Recently I was talking with Dmitry Pukhov, co-founder and owner of a very successful event catering company in Moscow. When I asked him about customer-centric leadership he said the core characteristic is a desire to help people that comes from the heart. He said he believes that we all have a gene that can create a drive to provide service to others. But only some people have developed this gene – through their upbringing, experience, interaction with others who use it and mentoring from customer-centric role models.
There is some scientific evidence to support this. Research shows that people who are more caring and compassionate towards others share a common gene variation linked to the receptor for oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the “love” hormone) that plays a key role in the formation of social relationships and impacts our capacity for empathy. The science suggests that those with the “GG” variant of this gene are better with people and generally more caring.
But all is not lost for those of us that don’t have the “GG” genotype. There is also evidence to suggest that compassion and empathy can be developed through socialization with people that role model it and experiences that elevate it.
I asked Dmitry why his business is so successful – it has grown rapidly over the 12 years since he founded it – and he told me it is because being customer-centric and service focused has always been the driver in his business. He recruits people that exhibit the customer-centric gene and invests in the ongoing development of the gene in all his staff.
Are you using your customer-centric gene or is it dormant? If you want to know what to do to develop it, refer to our book: The Customer Culture Imperative.
The simple answer is to make sure you know what they are praying for!
We call this customer insight. In other words, what are your customer’s needs? What are they trying to accomplish and how can you help them achieve it?
While you as the leader of your organization might have these answers, can everyone in your organization answer these questions? Really great organizations have clear answers to these questions and are aligned and empowered to deliver the experience customers value. Their leaders are what we call customer-centric leaders.
Is the Pope a customer-centric leader?
My co-author, Linden was surprised recently when he spoke with a CEO of a multinational business this month and asked him who came to mind as a customer-centric leader. He immediately answered: “the Pope”! Linden said: “Tell me more”.
He then went on to tell explain that a customer-centric leader must be prepared to take risks and he or she must go out and meet with customers and spend meaningful time with them questioning and listening. This type of leader must be prepared to be challenged and also to challenge the current status quo and visit customers in the most difficult markets. This person needs to be authentic with customers and employees through an ability to communicate personal experiences that are relevant and create belief in their followers. He said the current Pope does all these things. He travels widely across different national cultures, talks with his “customers”, takes risks particularly with personal safety and is prepared to question current dogma in the Catholic Church. He comes across as an authentic person with those he meets and how he communicates to the world at large. It got me thinking. Can we learn something from the Pope about customer-centric leadership?
This type of leader must be prepared to be challenged and also to challenge the current status quo and visit customers in the most difficult markets. This person needs to be authentic with customers and employees through an ability to communicate personal experiences that are relevant and create belief in their followers.
He said the current Pope does all these things. He travels widely across different national cultures, talks with his “customers”, takes risks particularly with personal safety and is prepared to question current dogma in the Catholic Church. He comes across as an authentic person with those he meets and how he communicates to the world at large.
It got us thinking. Can we learn something from the Pope about customer-centric leadership?
Posted in Authenticity, Customer Centric Culture, Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Centric Values, Customer Insight, Empathy, Honesty, transparency, Trust, Uncategorized
Tagged Customer Centric Leadership, customer culture, Customer Insight, pope
As a leader it is not easy to “let go”. I find it a real discipline to delegate and enable others in our business to do it their way and to do what’s right for the customer. So many leaders rely on processes as a security blanket that enables them to feel comfortable with what is happening in their business.
But we can take a lead from Tony Collins, former CEO of Virgin Trains in the UK, who told me:
“I put my trust in people not processes”
Tony presided over the transformation of Virgin Trains from an internal oriented public service mentality (when Virgin took the franchise from British Rail) to a customer service culture with customer satisfaction levels and profitability as benchmarks for the European rail industry. This approach empowers people and teams to make their own decisions and not wait for approvals.
Supercell’s Founder wants to be the Least Powerful CEO
Supercell’s CEO, Ilkka Paananen, believes the less leaders control the more powerful their companies. Supercell, a Finnish company, was worth about $10 billion in 2016 from the creation and marketing of games accessed by digital devices. Paananen says he wants to be the least powerful CEO in the world. He believes the best people will make the best teams that will produce the best games. He explains it this way: “What I mean by this is that the fewer decisions I make, the more the teams are making. In a dream scenario that means the team is making all the decisions. A couple of years ago, we were working on something called Smash Land. Everyone in the company loved it, and it was so close to meeting its targets but didn’t quite make them. So the team went to a sauna together, talked it out and took the decision to pull the plug. I was travelling at the time, so they didn’t bother to consult me – they just emailed the company to let them know. That’s just how Supercell should work.”
