Category Archives: Market Culture in Action

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.

You can’t fake customer-centric culture

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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.

How a customer culture has created “The Amazon Effect”: A vision of the Future

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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.

Customer Centric Leaders have a Service Focus where Authenticity Trumps Ego

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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.

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

How a Customer Centric Culture can save lives

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The team at MarketCulture recently ran a one day leadership workshop in Sydney, as is often the case we get to hear some incredible stories of the power of customer thinking.

One that really stood out was the story of a driver for Virgin Trains.

Virgin Trains is a great story of a business that is always trying to improve the customer experience, Richard Branson is well known for saying “there is always another way to delight a customer.”

Many people would think why would you include train drivers in a program designed to improve the customer experience? They just need to drive the train, they are hidden away at the front with little interaction with actual customers.

Virgin did not believe this, their philosophy was that everyone matters when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. As a result the train drivers were included in workshops designed to help each employee think about their role in delivering great experiences.

A week or two after one of the sessions, a veteran train driver was taking the normal route he had taken for many years and as he rounded the bend on a bridge he noticed a slight bump on the tracks. It was not particularly unusual, small bits of debris can often end up on the tracks. However this time, with the recent customer thinking training on his mind, it made him think more deeply about the bump. More specifically he thought about the passengers on the train and his responsibility for keeping them safe.

He wondered whether passengers had noticed the bump? At the next stop he decided to radio the maintenance crews and report it. In the past it was not something he would normally do as it would mean an investigation of something that was in his 30+ years experience probably nothing.

He continued to the end of his journey for the day. As he pulled up to his last stop his shift manager was there waiting.

“That bump you radioed through”… the train driver winced thinking he wasted a bunch of people’s time… the Shift manager continued “our engineers were just out on that part of the track, it seems a strut supporting the bridge has failed. If we kept running trains over that section we would have had a derailment and hundreds of people could have died. I am so glad you noticed it, you have helped us all avoid a catastrophe. Even if it was nothing, I am glad you reported it, customer safety really is our number 1 priority.” The train driver was relieved, not only had he averted disaster but he had been empowered to do the right thing for customers even if it had consequences for the train’s operations.

The driver was later awarded outstanding employee of the year and celebrated at the annual Virgin Conference in the UK.

This is a powerful story about how customer thinking can help people connect their work to the bigger picture and their responsibilities in creating a great customer experience.

For more stories on Virgin Trains and other great customer centric companies you can check out our book, The Customer Culture Imperative

 

What is the kryptonite for disruptors?

Established businesses everywhere are under attack. The headlines are full of stories of business disruption. Entrepreneurs everywhere are building companies to unseat the entrenched firms.

While many think the answer is to invest in more technology, lobby government or follow their competitors actually the answer is right in front of them.

Our team in Sydney recently had the chance to sit down with Luke Jecks, the Global CEO of Naked Wines for his perspective. Listen to Luke talk about what he describes as the Kryptonite for disruptors, its a great lesson for anyone in business today:

So what’s the Kryptonite for disruptors? A Customer Culture or as Luke puts it:

“Love your customers”

If you spend time understanding and acting on your customers’ needs you will create loyalty that will keep you as immune as you can be to disruption.

So how did Naked Wines disrupt the wine industry?

Before Luke set up Naked Wines four years ago he was looking for an industry where customers felt disenfranchised. He found it in the Australian wine industry – a market dominated by two large retail chains owned by Coles and Woolworths that between them shared almost 70% of wine sales nationally. Not only did he find wine lovers who felt little connection with the vast array of brands but also boutique vineyards that were being squeezed out of the market by ever-narrowing margins and an inability to finance the next vintage.

Luke knew that if he could create a personal connection between winegrowers and consumers and a financial model that could provide more stability and certainty for wine growers he could build a new business.

He realized that he needed wine consumers as repeat customers and he came up with the idea of “angels’ – that is consumers as angel investors who would pay $40 per month and build up a credit in their account to be used to buy the boutique wines of their choice.

Four years after launch Naked Wines in Australia has more than 50,000 sustained angels, more than 35 boutique winery suppliers with an online communication and ordering system that connects them.

Annual Australian revenue of $30 million and more than $200 million globally is a testament to the fact that the whole Naked Wines team have a culture that enables them to “love” their customers.

Isn’t it time to create a customer culture in your business and build up your disruptor defenses?