Category Archives: Collaboration

Who is the world’s best performing team?

All_Blacks_Haka

When All Blacks coach, Graham Henry (later knighted for his services to rugby), took over as coach in 2004 he realized there was a need to change the culture of the organization – the players, coaching staff and administration. They needed to build in collaboration, resilience, innovation and good decision-making under pressure on and off the field. After a review, Henry and his wider team came to the view that “better people make better All Blacks”. He put together a team of support staff whose role was to help all the players not only with their fitness, diet, training and skills, but more importantly to build their character and attitudes as people leaders and understand their commitment to the team and to their fans in New Zealand and around the world.

Henry set about building a collaborative leadership team composed of the senior players and senior staff. These on-field and off-field teams knew their roles and responsibilities and worked as a total team to build a winning culture designed to continue the legacy of the great All Blacks teams of the past.

When the New Zealand All Blacks lost to the French in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 it was a shock to the players, coaches and 4 million New Zealanders – the entire population of the country. Henry realized there was more to do so he hired two outside consultants, one a psychologist, and both Black Belt karate experts, to develop a mental skills program to raise the ability of players to handle pressure on the rugby field. They educated the players on how the brain works and each player had triggers to help keep focused when under pressure and when unexpected things happened in the game. This added to their resilience as players and enabled them to handle extreme pressure in tight games and when things were turning against them.

“Better people make better All Blacks”

This program of development has continued and with consistency of players and coaching staff over time has created a consistent world beating team.

The All Blacks won the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups and with a winning rate of higher than 90% over the last 10 years are regarded by many as the best performing team globally in any sport.

Questions to ponder in your business:

How well do your “on-field customer facing teams” and “off-field support teams” collaborate for the benefit of customers and the community?

How well do you support your leaders as “whole” people, not just in terms of skills, but also in terms of their attitudes and alignment of their personal values and priorities with your business’s mission and vision?

Focus on collaboratively creating and delivering superior value for customers is a galvanizing goal for all people in your business – when embedded as a culture it brings out the best in your people that benefits them, your customers and your business performance.

You can learn more in our best selling book, The Customer Culture Imperative.

It’s LEGO, not EGO – collaboration is central to LEGO’s customer-centric culture

The name LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well”. It was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen and remains a family owned company. It has incorporated a number of characteristics specific to the Danish culture, such as a non-hierarchical structure – which translates into a very flat organisation in LEGO. So they look for people who are going to embrace collaboration and have fun. Even in sales teams that are normally very competitive they look for people to be more collaborative to partner and work with their teams to build longer-term customer relationships and brand loyalty.

There is no room for “EGO” at LEGO where employees at every level are expected to challenge their boss as a means of coming up with the best ideas.

LEGO’s CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp says “Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help OR ask for help.” This is reinforced by the owners of LEGO, who promote collaborative family values.

David Gauntlett, in his contribution to the book LEGO Studies (Mark Wolf, 2014) sees LEGO bricks (the product made up of interconnecting parts) as a social tool, fostering connection and collaboration spurring the potential of children and adults and their natural imagination. New employees are already customers who use the LEGO system to create new products – in many cases part of the job interview is to design a new LEGO product from a bunch of bricks provided.

Collaboration – up, down and across the organization and with suppliers and customers – is a secret to LEGO’s spectacular growth over the last 10 years. It has given them the capability of customer foresight – a cultural ability to develop and deliver new products that excites their customers’ imaginations and creates incredible loyalty and advocacy.

To find out more about how you can create this culture in your business, read our book, “The Customer Culture Imperative“.

What sport can teach us about customer centricity

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Sporting clubs refer to their customers as fans. This is an appropriate term because “fan” is shortened from “fanatic”. Successful sporting teams have fanatical supporters who are typically lifelong supporters of their sporting club and team.

Take the Seattle Seahawks, a professional American football franchise playing in the National Football League (NFL). Seahawks fans have been referred to collectively as the “12th Man” representing such a supportive force for their team that it is like having an extra man on the field. The Seahawks’ fans have twice set the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event, first on September 15, 2013, registering 136.6 decibels during a home game and again on December 2, 2013, during a night home game with a then record-setting 137.6 decibels. This has occurred, in part, by customer-centric design because their new home stadium was purpose built so that fans would be closer to the field of play than in other stadiums and could urge their team on with such noisy enthusiasm that the opposing team could not hear the “plays” being called. This was a competitive advantage that resulted in almost all home games being won by the Seahawks in the last couple of years.

