Category Archives: Game Changers

Why real-time customer feedback is the future for customer centric companies

Feedback

Companies have been measuring customer satisfaction levels for many years and yet many of these same companies have not seen significant improvements or changes. One of the reasons is customer satisfaction research has been a static activity. Satisfaction levels are measured once a year or less frequency. The data is discussed and reviewed but is not integrated or used to drive business decisions. The result is a lack of action. Even worse customers make complaints which companies then try to address weeks after any useful resolution is available.

In fact this cycle of asking customers for feedback and doing little or nothing with it is one reason why most customers don’t respond to surveys. Why should customers spend the time providing feedback when nothing meaningful will be done?

One of the challenges facing companies trying to implement a more real-time approach in the past has been limited resources to apply to the challenge. Real time has required surveys been run more frequently and systems to be available to provide that feedback to the right people at the right time.

Thankfully with the technology available today, a number of companies are providing customer centric organizations with new tools to gather insights and feedback on the go.

A great example comes from the healthcare industry, more specifically hospitals. Patient Experience is something that Hospitals can no longer ignore as a large percentage of their at-risk income under the affordable care act comes from their patient satisfaction levels.

Eric LoMonaco, a great patient centered leader, from the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) in Monterey recently implemented a real time feedback program using QR codes placed strategically around the hospital.

qr-code used for feedback

The challenge they faced was satisfaction was measured by an external body that would provide reporting after the fact. The result was patients left the hospital with problems that were never addressed. Eric saw the opportunity to implement a system that would allow CHOMP to gain real time feedback that could be directed to leaders in the hospital and responded to in real time.

The impact of this system on patient satisfaction levels has been dramatic and immediate. By scanning a QR code or simply sending a text message directly to a leader in the Hospital, Patients are able to provide real-time feedback that leaders can address immediately as issues arise rather than after the fact.

Eric shares the results CHOMP has been achieved so far in a great article he wrote here and a webcast here.

With this type of technology available, the excuses for real-time customer satisfaction improvements are running out.

It is the combination of a customer centric mindset, coupled with technology and processes that will determine the winners in today’s business environment. To learn more about creating the right culture in your business, check out our book, The Customer Culture Imperative.

Your customers are being stolen by the new digital disruptors – Are you fit enough to compete?

digital_disruption

FitNow, launched in 2008, produces Lose It!, the top application in the iPhone’s health and fitness category. FitNow is based on the premise that your phone is always with you and is the perfect platform for tracking your calories. It now has more than 10 million customers.

This business with less than 10 employees is extremely focused on assessing digital customer feedback, revising the app regularly and adding new benefits like social connections among users. It is continually looking at ways to add benefits without increasing costs.

How should Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig respond?

There are a growing band of companies like this – digital disruptors using platforms like iPhone and iPad apps and Facebook to reach millions of people. These new companies have just a few people and move almost at lightning speed. They ignore competition and traditional channels to market and go directly to end customers. Their costs are low, so their margin per customer is high enough to generate profit through volume.

We are all now in a faster moving, more competitive digital environment, no matter what we make and sell. Gear up everyone in your business to understand it and get “fitter” to compete.

So, consider this. If there are no barriers to entry in your business and competitors are easily able to compete with you off a low cost base and from all directions, what would you need to do differently?

Probably a lot of things. Disruption of this type usually needs a transformative change to the way you do things. A good start is to quickly review those things that drive competitiveness, growth and profitability in your business.

You will find that there will be a need to change peoples’ habits around speed of innovation and new products/services to market.

There will be a need to gain greater insight into customers and how their needs are changing. You will need to look for some benchmarks from these disruptive digital competitors. But most of all, you will need to embark on a journey to strengthen your customer-focused culture.

Does Intel have the right culture for the future?

intel's_customer_culture

In a question asking him to summarize the Intel culture, outgoing CEO (in May  2013), Paul Otellini said:

“Egalitarian. Merit based. That came from Noyce. Anyone can speak in a meeting, but you must speak with data. That came from Moore. Take risks. Embrace innovation, but do it with discipline. That’s Grove. World-class manufacturing came from Barrett. I’ve added a marketing component.

The other thing unique to Intel, at least in Silicon Valley, is the mix of older and newer employees. Intel has more 20-year-plus veterans than any Silicon Valley company. I’ve been here 36 years. Yet the average age of our global workforce is 25. Tradition and innovation. We like both.”

Intel’s culture seems to do everything to drive facts and reasons ahead of position and formal authority. One of Intel’s values is something like “constructive confrontation”.

Among large technology companies, only Intel has mastered CEO succession multiple times. Founded in 1968, Intel has gone from founders Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore, who both served as CEOs, to Andy Grove, Craig Barrett and now Paul Otellini without losing its status as the world’s preeminent chip manufacturer. It has had some major tests of its culture.

