Category Archives: Customer Centric Leadership

Why intensity and metrics matter when reshaping an organization’s culture: Lessons from Wells Fargo

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Wells Fargo’s challenges over the past few years have been well documented. It took a turn for the worse when it created an aggressive sales culture based on unrealistic targets.

To meet sales targets, employees opened accounts customers did not need, ordered credit cards without their permission and even forged customer signatures on paperwork.

The result was the creation of 3.5 million fake customer accounts many of which were then billed fees. Further investigations produced evidence that 570,000 customers had been sold car insurance they didn’t need.

These were failures of culture, leadership and ultimately risk management practices, something the bank had prided itself on during the mortgage crisis of 2008.

In 2017, the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), an influential shareholder advisory group released the following statement:

“The board failed to implement an effective risk-management oversight process in a timely way and that could have mitigated the harm to its customers, its employees and the bank’s reputation.”

It also suggested shareholders vote against the re-election of 12 of the 15 directors.

Most of the board was replaced over the next 12 months and Tim Sloan, the new CEO was tasked with cleaning up the mess.

To his credit, he did a lot of work with his top team to reshape the vision, values, and goals around the core idea of “helping customers succeed financially”. He also began to signal a shift in leadership focus away from shareholders:

“When you put your shareholders first—I hope Warren Buffett isn’t listening by the way—but when you put them first, then you’re going to make mistakes because you’re going to make short-term decisions that aren’t focused on creating a long-term, successful company.”

Sloan began dismantling the sales incentives that created the bad behavior and stopped paying employees on how many products they sell. Instead, they shifted the metrics to how often customers used their accounts and a range of customer experience metrics.

However, as with all changes, the devil is in the detail and employees had begun raising concerns again about customer-unfriendly practices emerging. A report by the Committee for Better Banks highlighted a continued culture of fear in which front line employees were not engaged in the change process but instead had it imposed on them.

“Honestly, it’s perceived as a joke — ‘Oh yeah, they’ve changed things,’ ” said Meggan Halvorson, 35, who works in Wells Fargo’s private mortgage banking division in Minneapolis. “I haven’t met anybody, personally, who believes what they’re saying or that it’s the case.”

Unfortunately, this has all been too little too late at least for Tim Sloan who was pressured into early retirement in early 2019.

In his final statement as CEO to the House Financial Services Committee he stated:

“We have more work to do, and that is an ongoing commitment by all of Wells Fargo’s 260,000 team members — starting with me — to put our customers’ needs first, to act with honesty, integrity, and accountability; and to strive to be the best bank in America.”

Within a month he would be gone.

What are the lessons?

Intensity and Velocity Matters

Changes need to be led with intensity and purpose from the top team throughout the organization. One of the reasons Tim Sloan was pressured into early retirement was that changes were not happening fast enough. There is a level of intensity and engagement required by the CEO to shift culture, and this is particularly important when the culture has gone bad.

Personally, “seeing the front.”

This term comes from the military and is based on the idea that leaders must see what is happening at the front lines themselves before making crucial decisions. The front line must be engaged in the process, the people doing the work matter and the daily interactions customers have with those people determine how the brand is perceived over time.

If change is imposed from the top, it is naturally resisted. The result is that employee initiative gets squashed, ownership is destroyed, and people keep their heads down out of fear of losing their job. In short, you get compliance, the bare minimum out of people.

If more direct attention had been paid to the front lines at Wells Fargo it would have been clearer what needed to happen to improve the customer and employee experience. If done correctly this will result in better business performance.

Metrics can help or hurt.

How people are measured can result in behavior that improves the customer experience or works against it. Clearly, the unrealistic sales targets at Wells Fargo resulted in the wrong behavior, that does not mean sales targets are bad; they are a necessary part of driving business performance. However, the way in which they are implemented matters.

Likewise, measures of customer experiences can be used in the right way or the wrong way. If they are used to performance manage, as a “stick,” they result in fear and resentment. Ironically, this works against the very thing they were designed to do which is to improve the customer’s experience. These metrics must be designed as learning tools that help employees develop and grow. This creates an environment that unleashes most people’s natural desire to deliver great experiences for their customers.

