Category Archives: Empathy

This is the secret to delivering powerful Customer Experiences that only a handful of CEO’s know about!

Richard_Branson_Customer_Centricity

Why engaged customer-focused employees are vital to business success!

In today’s market, the majority of companies have very little to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their product and services are very similar if not identical. It is so easy to change to another company that it can be done in minutes or even seconds on the web. Social media can instantly let millions of people know what just took place. Customer expectations have changed and their demands are greater than ever.

Future business performance and sustainability will come down to whether or not customers continue to use your products and services or leave for an alternative supplier. It costs 7.5 times as much to gain a new customer yet the majority of companies spend their budgets on attracting new customers. What are you doing to retain your current customers?

MarketCulture’s purpose is to help companies recognize the importance of building stronger customer experiences that retain customers. We believe that inspired, engaged and empowered employees focused on customers are vital to success. It comes down to how the company delivers on its promise and ultimately it is all employees that make this happen. It takes one bad experience and you have lost a customer.

As leaders do you truly understand what your employees need in order to deliver a great customer experience? Are we telling them what to do or are we engaging them in what they believe is important? Richard Branson says that engaged and happy employees deliver superior customer experiences. Virgin enters markets where customers are dissatisfied. They quickly win a strong market share by providing great service with a touch of magic. Employees want to be part of the solution and feel that they belong. They want to be listened to and feel that their feedback contributes to the success of the business. Your employees are the ones that retain or lose your customers.

Companies today implement many tools that measure either employee engagement or customer satisfaction. They allow leaders to know whether or not they have happy/unhappy employees or satisfied/dissatisfied customers yet they rarely provide insight into how they can improve. Leaders need to understand what employees need to deliver the company’s promise and customer satisfaction.

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” Jeff Bezos – Amazon Founder and CEO

How do we engage employees to build stronger customer experiences?

Customer experience comes down to the way your company and employees behave – whether you deliver or not on your promise. It can be as simple as responding to a customer in a timely fashion or just the tone of your voice. Amazon is now one of the biggest companies, yet they have retained a strong focus on their customer experiences even as they have grown to employ more than 300,000 people. The test of a company is not when things go well but when they don’t. Customers are looking to receive the value they paid for or they will simply try an alternative supplier. Where do you start building a stronger customer experience? You can start with the customer and find out whether or not they are satisfied but that is after the event has occurred and maybe too late. Alternatively, you can start with those that create the experience – “the employee” – and find out what they need in order to be able to deliver a great customer experience.

Steve Job’s recognized this towards the end of his time as CEO of Apple when he said:

“It’s not about me, it’s about the company and it’s about the cause. It’s not about everything being dependent on me. I have to build a culture, I have to think about a successor, I have to think about setting this thing up to do well over time. And in the end, what matters is, I want Apple to be an enduring great company and prove it didn’t need me.”

How do we do it? – It is simple. Listen to your employees, find out what is important to them, engage them, act on their feedback, empower them to solve customer problems and they will deliver better customer experiences.

MarketCulture researched 100’s of companies across the globe that exhibited both customer-centric decision-making with employees empowered to deliver great customer experiences. Some of these companies included Amazon, Google, Virgin, Apple, and Ikea.

The research revealed 8 disciplines that employees act on to deliver great customer experiences. We found these disciplines used across the entire organization including all support functions. This was not evident in companies that deliver inconsistent customer experiences.

Through both quantitative and qualitative employee feedback companies are able to act on strengths and weaknesses in order to support employees in delivering superior customer experiences.

What – A unique employee assessed customer engagement measurement tool.

Where do we start? The first step is to discover what is important to the employees in order to provide a better experience for customers. To do this we need to engage the employees and gain their feedback. The Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) is a unique assessment tool that all employees, including leaders, complete. The MRI has quantitative (scaled questions/benchmarked) as well as qualitative feedback (verbatim comments). This will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company against companies that use best customer-centric practices. This will create change and build future business performance through the retention and growth of customers. Studies have shown that companies with Customer Centric practices outperform the others.

What is the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI)?