In the mid-1980s Intel’s memory chip cash cow was being wiped out by Asian competitors and its future star, the microprocessor, was still building. Intel faced scandal in 1994 when it mishandled news about flaws in its Pentium chip. In 2006, the newest CEO, Otellini, had to lay off 10% of workers in what now can be seen as a prelude to the Great Recession.

In 2006, when Ortellini took the helm, he tossed out the old business model. Instead of remaining focused on PCs, he pushed Intel to play a key technological role in new  fields, including consumer electronics, wireless communications, and health care. And rather than just microprocessors, he wanted Intel to create all kinds of chips, as well as software, and then meld them together into what he called “platforms.” He went about reinventing Intel as PC growth began to slow.

In addition top to bottom reorganization, he made big changes in the way products are developed. While previously engineers worked on ever-faster chips and then let marketers try to sell them, there are now teams of people with a cross-section of skills. Chip engineers, software developers, marketers, and market specialists all work together to come up with compelling products. Otellini is convinced such collaboration leads to breakthrough innovations.

Otellini has strengthened Intel’s financial performance and maintained dominance of its industry. The challenge facing the new CEO will be to keep pace with the changing mobile, tablet and social media environment. Intel’s culture took a battering with the major staff cuts in 2006 and again substantial cuts in 2011.

Will it be resilient and adaptive enough with a new CEO to strengthen the future focused, customer oriented culture that was a focus of Otellini’s reign? Has it retained its innovative capabilities? Only time will tell.

Competing for the future – How Australia Post is reinventing itself in this new age of competition

digital post boxAustralia Post recently released its annual results. Revenues from “regulated mail” – standard postage – are $1924 million and falling, and it made a loss of $148 million. “Non regulated parcels and retail” revenues were up 8.5% to $3073 million, returning a profit of $546 million. An important part of its future will be digital services provided to its commercial customers and Australian consumers.

A starting flurry in this new world is the soft launch of MailBox in November 2012 with a full launch to take place early in 2013. Australia Post has announced that several Australian banks, government departments and utilities will use the Digital MailBox. It will be free to all Australians. It will enable consumers to receive and pay bills, track and manage their relationships with their providers and store all of their important documents in one place. It’s accessed with one password, from any Internet enabled device, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.

Enter Digital Post Australia (DPA), a joint venture between Computershare Ltd, Fuji Xerox Document Management Solutions Pty Limited and Zumbox Inc.

Got that? It’s Digital Mailbox from Australia Post, and Digital Postbox from Digital Post Australia. You can see why Australia post is suing Digital Post Australia  over the name. The first court action was dismissed, but Australia Post is pursuing the action.

At the launch of DPA’s Digital Postbox in early December, CEO Randy Dean ridiculed Australia Post’s launch. “Our competitor recently used its trusted and iconic brand to ‘formally launch’ what appears to be a ‘statement of interest’ for their Digital Mailbox Service. We felt Australians deserved to see what a functioning Digital Postbox looks like and how it operates.” Dean invited consumers to preview the service and activate their “secure and free” Digital Postbox.

Dean says Digital Postbox begins a new era of convenient online mail delivery. “Once the consumer’s Digital Postbox is activated, they won’t need to do anything else. Mail will be automatically delivered online and be available on virtually any web-connected device. Consumers can receive, store and manage important documents such as bills and account statements in a trusted and secure environment. Digital postal mail offers businesses an efficient and cost-effective customer channel that can be enabled using their existing business processes and partnerships and can deliver savings of up to 70% per mail item.”

“We have decades of experience in the secure digital processing, storage, management and printing for the largest and most security sensitive organizations in Australia including banks, government agencies and superannuation funds.

The two companies are now readying their products for market, attempting to pre-empt each other with various pre-releases and announcements. There is no love lost between the two, and their sniping and attempts to define themselves and each other are becoming more intense.

But this is not the only competition. Existing systems like BPay, increasingly sophisticated online banking and now the imminent boom in mobile payments systems are making the technology largely obsolete before it is even introduced.

The eventual winners in this digital environment will be those companies that have a strong customer culture – one in which customer insight and foresight will determine the best way to compete, where the future competition will come from, how future profit will be made.

Australia Post, as a government owned organization, still has a way to go to create and embed a customer culture that will enable it to compete profitably in the digital marketplace.

How to sell the change necessary to create a powerful customer culture

Making the Case for Culture Change

In today’s world of intense competition, disruptive technology and the age of the customer, we know that we have to change and our organizations must change to survive.

But, how do you sell change to others when you know that on average there will be about 20% of people who will support you and look at change as an opportunity, about 50% will be fence-sitters and need to be actively sold, and the remaining 30% will be actively resisting change. Your change strategy requires you to continually sell through both planning and implementation as you need to reinforce the benefits from change.

You will need a strategy that includes six essential elements as the foundation plus two important personal characteristics.

Six Elements of Strategy

1. Recognition of the need to change – usually created by real or perceived external threats to a business from market changes, new competitors or disruptive technology.  A strong and determined leader or leadership group must be aware of the need to change, recognize the effects of this “burning platform” and the urgency for action and be willing to take the journey. You, as the leader must lead the change, not delegate it.