Transforming a company’s culture begins with a genuine desire by the top leadership to make things better. However, it then must be followed with concrete action by leaders at all levels.

If you want to catalyze customer-centric change across your organization, start by measuring how customer-centric you are today with the world’s only customer-centric culture benchmark, the Market Responsiveness Index.

Is it possible to compete with Amazon and win?

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For businesses everywhere, this is becoming an increasingly relevant question.

Not long ago most business could just ignore Amazon and say to themselves that’s fine for them in retail they are not operating in our industry.

Well, times are changing, and Amazon is competing in not only retail but consumer electronics, entertainment, enterprise cloud services and is eyeing opportunities in healthcare and payments.

The question for all businesses to ask themselves is how would we respond if Amazon entered my marketplace?

Well, one company did not have to wonder for too long, in fact, they have been competing with them for the past 10 plus years. With the rise of Amazon, many analysts predicted the demise of Best Buy, the US brick and mortar retailer.

So how to Best Buy fight back? They applied the same approach as Amazon – customer obsession.

In fact, under the new CEO, Hubert Joly, they undertook a transformation from a transactional retailer focused on store traffic and closing sales to one focused on building customer relationships for life.

Where does a customer-obsessed transformation start?

It begins with your customers and employees when a business is under attack as Best Buy was around 2009, a new vision and purpose for the business’s future needs to be articulated.

Joly launched a turnaround plan called “Renew Blue” in 2012 that was designed to address all critical stakeholders in the business beginning with customers.

To gain insights on what was happening at the frontlines, Joly spent a week working in a store and talking with employees. They told him the website sucked, it was slow and difficult to navigate, and the employee discount had been reduced recently by previous management. They also described how customers were “showrooming” coming in to see products then buy them somewhere else online.

Joly began with some quick wins, restoring the employee discount and taking price off the table by guaranteeing to match online prices.

This showed he was listening and more importantly acting on feedback, a critical trait for a customer-obsessed leader.

He then focused on customer experience, redoing the website, investing in search and matching Amazon on free fast shipping.

By focusing on their unique strengths, the in-store personal experience, they have been able to focus and start winning again.

Joly shifted the employee mindset by instilling a new purpose. In his words “we’re not in the business of selling products or doing transactions, we have our purpose, which is to enrich lives with the help of technology.”

“We don’t see ourselves as a bricks-and-mortar retailer. We are company obsessed about the customer and in serving them in a way that truly solves their unique problems.”

What does this mean in practice?

For Best Buy that means introducing new service offerings such as the “in-home Advisor” which involves best buy employees going to people’s homes for free and providing expert advice on how to better select, buy and install technology to enhance their lives.

A second example is “Total tech support” which involved Best buy taking ownership of any technical problem in the home and fixing it, all for $200 a year.

The third example of their innovation is a focus on aging seniors with an emphasis on helping them stay in their homes independently for longer. Through the smart deployment of technology they can detect if something is wrong and people need help, they can then intervene to make sure people get the help they need.

Customer-obsessed Leadership

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Customer-obsessed leaders don’t just say they are focused on customers they act on it and make decisions with a customer lens every day.

A great example is Best Buy’s relationship with Amazon, although fierce competitors on many fronts, they also see opportunities to collaborate and work together because it is the right thing for their customers.

“A lot of other retailers have been reluctant to sell their products. The reason we’ve sold their products is because we’re customer-driven.” says Joly.

In fact, recently Amazon chose to launch its Fire TV Smart TVs exclusively through Best Buy.

“Every management meeting we have, we don’t start with the financial results. We start with people. Then we talk about the customers, and last we talk about the financial results”

 “I don’t believe that the purpose of a company is to make money. It’s an imperative. It’s a necessity. But it’s not the purpose”

Hubert Joly

 

The turnaround strategy with its reinvigorated purpose and customer obsession around enriching people’s lives through technology are paying off. The ship has turned, and the future looks bright for this retailer once thought to be following Circuit City into bankruptcy.

How can you instill a customer-obsessed culture in your business? It starts by understanding your current culture and charting a path based on purpose, people and delivering great customer experiences.

Sources:

http://tcbmag.com/honors/articles/2018/2018-person-of-the-year-hubert-joly

https://www.cmo.com.au/article/659314/how-best-buy-shifted-from-being-retail-led-customer-relationship-driven/

 

To get the right customer culture you have to be obsessive!

