Category Archives: Culture Change and Social Media

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?

2 secrets of Salesforce.com’s success at attracting customers

customerculture_at_salesforce

Jamie Greney, a long standing employee says “In my ten years at salesforce.com, I think one of the most important elements to our success has been the corporate culture. We’ve had a consistent vision regarding the end of software. Three of our top values have been trust, customer success, and innovation.”

Alyson Stone, another company employee says “Depending on how you look at it, resolving a customer’s problem is the beginning or the end of a journey. Companies who decide to put the customer at the center of all business strategies and activities are making a commitment to engagement, yes. But more than that they are making an assumption that each customer is a long-term investment with a high rate of return.”

It is clear that Salesforce’s customer culture is embedded in the business and has been central to its ongoing delivery of value to its growing customer base. Salesforce is on Fortune’s 2012 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For ranked number 27.

In a report titled “Salesforce’s happy workforce”, David Kaplin describes what happens inside the company.

 “There are plenty of reasons Salesforce is cool to work for: its downtown San Francisco vibe, its matchless end-of-the-year revelry, its embedded philanthropy, and its idiosyncratic leader.”

He quotes Marc Benioff, the CEO, “We achieved our market position by being born cloud,” Benioff writes in his book titled Beyond the Cloud, “but we are being ‘reborn’ social … We need to transform the business conversation the same way Facebook and other social sites like Twitter have changed the consumer conversation and created incredible loyalty — and love.”

Kaplan reports that Salesforce’s new social-networking app, Chatter, functions much like a Facebook inside a company — and helps enhance office culture. Whether on a computer or mobile device, Chatter is dynamic and collaborative — e-mail, by comparison, is static and private. In open groups or news feeds like Finance or Sales, multiple employees can share ideas in real time on projects, analyze data, and compare drafts. “I learned more about my company in a few months through using Chatter than I had in the last three years,” Benioff says.

At Salesforce itself — where there are about 3,000 daily Chatter posts, and internal e-mails have decreased 30% since Chatter went live — there are groups designed to get employees across departments and rank talking to each other about work life, including Tribal Knowledge and Airing of Grievances. Kaplan says you can’t post anonymously, so complaints and queries are rather tame. But it nonetheless generates a degree of cooperation unseen at large organizations.

When you think about it, by providing business software on the web as its core mission, the collaborative model that the company has with its customers engenders cross-function collaboration within each customer as they use the Salesforce software.

Success has many elements, but there are two secrets underpinning Salesforce that stand out:

1)   A Customer Culture as noted at the start of this post, is fundamental to Salesforce’s growth and profitability.

2)   Collaboration across functions and with customers fuels trust and innovation resulting in a happy workforce and more value for customers.

How strong are these cultural attributes in your company? What could you do to strengthen them?

7 ways to make a customer culture stick

how to make customer culture stick

Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last two posts I outlined the actions to take at the initiation and implementation stages. In this post I focus on the 7 actions to take during the embedding stage.

The focus of this stage is on institutionalizing the customer culture through supporting systems, on-going training, increased employee empowerment and accountability of all individuals and teams for delivering an improved customer experience.

1. Formalization of customer culture through symbols, rituals and artifacts

This often includes organization structure changes, more open office designs, images of customers taking precedence over images of products, customer invitations to corporate meetings and cross-function teams evaluating new market opportunities.

2. Development of customer focus behaviors at leader and individual levels

Key performance indicators measuring the level of customer focus are formalized for performance reviews and designing personal development programs.

3. Delegation of decisions from the Customer Engagement Council (made up of senior and influential leaders) to all organization members

The power to make decisions on behalf of the company shifts to all employees within an agreed framework. This new empowerment and accountability is sometimes hard to accept by long-standing employees. Some companies have used a “buddy” approach to help less experienced staff gain new skills and confidence.

4. Measurement of customer culture

Culture change is not a “bolt-on”; it is a “built-in” process. Effectively done, it can’t be “unbolted”. Measurement covering the breadth and depth of the organization is necessary to determine to what extent customer culture has been built in.