2. Timing – the single most important component to gaining initial “buy-in” to the change that you are selling. The right timing can build the required momentum to get your colleagues, management and the boardroom excited about your idea(s).   You must possess extreme patience with the right amount of knowledge to determine your timing. You will need a small core of influential leaders from the 20% of change advocates and from the 50% of fence-sitters. As you build this group you will be able to sense the best timing in relation to the external threats impacting the parts of the business you are wanting to change.

3. Assessment of the current level of customer culture – the leader initiates an assessment of the culture to establish a starting position from which specific objectives and targets are established. This takes two forms:

A. Qualitative assessment of the culture from interviews of a cross-section of people in the business. This provides in-depth insight into the culture, it builds relationships and additional buy-in and reduces the risk of resistance to skill development and culture change.

B. Quantitative measurement of the level of customer culture benchmarked against peers. This identifies strengths and weaknesses in relation to business strategy. It provides focus and targets for a transformation plan.

4. Clarity of customer culture vision and goals – you and your “change team” need to craft and refine the vision, goals, strategy and priorities. This needs to have within it a sense of urgency that can be easily communicated and understood by your target audiences in the organization.

5. Development of a change plan – as a leader you and your team need to develop a roadmap of steps and a realistic time plan to build a strong customer culture.

6. Displaying credibility through competency and know-how – Showcase strong competency levels by assembling a diverse team that can help you execute and sell the change all the way through to the end. You will need people with a shared set of values and agreement on a broad plan for change and a willingness to follow the roadmap. Members also agree that market needs should drive organizational change towards a strong customer culture. The team’s role is to implement a change plan that engages the targeted parts of the organization in the change effort. You will need to set some achievable targets and be confident you can deliver to them.

Two Personal characteristics

A change initiative to create and maintain a strong customer culture requires continual selling. It takes time to achieve and tenacity to follow through. Desire and mental toughness are the personal ingredients needed for success.

1. Desire

Having the required tenacity, endurance and passion to sell change all the way through to the end is never easy and could be the ultimate breaking point to your successful change management and change leadership efforts.    It requires a level of desire that makes it mandatory for you to get your hands dirty throughout the ongoing selling cycle.   This means that you need to be ready to face uncertainty head-on and welcome the fiercest battles from those among the 30% who want you to fail.

Desire is not just being willing and able to tackle any tension points through the journey of selling change – but more so an ability to accept the fact that you must continue to sell the change as much as you lead it.    Selling change is difficult and it takes a special level of desire in order to translate something that may be difficult for others to see into something that is concrete enough for people to believe in.

2. Mental toughness

To withstand the resistance by those affected by the change you are selling demands mental toughness.    For example, you may have the will, the skills  and desire to sell change – but you may not be mentality tough enough to finish each task at hand.

Mental toughness allows you to “separate issues” and compartmentalize them in a strategic fashion that strengthens your desire (rather than weakens your spirits).

Do you have a strategy for change? Do you have the selling skills to sell it? If so, do you have the desire and mental toughness to follow through until you get there?

Customer focused leaders are willing to take short term pain for long term gain

Customer Focused Leadership

Becoming a truly customer focused organization takes effort. Remember:

“Nothing worth doing comes easily”

There are substantial pay-offs to aligning your business with your customers. With the Market Responsiveness Index we have proven that customer focused businesses excel in every financial measure important from sales revenue and profit growth and overall profitability.

Unfortunately a key hurdle for many leaders comes when faced with the decision to sacrifice a short term profit in the hope of a longer term pay-off.

What do I mean by this?

There are three investments leaders must make in shifting the culture:

1. The investment of time, energy and thought to what it means to be customer focused. To paint a vision that people buy into and build a strategy to achieve that vision, just like any other business endeavor.

2. A financial investment in understanding customers in unique ways that will allow the company to compete more effectively in the future. There may also be decisions designed to build stronger loyalty that may cost the company in the short run but result in customers becoming long term advocates.

3. An investment in doing things differently. For companies to become customer focused, individuals need to become customer focused and this often requires developing new skills and a new mindset.

These investments take courage, strong leadership and ultimately are only undertaken by leaders that really care about having a sustained impact on their organizations.

Is your leadership committed to aligning the business with its customers?

How to be a “game changer” in your business

We just recently released a new case study on the CMO of Franke, Charles F Lawarence. It tells the story of the impact a “Market Responsiveness Index” survey can have on your company and career.

Charles described the experience best himself:

“This MRI tool was a game changer for Franke and me personally.”

The tool allowed Charles to quickly gain insight into the organization he was leading. It highlighted areas of organizational  strength and weakness as it relates to customers and alignment around the Franke brand and customer experience.

More importantly, it provided a rallying point for change and action planning.

You can download and read more about Charles and the Franke story here.