Category Archives: Customer-Obsessed Culture

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!

What drives leaders to become customer-obsessed?

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I was speaking recently with Rashid Velemeev, CEO of Sindbad Travel, one of Russia’s biggest online travel booking agencies based in St Petersburg. We were discussing customer-centric leaders and he mentioned that he believed an important characteristic is that they feel internal pain.

They can’t accept the way things are and they must change it to relieve their pain. It may be an experience of very poor service or of a product that does not work properly or an experience with people in a company who just don’t care. It creates a burning desire to do something about it.

When we think about this we realize that many businesses are started today because the founder has had a very poor customer experience and feels compelled to fill the gap created in the marketplace. It becomes a passion to make things right and if implemented well becomes a very good business.

Are you a leader that feels pain because things are not done right in your business to consistently deliver customer satisfaction? Do you feel the pain personally with each customer complaint? If so you can relieve that pain by implementing some of the ideas in our book: The Customer Culture Imperative.

A Customer-Obsessed Culture is like employee engagement on steroids

 

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Can you imagine a business where everyone connects with its true purpose and gives the very best of himself or herself every day to deliver on that purpose?

What an awesome place that would be to work! And wouldn’t you love to be their customer!

Unfortunately, there are only a few organizations like this in the world today. However, the good news is that many more companies are actually aspiring to be that way.

I don’t care what business you are in; you must foster a new operating model to be successful in today’s business environment.

What makes it different?

The old school autocratic, all-knowing CEO is out, the age of talented teams focused on customers is here.

We call this customer culture, an environment where teams of people work together to deliver unique, valuable customer experiences.

The evidence for the need to create this type of culture is everywhere, all around us.

Nowhere to hide.

Companies can no longer brush poor customer experiences under the carpet, there is a large and vocal customer constituency that will voice their opinions and these will influence whether or not others are interested in your products and services.

Purpose matters.

The days of people turning up for work for a paycheck then turning off is gone. If you spend more than half of your living hours working it had better be for more than just a paycheck.

More than ever before younger workers are looking for meaning in their work, why am I doing this? Where is the meaning?

Customers want to know why you do what you do.

Simon Sinek has recognized that consumers today care about why you do what you do as much as what your offer. If you are just in business to make money for shareholders, I think you will find it a tough environment to compete in. Do something to improve my life, the life of our community, the world or the environment…

Employee Engagement is not enough.

While employee engagement is important, it is simply not enough.

For organizations to succeed they need engaged employees that are directing that energy and passion towards solving problems for their customers.

In fact, we have found engaged employees are the result of good leadership (fair consistent, transparent, inspirational), a strong culture and people doing meaningful work for their customers.

You can’t make someone engaged in their work but you can create the environment (culture) where it is much more likely to happen.

Your call to action:

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 that 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.

Why being customer obsessed pays! Lessons from the CEO of massively successful startup Naked Wines

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Luke Jecks, the Former CEO of Naked Wines, founded and led an online wine business that operates in the US, the UK, and Australia. The company connects wine lovers with boutique wineries and uses a subscription model where “angels” – consumers who pay a monthly subscription to help fund the winery’s next vintage – are able to order their favorite wines and pay for them from their subscriptions. It is a customer-funded wine business.

I asked Luke how this came about.

He replied: “The most important thing in the wine industry is that the only way this online business could work would be if we could have consumers that were “sticky” to the business. If we could get loyalty in perpetuity we would not have to be a business that is constantly out there chasing new sales. Instead what we could do is invest in loyalty in the consumer and if we did that we would have a sustainable business.”

“So we needed a model that did not trap consumers but made them want to stay. So the questions we had to answer were: How do you reinvent the wine club and its benefits with a subscription that had no cancellation fees, had no minimum period of membership, you could walk away at any time, and any money you put into the subscription you got back?”

“We found that a segment of wine consumers need to see a choice, a benefit, a feeling of being in control and where they feel they can connect with the values of the business. We felt that to keep customers in the long term we needed to make them feel proud – because they mattered and were part of the key wine choices being made and understood their role in making the business a success and the winemakers successful. Also proud because they feel they are doing good through the stories behind the winemakers that can’t happen without them”.

I asked Luke how this relates to customer-centricity. He said: “To me, you must have an “attract” model and not a “trap” model. It is a model where the customer plays a vital part in the success. So it is important for us to measure the customer lifetime value – that is how long they stay with us and how much they spend. That is much more important than today’s transaction. We believe that if we can get loyalty, we will get sales. We tested this by sending “high engagement” emails to half our consumers and “buy” emails to the other half. It turned out that the “engagement” emails created loyalty and those consumers bought more. We asked our consumers to rate their happiness with us. We found that people who rated us 5 stars (90%-100%) had much bigger lifetime value. So we set about investing to get 90%+ ratings by putting more people in the business, paying our staff more, investing in career programs for our staff and empowering them to empower our customers.

I asked Luke what has been the result. He said:

“From a standing start 5 years ago Naked Wine now has more than 100,000 angels. But more important than this number is the high level of loyalty. This has created a growing, profitable and sustainable business.”

A truly customer obsessed business has loyal customers that buy from you because they want to – and stay with you because they see that you care and that they are important. It is a business, like Naked Wines, that invests in and empowers its people to fully engage with their customers to create great customer experiences. This translates into increasing customer lifetime value. Sustainable profit and growth follow.