5. Measurement of customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy against targets

Ongoing measurement is part of customer culture embedding and provides a frequent benchmark of customer engagement performance. It guides how the organization needs to adapt to changing market trends and customer needs.

6. Formal alignment of rewards and recognition with customer metrics

Remuneration systems and promotion is formally tied to customer culture behaviors and customer engagement performance.

7. On-going training program

This is valuable for two groups:

  • new and recent hires
  • pockets and groups within the organization found to be lacking a customer mindset and relevant skills

Documented case studies of successes and learnings are often used to demonstrate successful customer engagement experiences.

My next post will outline the actions required to reinforce the customer culture and avoid the complacency and arrogance that frequently occurs with sustained success.

8 Ways to Make Customer Culture Change Happen

customer culture change news

Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last post, I outlined the 5 actions to take at the initiation stage. In this one I focus on the 8 actions to take during the implementation stage. Although shown as a sequence, some of these steps will occur in parallel or in some instances in a different order. However, the first step here is clearly the start.

1. Demarcation event – Implementing culture change needs a memorable watershed event where the vision is clear, the stakes are raised, the leader leads, and the experience is emblazoned in people’s minds. Usually a major Town Hall event, this must be skillfully executed to maximize staff engagement. The goal here is to get public buy-in from the senior leadership team and generate momentum.

2. Development of values and norms – The desired new culture needs to be made real. People need to see it, “feel” it and emotionally connect to it. They have to see it will benefit them and they need to have the skills and confidence to enact the new behaviors. In Virgin Trains in the UK, small cross-function teams worked to develop meaning to the values identified by their leadership and what the norms meant in everyday work practices.

3. Customer mindset and skills workshops – A large sample of staff attend workshops to help them understand what a “customer mindset’ is and practice behaviors that make customer culture tangible and relevant. Often workshop participants are cross-functional to reinforce the customer mindset and importance of organization wide delivery of value to customers. In large corporations, workshops may start with the top few hundred leaders, then cascade into their teams.

4. Cross-function collaboration – Teams work together cross functionally to strengthen customer focus. Cross-function work teams come together to create or strengthen systems, tools and processes to increase customer engagement. These might include processes such as user testing during the new product process, customer feedback systems and tools to improve value at customer touch-points found to be lacking.

5. Market alignment – Several activities are initiated to reconnect with customers and the marketplace. These include customer Immersion (the subject of an earlier blog) of executives and non-customer facing people, customer research, customer co-creation activities and improved customer communication approaches.

6. Communication – What people see and hear needs to create a sense of fun and excitement for them to connect with the new cultural expectations. Stories are the conversations that create shared experiences and produce a common cultural bond between people. This is reinforced by communication of quick wins and shared stories at mini-town hall meetings and by internal social media.

7. Rewards and recognition – Leaders use public forums to recognize and reward people who are taking a lead in adopting the values and norms in their work to deliver more value for customers. The most powerful recognition is interpersonal with senior leaders showing approval, support or disapproval of employee actions or comments at particular venues such as mini-town halls and corporate events.

8. People changes – At some point coaching dissenters and blockers of change ceases and their removal becomes the focus, including the senior leadership. At the same time hiring criteria and orientation training of new staff reflects the new values and norms and infuses customer culture and relevant customer engagement skills.

My next post will outline the actions required to embed the customer culture as the normal way of conducting business.

How Hawaiian Airlines has built a Customer Culture

Hawaiian Airlines Customer Focused Culture

Hawaiian Airlines – Customer Focused Culture

Charles Nardello, the SVP of Operations at Hawaiian Airlines, recently wrote about how they were able to drive improvement in the key metrics important to airline customers.

Hawaiian are now routinely ranked first by the US Department of Transportation among all airlines for on-time performance and fewest cancellations as well as garnering top marks for best baggage handling and fewest customer complaints.

How did Hawaiian achieve these outcomes? By creating a customer culture based on 3 strategies:

1) Really understanding the Hawaiian travel customer

2) Benchmarking Hawaiian on customer “moments of truth” regularly

3) Empowering Hawaiian employees to handle unexpected situations

Knowing your Customer

Hawaiian Airlines is infused with a customer focused culture that permeates everything.