He was inspired by the Netflix approach to operate like a top sports team. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a former New Zealand All Blacks rugby coach who told me that they coach in the belief that “ better men make better All Blacks”. Players are empowered to make decisions under extreme pressure on the field without consultation with the leaders. This makes them a world beating team that almost always wins close games.
As a CEO of a very successful Telecoms company told me recently, when he and his senior team “got out of the way” and let their teams do what’s best for their customers, his company dramatically increased its customer retention rate and customer satisfaction levels resulting in earlier customer account payment – happy customers pay earlier. This translated directly into sustained revenue and profit growth.
These examples constantly remind me to trust my team and our partners to get on with it and create great experiences for our customers.
Learn more in our award winning book, the Customer Culture Imperative.
Posted in Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Centric Values, Empowerment, Freedom, Trust
Tagged all blacks rugby, customer centric leaders, empowerment, ilkka paanenen, supercell, tony collins, virgin trains
Ever since reading the classic Competing for the Future I realized that a business leader must have one eye on the present and the other on the future. Every organization is running two businesses – today’s business and tomorrow’s business! To build capabilities today for tomorrow’s business requires a cultural capability for agility, change and customer centricity. I call this cultural capability: peripheral vision – the extent to which leadership and staff in the business monitor, understand and respond to trends and changes in the larger environment including technological, economic, social, political, legal and the natural environment (such as climate change). This future oriented cultural capability also leads us to build disciplines around customer and competitor foresight – what will customers’ future needs be and who will be future competitors and where will they be coming from.
The need for organizations to build these cultural capabilities today is demonstrated by what I call the Amazon Effect. Amazon just announced the acquisition of Whole Foods, a natural and organic foods supermarket chain with 465 stores in North America and the UK. What are the implications? With its online technology capability, Amazon now has a bricks and mortar chain that can be leveraged with its delivery capabilities, elevating online selection and ordering of Whole Foods private label products. It will also bring change to the current retail format with new technology like no cash registers – all to add to the ease and convenience for consumers. This will have a huge impact on other supermarkets, food and grocery manufacturers and the entire retail industry.
What would be the impact in the car industry if Apple bought Tesla or in wearable technology if Google purchased Samsung? How is VISA dealing with PayPal and Apple Pay and hotel chains coping with AirBnB? Many of these challenges for established companies are yet to happen – but they will……and soon.
I am thinking about what this means for my own business and what cultural capabilities and strategy we need to build now to ensure its future. What is your Amazon Effect – the thing that would require you to totally reinvent your business? Building cultural disciplines in peripheral vision, customer foresight and competitor foresight will enable you to become prepared to face these challenges, make the changes you need to make, take up future opportunities and run a growing and sustainable business. Without them you will struggle at best, but more likely be consigned to the history books.
Preparing for your future business requires customer-centric leadership that galvanizes all your leaders and staff to build capabilities firmly focused on who your future customers and competitors will be and how the whole organization is geared to adapt and provide ongoing superior value for customers.
Learn more in our award winning book, the Customer Culture Imperative.
Lars Bjork, the of CEO Qlik, has built the company with a service focus around a “we” Leadership Style.
My father had a particular view of service. You served your customers, your employees, your family, your community and your shareholders. He would employ people fresh out of jail to give them a second chance. He knew his staff and their families and helped them when they needed help. He knew what his customers wanted and needed and trusted his staff to deliver value. He led his business with integrity and authenticity. He was a highly respected and successful businessman. From his background in retail he told me if you do all of these things right “…the profit will come up through the floor.”
Lars Bjork agrees. He has led Qlik as CEO for the past ten years and has been there from its days as a tiny start-up in Sweden to becoming a world leader in business intelligence software. Qlik was purchased by a private equity firm in 2016 for $3 billion. It now has around 40,000 customers and offices in 26 countries. Bjork says “leadership, for me, is that you serve the team. And the team is the people who work for you.”
How does that operate in practice? Bjork describes it this way.
“I do a lot of town halls and video. People want authenticity, an unscripted sense of ‘this is how it is’. They don’t want to hear packaged BS. They can see that from a mile away. I try to be transparent and share a bit about my private life – because how am I going to learn stuff from people, how are they going to feel comfortable with me, if I don’t share anything?”
He also asks a lot of questions and listens intently to the answers. This has become formalized with a “listening forum”. This occurs where he brings a dozen people together from different sections. He can’t say anything for an hour. They give him feedback, and he just takes it in. He does not push back or dismiss it. This leadership style is one of authenticity and service.