The MRI is a web-based employee assessment, requiring 15-20 minutes to complete, that benchmarks employee behaviors within your business against the most customer-centric companies in the world. This translates into 8 key disciplines all with a strong focus on the customer. These are Customer Insight, Customer Foresight, Competitive Insight, Competitor Foresight, Peripheral Vision, Cross Functional Collaboration, Empowerment and Strategic Alignment. Your company’s performance in these disciplines has been shown to drive future customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and profitability.

The MRI will provide key benefits to your company.

1. Momentum, Engagement and a New Mindset: It will create focus and momentum for a Customer Centricity initiative across the business and can be used to drive the embedding process.

2. Measurement: It is designed to provide the basis for benchmarking and measuring progress on those customer-focused behaviors that drive customer satisfaction, advocacy, revenue growth, profit and plans for individual managers to drive improvements.

3. Gain Insights: Hear directly from employees on the key issues holding the organization back from being more customer-centric in specific areas and across the entire business.

4. Tangibility and Communication: It makes customer culture tangible for all staff by identifying relevant activities that support business strategies. Through its methodology and measurement process, it facilitates communication of clear priorities.

5. Gain broad employee involvement: It provides staff with an opportunity for input and direct engagement in Customer Culture initiatives and a forum for agreeing with actions to be taken and a feeling that they are a key part of the journey and contributing to its success.

6. Build a common language across the Business: It also acts as a tool for ensuring staff within the business “get it” and develops a common language and behaviors from Customer Culture initiatives. It forms the basis for ongoing discussions and actions deep within each functional group which is where the ultimate success in embedding customer culture will be determined through collaboration.

7. Accountability: It provides customer-centric behaviors that can be included in the Key Performance Indicators of managers and their teams.

8. Benchmark: It provides the business with a benchmark against some of the world’s most customer-centric organizations. How do you compare with companies like Amazon, Apple, 3M, Virgin and others included in the database? The current database includes more than 300 corporations globally across B2B and B2C and several hundred business functions and units.

Interesting in starting your journey to a customer culture? Learn more here.

You can’t fake customer-centric culture

Woman holding mask of her happy face

We hear a lot about fake news these days – what’s real and what’s fake is sometimes hard to know. That’s not the case when it comes to customers “reading” your culture.

Let me recount my experience with 3 upmarket restaurants in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney has many fine restaurants. I will compare my experience at two of these – Aria is at Circular Quay looking at the opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Jonah’s is on a cliffside on Sydney’s northern beaches overlooking Whale Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Both serve fine dining at expensive prices with excellent food.

I decided to book Jonah’s for my wife’s birthday and asked for a table next to the window overlooking the ocean. I was told this was not possible and when I asked why, I was told by the manager that there are many factors that they use to decide who have the window tables – when the booking was made, how many people are in the party, what the booking levels are for that particular day. I was making the booking more than a week in advance and on a weekday at the earliest lunchtime sitting, but still could not be told whether I would get a window table. Choices were 12 noon or 1.30pm. He said, “ we are very busy, we get tours and we decide on the day where people sit.” There was an arrogant tone in his voice so I decided to try Aria.

The call to Aria was a totally different experience. “Yes, we can give you a window table, would you like a surprise cake for your wife’s birthday?” You can choose your time of arrival – “12.30pm is fine and you can stay the whole afternoon.” Aria is just as busy as Jonah’s but you have a completely different mindset. At Jonah’s it is all about their convenience, their operational procedures, their rules for organizing tables. At Aria, it is about what the customer wants and how can they be satisfied. You cannot fake it. The customer mindset exists or it doesn’t. The customer knows this with a simple phone call.

Then there is the dining experience. My wife and I went to Pilu, a Sardinian specialty restaurant at Freshwater beach on Sydney’s northern beaches. This too is an upmarket restaurant. What impressed us about this restaurant was the staff. The sommelier knew every detail possible about the wines, the server knew exactly what was in each dish and could explain it. Both established a relationship with us by telling us about their hometown in Italy. They were not rushed, were patient with our questions, answered them fully and made suggestions. At the time of payment, the manager told us how much of a team effort was involved and how his team worked together to make a memorable experience for their guests. At the end of the evening, they asked if we would like to give them information on our birthdays and we would be offered a 5-course degustation meal free at that time. We happily signed up and provided the information they wanted.