Passion Fuels Innovation

If you want to be one of the best at creating a consistently great customer
experience you have to be obsessive about it. Think professional athletes, think
sustainable weight loss, think the most customer-centric companies in the world
like Amazon.

Too many companies today have their weaknesses in their customer culture
exposed – some with devastating effects for their customers, employees, and
shareholders. Consider what’s happened in the banking sector, the retail sector, and
the telecommunications industry.

The culture of companies towards customers is now exposed for what it is – both to
their customers and to non-customers. Customer reviews, unwanted publicity for
failures of service delivery as well as visual cues from its website and physical
channels now expose a company’s customer culture – or lack of it.

This can’t be fixed using band-aids. A customer-centric culture is not a bolt-on. It has
to be built-in. If your company needs to build-in a strong customer culture you will
have to be obsessive about it – just like professional athletes, sports teams, and the
world’s most successful companies.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has been obsessive about customers, since its
inception just over 20 years ago. He has made sure that everyone working at
Amazon is also obsessive about customers.

This means being obsessive about getting and acting on customer insights, giving
permission (empowerment) to employees to do what’s right for the customer,
working in collaborative teams to provide greater value for customers and aligning
everyone in your business to deliver a customer-centered strategy.

This is not some nice intangible idea anymore, we have been obsessed with developing a proven methodology with measurement and best practices that any company can use.

If you really want your organization to be customer-obsessed, talk to us we know the way!

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos explains how he drives a passion for customer obsession with his senior leadership teams

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Creating a customer-obsessed culture requires strong leadership and one of the very best exponents of the practice is Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Even though Amazon now employs more than half a million employees and serves more than 300 million customers, Jeff Bezos personally reads every customer complaint email sent to him. While he does not respond to them personally, he is immersed in them as a way to stay in touch with the reality of what is going on in the business.

We call this, customer immersion, and it is one of the most important activities any CEO can engage in.

So how does he manage the wide range of customer complaints/feedback he receives directly?

He is known to forward the email directly to the leader accountable for that area with a simple “question mark”. The question mark is his short-hand for can you look into this? why is this happening?

Leaders know they are then on the hook to drill into the issue and find out what is happening and resolve it in a systemic manner, ie so it does not occur again!

And this is the crux of what makes a customer-obsessed culture different, leadership takes this seriously and follows through on making the changes necessary so that the source of the complaint is eliminated…. this simply does not happen in most organizations.

This approach gives Bezos a frontline insight into what customers think and experience. It is a huge leadership advantage as he can maintain a pulse on what is actually going on across Amazon’s massive and complex business.

In this great article by Julie Bort, Jeff explains:

“The thing I have noticed is when the anecdotes and the data disagree, the anecdotes are usually right. There’s something wrong with the way you are measuring it.”

For 10 years MarketCulture has helped leaders around the world understand how to engage employees in building a customer-obsessed culture. The MRI Assessment provides valuable feedback to leaders they can act on to enable employees to deliver great customer experiences.

MarketCulture has proven scientifically that a stronger customer culture will drive increased business performance through retention of customers and increased advocacy.
Contact us now to find out how we can help your company become customer obsessed.

Culture eats customer experience quick wins for breakfast – its time to get truly customer obsessed!

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Apple’s culture continues to reinforce Steve Job’s approach to designing using a customer lens and working backward.  Source: Apple’s WWDC18

A recent article by Nadia Cameron from CMO highlighted a panel discussion in which many leaders acknowledged the quick wins for customer experience improvements are over.

It’s great to see more and more senior leaders recognizing the need to go deeper and look at organizational culture. Whilst it can be more difficult work, it is also longer lasting and more sustainable if leaders put the effort in to change the cultural emphasis towards making customer’s lives better.

So how are CMOs and other leaders looking to address culture?

One of the best examples comes from Rachael Powell, the Chief Customer and People Officer for Xero, they are taking an inside-out approach by focusing on their people and how they impact the customer’s experience.