In 2014, the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl Championship, defeating Denver 43-8. More than 600,000 people turned up for the post match celebration in Seattle – about the number of its total population. The following season, Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX, their second consecutive Super Bowl, but they were narrowly beaten by the New England Patriots by a score of 28-24. This kind of fan support is planned and nurtured by the Seahawks senior leadership, management, coaches and players with a special stand in the stadium named as the 12th Man, special events for fans and online connection that is devoted to engaging fans with the team and the club. This type of support occurs because the fans are at the center of thinking and decision-making.

Imagine if your customers were like the Seahawks fans – vocal, loyal advocates that are fans for life. How would that affect your bottom line? How would it affect your staff engagement? The answer is obvious – it would affect both very positively and create sustainable profitable growth.

But to do it you must have a customer-centric culture that focuses on creating superior value for your customers and puts long term customer relationships ahead of short term profit. Like in successful sporting franchises, everyone in your business has a vital role to play in creating and delivering value for your customers. You can find out more on how to do it in the The Customer Culture Imperativejudged the best marketing book 2015.

Breaking down company silos with internal social media tools

cross-functional collaboration

In a recent project with a large Energy company, I was working with the senior management and staff to help develop and embed a customer-centric culture. It is their belief and mine (based on extensive research) that a customer-focused business will drive ongoing prosperity. In our research, along with that of many others, we have found that an important factor in enabling a customer culture to become embedded is internal cross-functional collaboration. We found senior and middle management in the Energy company were stymied in their attempts to focus on customers by emails and informational meetings that dominated their work day. Functions were working in silos with very little cross-function collaboration referencing customers and how to increase customer value.

This is typical of so many large organizations.

Don Tapscott, the author of several books on the impact of digitization on our work world, discusses new forms of collaboration in his newest book, Radical Openness: Four Principles for Unthinkable Success.

In an interview in September 2012, recorded in the McKinsey Quarterly, Tapscott described the new social media tools for collaboration:

“How do we get beyond e-mail to these new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network? Not through Facebook, because that’s not the right tool. But there are tools now: wikis, blogs, microblogging, ideation tools, jams, next-generation project management, what I call collaborative decision management. These are social tools for decision making. These are the new operating systems for the 21st-century enterprise in the sense that these are the platforms upon which talent—you can think of talent as the app—works, and performs, and creates capability.

We had this view that knowledge is a finite asset, it’s inside the boundaries of companies, and you manage it by containerizing it. And this was, of course, illusory, because knowledge is an infinite resource. The most important knowledge is not inside the boundaries of a company. You don’t achieve it through containerization, you achieve it through collaboration.

So, there’s a big change that’s underway right now in rethinking knowledge management. It’s really moving toward what I would call content collaboration, as opposed to trying to stick knowledge into a box where we can access it. E-mail is sort of like what Mark Twain said about the weather. Everybody’s talking about it, and nobody’s doing anything about it. We have to get rid of e-mail.

You need to have a new collaborative suite where, rather than receiving 50 e-mails about a project, you go there and you see what’s new. All the documents that are pertinent to that project are available. You can create a new subgroup to talk about something. You can have a challenge or an ideation or a digital brainstorm to advance the interests of that project. You can co-create a document on a wiki. You can micro-blog the results of this to other people in the corporation who need to be alerted.”

This thinking and these tools apply directly to sharing knowledge about customers and competitors. Effective use of the tools can have a substantial impact on innovation, competitiveness and customer value if they are directed towards sharing across the business a deep understanding of customers, competitors and the changing market environment. This will strengthen an organization’s customer culture which in turn will drive future growth and profitability.

How would you rate your level of cross-functional collaboration? To what degree are you using the new social media tools for internal collaboration? Why not benchmark your level of collaboration and take action to strengthen it?

5 traits companies must have to play in free-for-all energy industry

customer centricity in the energy_industry

Traditional electric utilities are on the verge of facing massive competition. The barriers to entry have fallen and a large number of new and old companies have entered the power generation business.