“For every decision we make, from the most basic to the complex, the customer always comes first—they are the driver of our decision-making and strategic planning,” – Charles Nardello

A culture that brings the customer perspective to every decision acts very differently than a company where customers are an afterthought or are only considered when reacting to customer problems. At every level of the organization, whether deciding on which cutlery to use in the cabin or which markets to fly to, a deep understanding of the customers they serve and the experience they want to create drives the decision.

Benchmarking and Embracing Complaints

In order to benchmark, Hawaiian Airlines surveys customers every month on their experiences with the airline and factors the results into every employee’s bonus pay.

“Every employee receives a scorecard rating them on how well they’ve performed in interacting directly with the customer or, in the case of senior executives, on decision-making and strategic planning.” – Charles Nardello

It’s an approach that guarantees that everyone at the airline will remain focused on the customer. In particular they are focused on the key moments of truth that drive the most value for their customers. This includes check-in, boarding, the flight itself, baggage retrieval and how customers are treated via each stage of their journey.

The airline reinforces this customer focus via a streaming news ticker that runs on the lower part of computer screens and TVs  in break rooms and crew lounges. The ticker show unedited, unfiltered, real-time customer reaction via social media.

Nardello suggests that he is grateful for complaints as it provides the opportunity to do something immediately to improve.

Unfortunately most customer’s don’t complain they just leave and the company wonders what happened. In fact customers are more likely to complain to someone else about the experience than the company directly. This creates even more of challenge for a company to win them back.

If a reaction is negative, the airline addresses it immediately. As Nardello points out, “Our speed in addressing the problem could make the difference between retaining that customer for future flights or losing him or her forever.”

Empowered Employees

No company can prepare for every situation  that can trigger customer dissatisfaction, which is why those that excel at customer service train and empower their frontline employees to solve problems on the fly.

“We believe employees perform best when empowered to improvise and bring unmatched service to their customers in a sincere, personal way.”

This strategy has served Hawaiian well as it continues to be ranked among the very best airlines in North America. It was recently ranked 3rd most profitable on a pre-tax margin basis behind two other airlines know for high levels of customer focus – Alaskan Air and Southwest Airlines.

Why most companies don’t deliver great customer experiences

Poor Customer ExperiencesWe are all customers and we know what a great customer experiences feels like. We also know that a great customer experience influences our behavior, we want to talk about it with friends and we feel good about doing business with the company that provided it.

We know all this and yet we see time and again examples of poor experiences, just like this Range Rover customer above taking revenge on the company that clearly did not create the right car ownership experience. Why does this happen?

In our work with clients we have found a number of key reasons:

1. Culture – culture drives everything in an organization.  It creates the expectations for how employees behave. It can be left to chance or actively managed. The culture develops not from what people say is important and valued but by what is visibly shown to be important through the way people behave.

For example many companies say that customers are important but then will make decisions that will directly disadvantage the customer in the interests of the business. Bank fee increases, hidden charges, confusing pricing models are great examples of companies trying increase profits without providing customers with any more value.

This is usually the result of short term profit pressures. The message: customers are important until we need to make our numbers – then all bets are off!

2. Goaling – what’s measured gets done. The metrics a business uses will drive behavior, if none of those metrics include measures that are important to customers, people will not focus on the impact they are having on customers.

3. Hiring – hire people that buy into the company’s mission and actually want to add value and contribute to delivering on it. Specifically put hiring practices in place that filter out those that can’t connect their work with customers. Test potential employee’s mindsets, do they have customer friendly skills like the ability to listen, accept feedback, empathize with other people’s positions.

4. Silos – silos can be great, they drive efficiency and specialize expertise but when they become too competitive and an “us and them” mentally develops collaboration is crushed and customers will suffer.

So what do companies with strong customer experiences do right?

Improving the customer experience is about changing a company’s culture.

Companies that can achieve a customer culture take improving the customer experience as seriously as improving financial outcomes.