Xero has recognized the intimate connection between how employees are treated and how they, in turn, treat customers:

“It really is about starting with our own people first who are the biggest ambassadors for our brand, winning their hearts and minds, then resonating that out to our channel, which is bookkeepers and accountants, and ultimately the end customer sitting at the end of the spectrum,” she said. “If we achieve this, we go from having 2000 ambassadors, our people, to having hundreds of thousands of ambassadors globally.”

They also appear to have a strategy for shaping their culture over time with 2 of 6 pillars sitting with Rachael: “great people and teams, and love and protect our customers”

It will be interesting to follow the Xero journey as they continue to grow!

Over the past 10 years, MarketCulture has researched 100’s of companies including Google, Virgin, Amazon, and Apple to find out what they do differently when delivering great customer experiences.

Could you create change if you knew the strengths and weaknesses of your company compared to these companies?

The MRI assessment provides the golden insights to create change! Contact us now and we will show you how!

Why Customer Experience fails in organizations!

Contemplating cx failure

Recently I asked a colleague, Sean Gallagher, President at Influence
Success, to review our book, The Customer Culture Imperative,
compared with other books that address the area of customer
experience.

He said”: “Many books on customer experience are useful and
interesting reads. And I found Professor Phil Klaus’ book (Measuring
Customer Experience) and Fred Reichheld’s book (The Ultimate
Question 2.0) very useful because they are based on real scientific
research.

What do Zappos, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton, Oasis, Disney, Nordstrom,
Apple, and Amazon have in common regarding how they run their
business? They all share best practice techniques in a variety of
areas that anyone can theoretically copy. Countless number of
companies have tried to copy these best practices and failed. Why?

All these companies are amazingly different. What is the common
thread used to drive superior customer experience and superior
profitability at these companies? Their cultures! And all their
cultures are different on the surface. Amazon is very different from
Zappos, even though Amazon owns Zappos.”

Sean said: “For my money, the most valuable (and readable) book on
customer experience is called The Customer Culture Imperative: A
Leader’s Guide to Driving Superior Performance. The authors studied
the academic research that uncovers the elements of culture that
enables a firm to create a strong customer-focused culture that
delivers both superior customer experience and superior
profitability. They use numerous real-life examples to illustrate the
elements of culture that make all the companies listed above different,
but the differences are rooted in the same soil.

Customer experience best practices are important but are bound
to fail unless rooted in the soil of an organization’s culture.

The Customer Culture Imperative is the best book I’ve found for insights
on transforming a culture that can deliver both superior customer
experience and superior profitability.”

Our vision at MarketCulture is to help leaders understand the importance of building a customer-obsessed culture by engaging of employees. Our assessment, the MRI, provides valuable feedback to help leaders act on what is vital to creating great customer experiences, which will lead to increased business performance.

Is your company customer obsessed? MarketCulture has a unique tool that can provide the strengths and weaknesses of your customer culture against 100’s of companies like Virgin, Apple, Google and Amazon. Ask us for free pilot today!

How do leaders become customer-centric?

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Source: OCEAN/CORBIS

To answer this question it can be helpful to start with the opposite question: why aren’t leaders Customer-Centric? In many cases, it appears to depend on chance!

There are many reasons leaders are driven away from being truly customer-centric:

  • the dominant profit and shareholder value focus in many organizations,
  • the siloed and internal focus in most large corporations,
  • the pressure on short-term results at the cost of customer relationships and customer value.

But these are not the most important reasons!

In our research of more than 65 senior leaders around the globe customer-centric leadership occurs by chance – an upbringing in a family that runs a small business, working for a boss who happens to be customer-centric, an experience in a business that is ruined by lack of attention to customers.

What is lacking in organizations and tertiary learning institutions is the systematic training and development of leadership with a specific customer-centric focus.

There are virtually no university courses around the globe dedicated to the teaching of customer-centric leadership. Most organizations do not have this as a focused L&D program for senior leadership, the extended leadership group or for prospective and aspiring leaders.

How can you expect leaders to have the new currency of customer-centric leadership required for success by the new world of disruption and customer-driven strategies if you leave it to chance?

There are simply too many organizational pressures working against it.

Don’t leave your organization’s fate up to chance!

There is an answer. Research reported in The Customer Culture Imperative tells you what is required. Learn more about our dedicated Learning and Development program for leaders at here.