Numerous and diverse competitors non-utilitieshave already entered the electricity business. Wind farms are expanding. More than a hundred Silicon Valley startups are developing new power technologies. Many of these have venture capital funding. Several like the Bloom Box fuel cell, have the potential to transform the industry by bringing power generation to the home.

Real estate companies and builders are supplying rooftop solar on new homes. Schools, government buildings, and businesses are deploying their own solar panels. Chevron Energy Solutions, a Chevron subsidiary, is one of the nation’s largest installers of solar energy systems for education institutions

Tie this to consumer and business resistance to higher energy prices and an increasing drive to seek out lower cost alternatives and we will soon see the competitive floodgates open putting the traditional players with big traditional infrastructure investments at risk.

It is not clear where all of this is going to go.  Everything is in the mix – technology, the economy, politics, globalization and societal trends towards “green and clean”. The government plays a big part with its energy policy along with regulation, subsidies and incentives for varies parts of the industry.

The one factor that is common to the longer-term success of each player in this industry is the adaptability of its corporate culture. In this environment it must have a culture characterized by 5 traits:

  • Customer understanding and insight
  • Competitor awareness and foresight
  • Peripheral vision of industry changes and impacts
  • Strategic alignment around value for all stakeholders
  • Collaborative and empowered workforce

Those players that have these 5 cultural traits embedded in their DNA will be able to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions and challenges in this disruptive industry. Those that don’t will disappear or be acquired.

Could your business survive in a competitive free-for-all like this? Does it have the 5 traits required for success in any industry undergoing major market and technology shifts?

4 reasons internal competition helps companies win with customers

competition-matters

People view competition in many different ways. In the business world it is often viewed negatively as it can impact profit margins and companies must compete for a share of the pie. From a customer’s perspective competition drives better service, better prices and better value.

Personally I am a big fan of competition, it pushes me to the next level, it forces me to get better. Inside organizations competition can also prove to be a positive force but no all competition is healthy and productive.

Unhealthy competition develops when the following happens:

1. When it causes people to feel negatively about other peoples’ successes as opposed to motivated.

2. When people wish for others to have obstacles so that they are held back.

3. When people feel shame when they fail.

4. When it motivates people to seek competitors who are naturally weaker than themselves, so that they feel an advantage.

Healthy competition can be a great productivity booster in organizations and drive better results. Here are some of the benefits:

1. It encourages people involved to strive further and push themselves harder than they would have without competition.

2. It drives people to achieve more growth and success – not because they are driven to win or lose – but because they are doing your best at something that you care about.

3. It changes the boundaries of what you believe you are capable of and stretches the limits of what you believe is possible.

4. It requires the courage to take risks, requires the willingness to fail, and necessitates a vulnerability to admit you are ambitious to succeed.

The worlds best organizations balance healthy competition with cross company collaboration

What type of competition do you see in operation where you work? Do different functions compete in a healthy way? Do they collaborate?

Customer Metrics: Measure what matters most to customers

Key Customer Metrics

As business leaders we tend to pay a lot of attention to the metrics important to the business, that is, revenue, cash flow, profitability, growth and so on… but the real drivers of these business outcomes are customers.

So the obvious question becomes what customer metrics should I be tracking to make sure my business metrics continue to head in the right direction?

Well there are a number of key customer metrics that must be considered for every business:

1. Customer Satisfaction

As a first step it is important to track customer satisfaction, this will provide some inputs as to how well the business is performing on delivering what it promises. But remember customers have already paid for satisfaction, they expect to get what they paid for. So high levels of dissatisfaction are an obvious and immediate cause for concern.

Satisfaction is not enough, even highly satisfied customers can and do switch to alternatives so it is important to also look at Loyalty and Advocacy. That brings me to the next question (Fred Reinhold calls the “Ultimate Question“) How likely are you to recommend us? Loyal customers not only bring you repeat business, they also expand your customer base through positive word-of-mouth.

2.Net Promoter Score

The net promoter score is a simple tool designed to identify 3 types of customers, promoters (advocates with strong positive word of mouth),  detractors (negative word of mouth) and those in the middle. The goal is to drive up the number of promoters as a way of driving business growth.