Our studies of organizations around the globe that have built strong customer cultures have revealed some major themes:

Strong and visible leadership

Leaders are not only committed to the customer experience but also able to instill that commitment in the rest of the organization. There are usually two primary  leaders involved in the process – a CEO or business unit leader who sets the vision and a head of strategy or customer experience who helps execute the strategy. In addition a guiding coalition or customer engagement council that brings in representatives of the broader leadership team it established to oversee progress.

These leaders commit to changing the way they do things in a way that sends the right message to the organization – that customers are important.

A clear mission, vision, and values

A clear purpose beyond “profitable growth”, one that actually does inspire and connect with people emotionally and is contextualized in a customer frame is crucial. This should drive a clear set of behavior standards that capture the intent of the organization and create accountability for customer service and the customer experience among staff members. Amazon’s mantra is “save customers money” and it drives everything (more on this here)

These are not just words on a page. Rather, companies must reinforce these beliefs and behaviors at employee inductions, coffee talks  and the regular team meetings. Companies should use real customer examples to ensure that the mission, vision, and standards resonate throughout the organization.

Customer Immersion

In larger organizations people get disconnected from customers, they lose site of the value being created and what its actually like to be a customer. A process of regular customer immersion sessions helps executives and employees regain that connection. This may include call center sessions, customer visits, bringing customers into internal planning sessions and so on.

Consistent Communication

All messages should incorporate customer focused elements so that managers and staff see the customer experience as a strategic objective that is as important as other financial outcomes. It’s essential that companies consistently communicate what constitutes the right customer experience not only in the strategic plan but also in job descriptions and performance evaluations.

Buy-in from all staff

Defining the reasons for the change and the personal value of being involved in a customer culture change initiative is crucially important. All staff need to understand the reason for the shift in focus and how it will benefit both customers and the business. Staff then ultimately need to see it is in their own self interest to change the way they go about their work.

A way to measure culture change

External and internal measures can be used to assess whether a company is actually changing, the image below shows the relationship between the internal measure of “Customer Culture” relates to the external measure of customer satisfaction and ultimately profit growth.

Customer Culture Foundation Pyramid

A customer culture can be measured using the Market Responsiveness Index which allows companies to see the progress they are making against a benchmark of companies around the world.

A message to leaders

Improving the customer experience is about changing a company’s culture. This change is the most powerful, legacy-defining step a leader can take to improve the performance of a business and the engagement of employees. Senior executives must not only take responsibility to make the customer experience a priority but also must allocate the necessary time and resources to make it a reality.

While there is work involved, it does not necessarily need to be expensive and the payoffs are enormous.  Show me any massively successful company in almost any industry and 8 out of 10 times they have a strong foundation based on a customer culture.

How Ford broke down silos and reinvented itself

Ford reported a loss of more than $14billion in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Like many businesses at the time it was caught off guard by the speed and severity of the collapse. However the US car industry had been under pressure from overseas competition for many years leading up to that point.

Their strategy of focusing on big SUVs and Trucks was unwound quickly by a consumer stung by high gas prices and the economic collapse. Fuel economy had suddenly risen up the list of consumer preferences. Ford responded quickly by placing bets on smaller cars like the new Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta, the Focus recently becoming the number one selling car in the world.

The key to the turnaround

A major part of the Ford turnaround was CEO, Allan Mulally’s strategy known as “One Ford” launched in 2006 when he took the reigns. By many accounts, toxic divisions in the executive ranks were ripping Ford apart. Like so many political partisans, they cared little for the success of the company — only for winning themselves and beating their internal opponents. The silos that developed competed in a way that was destroying employee engagement and dragging the company into the abyss.

Mulally even insisted that all workers be issued laminated cards with the turnaround motto: “One Ford, One Team, One Plan, One Goal.” He recognized the need for Ford to focus on a common constituent, the customer, and stop the internal naval gazing and drive towards this common goal.

Customer centric companies rally around a single goal, creating maximum value for their customers. This focus eliminates silos and requires high levels of cross functional collaboration, transparency and accountability.

Last year the company earned $8.8 billion, the outcome of the strong leadership of Mulally and his ability to transform Ford’s culture to once again focus on creating the best value cars in the world.

Below is a video on how we see customer centric transformations, it is “the story of one”