In our current research involving interviews of customer centric leaders I find the most impressive and effective ones are authentic, service focused, and good questioners and listeners. It doesn’t mean they have no ego. They do, but they are essentially team players and do not let their egos dictate decisions. They often do have to make the tough decisions but they do it, like my father, with authenticity and with a “service” mindset.
Learn more about the power of a customer centric culture in our award winning book, the Customer Culture Imperative.
Posted in Authenticity, Case Study, CEOs, Cross-functional Collaboration, Customer Centric Culture, Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Centric Values, Customer-Centricity, Honesty, Market Culture in Action, transparency, Trust, Uncategorized
Tagged Authenticity, customer centric leadership, Lars Bjork, Qlik
For those of you familiar with our work you will know that we successfully validated the link between a customer centric culture and new product success. Our chart below shows the links between our 8 dimensions of a customer centric culture and the key business performance outcomes.
Essentially organizations that develop a cultural focus that is obsessed with customers, outperform everyone else in the markets in which they play.
I just came across a great example of how this can work in reverse for a company that has not developed a customer culture – Comcast Cable.
Comcast recently announced a major new product – they are now a cell phone provider in the US market:
Here is the reaction I found in some comments people who saw this announcement on LinkedIn (the majority of the comments were along the same line….):
This is of course only anecdotal evidence, however, it is going to make it tough to make this product launch a success with an undercurrent of negative feelings towards the experiences many customers have had with the brand in the past….
How you treat your current customers today will have a massive impact on how they will respond to new product introductions in the future.
Build your company’s customer culture today to ensure you continue to be successful in the future. Learn more in the Customer Culture Imperative, our award winning book.
Posted in Customer Centric Culture, Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Centric Values, Customer Experience, Customer Insight, Market Culture Inaction, Trust, Uncategorized, Voice of the Customer
Tagged Comcast, Customer Centric Culture, Customer Insight, new product success
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” – Heraclitus 500BC
It’s hard to believe this quote is from more than 2000 years ago… I can’t think of a more relevant quote to describe the times we are living in right now!
From a business context the change we are experiencing is the rapid shifts occurring in customer expectations and behavior. The companies that are embracing this are the ones that are winning and will continue to win in the future.
The question is how do we adapt to this changing customer environment, stay ahead and stay relevant?
Many forward thinking organizations are using increasingly sophisticated customer experience metrics to stay in touch with what their existing customers are experiencing. Specifically they have embedded these processes in a manner that makes it part of their organizational culture – we call this a “Customer Culture”. A great example comes from the work being done at Macquarie Telecom, a leading Telecommunications firm in Australia.
Macquarie’s CEO, David Tudehope, has taken a personal interest in leveraging the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology to help drive a customer centric culture. NPS is essentially a simple way to measure customer advocacy. It is based on answering the question – “How likely are you to recommend us?” on a 0-10 point scale. While a great methodology, it is not the right one for every business. What’s more important than the metric is the fact there is a focal point at which all employees can focus on and work together to improve.
For Macquarie, leveraging this methodology has been transformational. It has raised the visibility of the importance of customer experience on customer retention and ultimately business performance. It has also served as a goal that aligns everyone and drives collaboration across the firm.
What have Macquarie learned from their transformational journey that you can apply in your organization?
- Engage everyone in the journey – measure every significant touch-point as everyone has an impact on how customer’s experience the company
- Be Transparent – display results for everyone to see so teams can see how others are performing and compare results
- Celebrate individuals and teams – share great customer stories and celebrate teams with high NPS scores
- Integrate into hiring processes – hire people with a desire to create great experiences for others
- Customer Success gives employees meaning and purpose – connecting people’s roles with the impact they have on customers provides meaning, inspiration and purpose and will derive up engagement levels and ultimately people’s performance
What are the results?
Macquarie’s NPS is 60+ which means they have many more promoters than detractors (see this post to compare Macquarie’s NPS with the most customer centric companies in the world). While they are not the best in the world (they can still improve), they significantly outperform their competitors in the space they play in.
To read more about how to begin the journey to a customer centric culture, get a copy of our book, the Customer Culture Imperative or learn about the Market Responsiveness Index.
Posted in Case Study, CEOs, Customer Centric Culture, Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Experience, Customer Insight, Voice of the Customer
Tagged Customer Centric Culture, Customer Experience, Customer Insight, david tudehope, macquarie telecom, net promoter score, nps