Many of the most customer-focused businesses in the world use NPS, see below a list of the current top 10 Netpromoter scores in the US:

USAA – Banking = 87%
Trader Joe’s = 82%
Wegman’s = 78%
USAA – Homeowners Insurance = 78%
Costco = 77%
USAA – Auto Insurance = 73%
Apple = 72%
Publix = 72%
Amazon.com = 70%
Kohl’s = 70%

Source: Satmatrix

3. Customer Value Analysis

This is a more advanced metric specifically looking at the value a customer places on what you offer. Value consists of an equation that includes CUSTOMER PERCEPTIONS  of price,  service and product quality. Customer value analysis looks directly at how customers view your business vs. your competition and provides you with valuable information on what you might need to adjust in terms of both product and service quality, as well as price, to increase market share and revenue.

4. Life Time Value of Customers

I talk about this in some more detail in these two posts:

Part 1: Understanding Lifetime Value of Customers

Part 2: Calculating Lifetime Value of Customers – a simple example

Something not covered however was some of the inputs to Customer Lifetime Value which in themselves are useful metrics:

Customer Acquisition metrics include customer awareness levels, the information sources customer use to make purchase decisions, and cost of acquiring a customer.

Churn (%)  measures how many customers are leaving, that is, customer attrition.  Churn is a commonly used metric related to customer retention. Specifically, this is about knowing how many customers are defecting and why.

Customer Complaints are usually an early warning signal that something is wrong. Most customers will not complain they will just take their business elsewhere. Complaints although often difficult to hear are a gift that can help course correct.

5. Your own Customer Culture

How customer obsessed is your organization? How would you know?

This is the question we received from a CEO of a Global 1000 company a number of years ago. It led us to the development of the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) to answer that very question.

This is an organization-wide metric design to measure the behavior of employees and the level of attention they pay to customers in their daily work.

It is a one of a kind tool that allows you to benchmark your company versus the best in the world, you can check it out here.

What Criteria should I use when deciding on Customer Metrics?

  1. The metric drives business results
  2. The metric correlates strongly with business results
  3. The metric is something you can influence
  4. The metric can be measured accurately
  5. The metric can be measured consistently
  6. The metric can be measured cost effectively
  7. All the stakeholders agree the metrics meet these criteria

Ultimately you want to choose the right metrics for your specific business, they should be tailored to the unique business drivers and business strategy.

Why implement customer metrics?

Tracking customer metrics is important for many reasons, but the most important reason is cultural. It gets everyone on the same page, aligns people across the different parts of the business, and leads to a customer-focused culture of success. You should celebrate wins when a key customer metric reaches a new and important milestone. Choosing the right metrics and celebrating progress against them are incredibly important to building a strong customer culture that can work together and grow rapidly.

What customer metrics are you using?

Breaking down silos – one of the keys to creating collaboration around the customer

Is your leadership team really a team or a collection of individuals running their own teams?

When the team at the top of the organization is fragmented and mis-aligned this trickles down to everyone in the company. If the hard discussions and debates related to what customer focus means for the organization are not taken at the top, confusion reins.

Ultimately there is only one customer, the customer external to the company that pays the bills, when silos develop inside organizations these customers have an inconsistent experience at best.

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of being sent from one department to another when contacting an organization? This is often the result of silos that retain the only authority to make decisions related to their turf. This sends a clear message to the customer:

“your time is not important, you have to navigate our systems to get your issues solved.”

This situation is also the result of not having a customer focused culture. One that recognizes ownership, accountability and empowerment are critical to creating loyal customers.

True team work at the top is hard work, it involves the willingness to sacrifice department resources and personal time to help the team overall (the company) succeed. Depending on the company’s strategy it could mean allocating more funds to customer service and less to marketing or more funds to IT and less to HR.

The only way to make these tough decisions effectively is for the top team to collaborate around what is creating most value for the customer in the short and long term.

Energizing your employees with internal marketing – Part 2

This is part 2 of an interview with Sybil F. Stershic, an expert on internal marketing. (Click here for Part 1)

3. As marketers, how can we incorporate internal marketing tools into the way we do our jobs?

I advocate two types of internal marketing tools. The first type involves what I call the “Employee-Customer Link” – find ways to connect employees with customers. For example, I encourage sharing general customer information, along with the results of any customer satisfaction research and complaint tracking, with ALL employees. Employees need to know who your company’s customers are … why they do business with you … how they use your products & services … and what they think of you. Too often customer information and insight is kept within the marketing, research, and/or sales functions. But the more your employees know about your customers, the better they can serve them. Another way to forge the employee-customer link is to include employees in customer visits or customer events, where appropriate. Some companies even set up “adopt-a-customer”- programs where employees reach out to customers to better understand their needs. These programs enable employees to connect with customers as real people, not just faceless names and account numbers.