A customer culture only exists when it is authentic and all employees are part of a happy, collaborative team, knowing that it is the customer that is the center of their world. It can’t be faked. It’s the difference between getting the business and creating advocates and not getting the business and getting bad reviews.

How do you get it? You will find many of the answers in our book: The Customer Culture Imperative.

Is there a customer-centric gene?

genetic technology concept, gene engineering, 3d rendering, abstract image visual

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.

This is how to become the answer to your customer’s prayers

Pope Francis at general audience

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?

What do customer centric companies do? Create Advocates for Life.

corso281In my travels in recent weeks I have experienced two examples of how a customer-centric attitude and behavior produce memorable customer experiences. Both of these were in hotels in different countries.

In Rome my wife and I stayed at Hotel Corso 281. We planned to go south for a few days by train and wanted to leave a large case at the hotel and pick it up again on our way from the Amalfi coast via Rome to Venice. Even though there would only be a 45 minute time between our change of trains in Rome, Delia, the front office manager assured me that they would send a taxi with my bag to the station as soon as my train arrived in Rome. So we took the chance. When I nervously called the hotel on the morning of our journey and spoke to the hotel front desk a different person was fully aware of my situation. As we pulled into Rome station I called again and another front desk person was fully aware and organized a taxi to send the bag. When the taxi arrived at the station it had a large sign with my name in the side window and I gratefully took my bag. Soon after I received a call from Delia to tell me the taxi driver reported to her that the bag had been delivered. We made the train connection all because of a display of team collaboration embedded in the belief that the customer’s needs must be met. When next in Rome we are going back to stay at Corso 281.

In Dubai I checked in to the Rihab Rotana hotel after a 7 hour flight from London. The front office manager gave me his card and also the card of the other front office manager who was off duty. He assured me to call them any time if there was a problem or something they could do. This gentleman, Mazen, was gracious, attentive and carefully explained all hotel services. This manner of care could be seen from all staff in the hotel – from housekeeping to concierge to the gym and pool deck.. Soon after checking into my room a bowl of fruit was delivered. Each day in my week long stay I was greeted by the smile of Daryl, a young lady in the restaurant who seemed to be there for all seven days of my stay. She told me that their team of five often had to work long hours and 7 days because when the hotel was very busy they had to make sure all guests received a great experience. Sometimes at the end of the day even though she had already been there 12 hours her greeting and smile never diminished. I will go back and stay at Rotana in Dubai.

While these things are small for service people with the right attitude and attention to customer needs, they are huge for the customer.

Bottom line – I am an advocate of both these hotels, they stick in my mind, I will go back and I will recommend anyone that asks to try them as well.

Do you attract the right talent to your organization? People that focus on the reason their job exists? Does the leadership of your organization focus its attention on delivering a great experience?

You can learn more in our 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“.

Lessons from REI: Aligning your People

We have just completed one of the busiest weeks in retail in the United States, with Black Friday for the physical stores and Cyber Monday for the online retailers. This week now blends together with doorbuster deals bombarding us constantly online and instore in the week leading up to Thanksgiving as well as weekend afterwards.

What is different this year is that some major stores have decided to stay closed during this period. In the land of the consumer this a really big deal!

One chain in particular stands out, REI, the outdoor recreation retailer with more than 12,000 employees and 140 stores around the US decided to close this past Black Friday. See below, their CEO, Jerry Stritzke’s 30 second announcement:

 

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.” – REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke

So what is behind this decision? I believe it is to better align REI’s core values with its actions in the market. REI’s core mission is “to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What better way to live that mission and align all of their people around it than closing on a day that allows their own people get outside and live the company’s mission.

Now that all sounds great but how does that help their customers? No doubt some customers may be inconvenienced by their physical stores being closed. However they will still have a small number of staff manning their website so they are not completely close for business.

REI are reacting to growing concerns by their customers and others that retail in general is overshadowing the core purpose of thanksgiving which is to celebrate with family and friends. They are betting that this decision will pay off over the longer term by aligning their people with their mission while also meeting the changing expectations of their customers.

Ultimately if you want your people and customers to really buy-in to what your company is about you must walk the talk, for me this is strategic alignment in action!

Interested in what it takes to be truly customer centric? Learn more here