Hear more from Luke in this previous post – “What is the kryptonite for disruptors?”

Learn more about creating this culture in our latest book, the Customer Culture Imperative.

The reason why all the best leaders are M.A.D. Are you one of them?

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Last year I met with the CEO of the BPAY Group, John Banfield. BPAY is a leading payment systems service provider with Australian banks and financial companies. John told me that from an early age he always wanted to ‘Make A Difference’ (MAD). He said his two boys play rugby at school against a number of much larger, intimidating players, some are almost twice their size. He urged them to think MAD — that is, “Make A Difference” with a tackle or a pass. To keep their focus he would write MAD on their hands to remind them particularly when the going got tough.

John says that he expects that of himself and others in his business. In particular to think MAD with a purpose. John has been transforming BPAY over the last 3 years leading all employees to “think customer”, which is a central corporate value, and make a difference through customer-inspired innovation throughout all parts of the business.

This includes the shared services functions such as IT and Finance where it is not always easy to create tangibility for a customer mindset. John said: “In these cases customers are employees for these functions. It is here that the values of “better together” and “think customer” connect. So shared services resonate by putting collaboration and customer together with internal customers. If they need to collaborate with three or four departments on a particular day, they sit together. This is particularly important because we are working to develop innovative new products with entrepreneurs and customers and keeping our eye on customer and culture is critical.”

Like all customer-centric leaders I know, John believes that the financial results are a consequence of what comes out of the customer experience and what is delivered that is valuable to customers. He says: “The numbers will come and our shareholders will be happy when our customers embrace the services we provide”.

This is the centerpiece of an innovative customer mindset and you have to want to ‘make a difference’ to implement it. To prove the point John and his team at BPAY have just introduced a new person-to-person payment product Osko by BPAY™.

More than 50 Financial Institutions are beginning to gradually roll out a whole new way to pay and get paid into their online and mobile banking. Osko will make payments faster, easier, and more convenient for consumers and business than ever before via any participating bank.

With customer-led innovation like this you end up with inspired employees, delighted and loyal customers and satisfied shareholders — the strong fundamentals of a sustainable business.

Want to learn how to build a customer-obsessed company?

Learn about where to start here.

The reason what they teach in business school is wrong and why a customer-obsessed culture is the only answer

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Many of today’s senior leaders were educated in an era where business school professors told them the sole purpose of a business was to create value for shareholders. This, at a time when only a few voices professed what revered thinker and writer, Peter Drucker, proposed that the purpose of a business is to create customers profitably. The two mindsets are complete opposites.

I recently watched the Netflix series: Dirty Money. It investigates three cases of big corporations where the only consideration by their senior leaders was the creation of shareholder value and their own bonuses at any cost.

Volkswagon was proven to have initiated and perpetuated (by senior leaders) built-in software to falsify carbon emissions in order to make claims about their cars to enable them to grow their business in the US with diesel-fuelled vehicles. Even when proven, senior leaders were in denial until indicted by the US government.

HSBC turned a blind eye to money laundering by the Mexican drug cartels through their banking network. Despite being castigated in US Senate investigations and regulators over a decade, there was no effective action taken and finally, the company was fined almost US $2billion with an admission to serious charges. This was a willful disregard of the consequences of their actions (or non-action) to achieve their profit goals at all costs.

Valiant Pharmaceuticals embarked on a merger and acquisition strategy to buy drug companies with unique monopoly brands as a basis for growth. Once acquired the prices of these life-saving products were hiked to levels where consumers could not pay for them – with life-threatening consequences. The CEO’s one stated aim was to create value for shareholders.

The senior leaders of all three companies gave no thought to the consequences for their customers and the community. In fact, they saw them as irrelevant. Excessive pollution from cars is a prime cause of the premature death of many consumers. Enabling money laundering financed drug lords and the associated violent deaths of innocents in Mexico and the drug habit in the US. Hiking pharmaceutical drug prices 10 or 20 fold over a short period created havoc and misery for many consumers with life-threatening illnesses. All of this because the senior leadership mindset and corporate culture were focused only on profit and their own bonuses.

I have heard this in many large businesses where people down the line tell me that the only concern of leadership is to meet profit goals at any cost. That cost is often lost jobs, unhappy and disengaged employees and frustration and disgust of customers.

Yet we know that the leaders of today’s most successful, modern large businesses have a totally different mindset. It is best illustrated by Jeff Bezos, who from day 1 at Amazon has built a culture around customer obsession and a focus on continually improving the value and experience delivered to its customers. He has never wavered from this mindset despite criticism at different times. What is the result? It is the most valuable and sustainable business on the planet – with a history of little more than 20 years.

We are starting to see this mindset in other leaders of long-established businesses. Richard Branson at Virgin is one. Paul Polman at Unilever is another. These leaders take the view that “what’s best for the customer is best for the business”. They truly believe that by creating a customer-obsessed culture in their leadership and employees they will deliver superior value to their customers and for their communities. And by so doing they will achieve long-term profitability and sustainability in their businesses as well as personal rewards and happy employees. They take a longer term and future-oriented view in their decision-making and their behavior.

This is foreign to many senior leaders and there is a lack of experience as to how to do it. In our research of more than 50 customer “obsessed” CEOs around the world and more than 300 businesses we now have a measurement tool that can create this mindset, benchmark your business against the best in the world and set out best practice steps to move you to the next level – a level that will be required for survival and success.