The second set of internal marketing tools relates to strengthening a company’s “Internal Service Culture” based on the reality that internal customer service drives external service. These tools are used to encourage and reinforce collaboration, support, and communication across the organization so that employees work effectively with each other to achieve marketing and organizational goals. For example, one company organized a job-shadowing initiative where employees took turns spending time with other employees in different departments outside their respective functions. This effort enabled employees to better understand how their work – individually and collectively – impacts customers and the bottom line; i.e., it reinforced the message “We’re all in this together.” Marketers can be role models for internal collaboration by being inclusive in the planning and implementation of brand and marketing strategy – communicating with, educating, and providing the training and reinforcement that all employees need to understand and effectively deliver the brand promise.

4. What are some of the inhibitors to internal marketing and how can they be overcome?

I’ll comment here on what I consider to be a major inhibitor: the lack of top management commitment and involvement. Consider the popularity of “Undercover Boss” – people are hungry for a real connection between top management and employees.

In such situations, I tell people they need not wait for management to get a clue. If you don’t have the authority to implement internal marketing at the macro level (i.e., across the organization), you can still have an impact at a micro level – you can apply internal marketing on a department, division, or business-unit level. I encourage people to involve other departments at the outset, but if you’re unable to enlist human resources, administration, operations, etc., in internal marketing, you can go it alone. Sometimes all it takes is for one department to start; then when others notice the difference (“Hey, the folks there actually seem to enjoy their work!”), internal marketing can spread throughout the organization.

5. What is the best place for companies to start an internal marketing program?

Start by talking with and listening to your employees. Ask them what gets in the way of their doing their jobs effectively; then brainstorm what can be done to overcome those barriers. You can also ask them to put themselves in the CEO’s shoes and identify one or two things they would do to improve the organization. Another great conversation starter is this question: Would you refer a friend to work here?

In addition, review the results of your current customer satisfaction measurement. What are your customers telling you in their responses to how well the company is taking care of them? If you don’t have such customer and employee research, then invest in it.

Internal marketing involves listening and responding to both employee and customer concerns. Keep in mind that the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel – and if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

For more on internal marketing get hold of Sybil’s book , Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care and visit her blog: Quality Service Marketing Blog

The surprising truth about what motivates us..

One of the team recently shared a really great presentation about what really motivates us. The talk, by Dan Pink explores the real drivers of motivation for knowledge workers, that is, people in roles that require them to think critically and creatively about how to get things done.

He gives a number of examples from research. One surprising conclusion is that financial rewards work well for “mechanical tasks” but not for tasks that require more than “rudimentary” thinking. In fact when rewards were provided for more complex tasks, teams provided with the largest reward to succeed performed worse than those with little incentive!

It sounds counter intuitive but in my experience it really does rings true.

If we think about organizations that are really successful, they are not focused on massive financial rewards, they are focused on providing something that is really valuable for their customers. In fact many of today’s really successful firms are still trying to work out their business models, think Facebook and twitter…. they are still only focused on delivering value for customers.

Dan identified three factors were found to drive individual performance:

  1. Automony/Self Direction – the ability to choose how you spend your time
  2. Mastery – the satisfaction that comes with mastering a skill, developing an expertise
  3. Purpose – understanding the broader purpose and how your work contributes to that purpose.

There are parallels with our research into organizational culture. We have found 7 core behaviors that drive business performance and separate average firms from really great organizations.

I can relate them to Dan’s model for individual motivational drivers as follows:

  1. Autonomy is really about empowerment in an organizational culture setting
  2. Mastery – this is really about getting better, getting better requires feedback and insight. In our case getting better is faciliated by gaining customer, competitor and business environment insights
  3. Purpose – again in an organizational setting this is about vision, why do we exist and what do we want to be when we grow up as an organization? This is the factor we call strategic alignment.