the best places, supports our strategic direction to be the leading international property and infrastructure group” is predominantly internally focused.
Nowhere do we see the word “Customer”.
This firm reflects a retail building industry that is self-centered, arrogant and self-serving. Clearly not all building businesses and contractors operate in the same manner. But it shows what happens with large businesses that are focused on profit at the expense of the consumer. It results in dissatisfaction, anger and frustration on the part of the customer.
This firm and others like it have a huge change to make if they are to have any hope of delivering a consistently good customer experience. The start must come with senior leadership who need to find out what is going on and understand what many consumers experience. It’s called “eating your own dog-food”. If some of the senior leadership had the same experience with their own homes as many consumers they would do something about it. Then a customer-centric culture needs to be embedded throughout the organization – not just lip service, but real change of mindset and actions that create a much more positive customer experience.
There is a clear roadmap for this in the book – The Customer Culture Imperative – if leaders in these large businesses care to look. But then again while the business is profitable “who cares”?
This type of short-term thinking will only make things harder for businesses like these in the future, when new players exploit their lack of customer understanding and care.