Category Archives: Market Culture Inaction

Can you continue to charge customers after they are dead?

I_fee_dead_people_chris_taylor

Source: Chris Roy Taylor https://twitter.com/chrisroytaylor

Many company leaders don’t know the difference between front-line customer focus and real customer centricity (and some don’t seem to care). This leads to devastating results.

These days many companies collect a large amount of data from customers and use this to analyze to what extent they are customer-centric. This includes customer satisfaction data, customer advocacy metrics like net promoter scores and other customer feedback related to customer interactions with the company.

They fail to realize that these data averages are only a small part of the picture – and not the most important part.

Authentic customer centricity is a culture across all parts of a business that reflects a mindset that believes “what’s best for the customer is best for the business”. It also requires employee behaviors and company processes in every business unit, function, and level endeavor to meet the needs of their customers. Also to provide value for money and deliver a consistently great customer experience – before, during and after all customer interactions.

The current Royal Commission into banking practices in Australia has unearthed some very unsavory practices – charging fees to some customers for services they never received, continuing to charge fees on customer accounts after people have died – and continuing these practices over several years. It is also uncovering the “bad” advice for some clients by some financial planners – something already uncovered in previous investigations. This is clearly a failure of leadership either governed by self-interest or not really have the customers’ interests at heart.

Why is this persisting? It is because many leaders in this industry do not understand the difference between front-line customer focus and real customer centricity!

These same banking organizations have studied their own customer service scores and concluded they are customer-centric. They fail to realize that weaknesses in customer culture can be devastating. Even now at the early stages of this banking investigation, customer and community trust in banks is dramatically reduced and their share prices have dropped.

It is time leaders spend some time understanding this difference and taking action with all their employees to embed a true customer first culture in all parts of their businesses. If they don’t they will inevitably suffer the fate of the banks – more regulation, lost community trust, reduced profitability and customers lost to industry disruptors.

Find out how to do it in The Customer Culture Imperative.

Learn how to implement a methodology that measures and benchmarks your customer-first culture against the most customer-obsessed organizations across the globe.

Learn how to develop a customer culture roadmap and initiatives that will reduce your culture risk and create sustainable long-term customer trust and business performance.

Failure of Culture: Australian Cricketers do the Unthinkable.

Cricket Bowler in Action

The game of cricket is central to Australia’s self-image – we believe we play the game hard but fair and always within the spirit of giving everyone a fair go, whether it be a sport, business or in our relationships with people. As a country, we don’t cheat but want to win fair and square.

When someone does something wrong, we say “it’s just not cricket”.

Universally recognized as the greatest cricketer (and one of the greatest sportsman anywhere) of all time, Australian Sir Donald Bradman, said: “When considering the stature of an athlete, I place great store on certain qualities to be essential in addition to skill. They are that a person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and perhaps most of all modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination, and competitiveness”.

In March 2018 when the Australian cricket captain, vice-captain and a new player to the team were caught on camera and admitted to a preplanned act to illegally tamper with the cricket ball during a game to make it more difficult for the opposition batsmen to hit, it struck at the heart of what it means to play the game, but more fundamentally struck at the heart of who Australians think they are as a nation – “we are not cheaters”.

In the 2015 Deflategate controversy in America’s National Football League (NFL) it was alleged that Tom Brady, the famous New England Patriots quarterback, probably knew of the footballs being supplied for games by his team were deliberately deflated. This ended with Brady receiving a 4 game suspension and the Patriots receiving sanctions.

This is not new in cricket, football or in other sports – think cycling, think baseball, think Olympic athletes from a myriad of countries and sports. In some countries and sports, cheating is systematic and inherent in their culture.

But for Australian cricket, this was a tangible result of a failure of culture ending in an uproar from cricket fans and the public. Standards of the on-field behavior of Australian cricketers have been deteriorating for years with “sledging” (personal insults) of opposition cricketers becoming the norm. This type of mindset has lead to a “win at all costs” culture and ultimately to a belief that doing something illegal (so long as you can get away with it) is acceptable. Some reports suggest that this ugly behavior has flowed down through the grades of cricket even to schoolboy cricket.

Unlike the famous All Blacks, New Zealand’s world champion national rugby union team, Australian cricket – some players, coaching staff, administrators – has lost sight of who are its most important stakeholders – namely the fans and its custodian role of representing the pride of the Australian nation. In preplanning the ball tampering act no-one asked the question: “What would the fans think of this?” or “What would the average Australian think of us doing this?” More broadly – “what do the majority of Australians think of our on-field behavior?” There was no consideration of the legacy left by Sir Donald Bradman.

This been a breach of trust that will take time and sustained effort to regain. It has also resulted in commercial losses from withdrawn sponsorships and likely reduced revenue from broadcast rights.

This is a lesson to all of us in business. What are we there for? – only ourselves or some greater cause?

When you are in doubt over a decision you are taking, ask the question: “What would our customers think of us doing this?” or even more personally “What would my mother think of us doing this?”

But, there’s an even bigger question.

Do we have a corporate culture that encourages good behavior and automatically doing the right thing by our customers and our community?

While seemingly abstract, your company culture produces tangible results for your customers – good or bad.

Our vision at MarketCulture is to help leaders understand the importance of building a customer-obsessed culture by engaging employees (or cricketers!). Our assessment, the MRI, provides valuable feedback to help leaders act on what is vital to deliver great customer experiences, which will lead to increased business performance.

Is your company customer obsessed? MarketCulture has a unique tool that can provide the strengths and weaknesses of your customer culture against 100’s of companies like Virgin, Apple, Google, and Amazon. Mention this post for a free pilot of the MRI today!

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.

How a customer culture makes or breaks new product success: A lesson from Comcast

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.

8 Dimension Performance Links

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:

Comcast New Product Intro

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….):

Comcast New Product Intro Reaction

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.

What happens when you don’t have a corporate culture obsessed with customers – Lessons from United

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A man is forcibly removed after not giving up is pre-paid seat on a United Flight

We witnessed one of the most extreme examples of what can go wrong in a business that has truly lost sight of its purpose.

As a former United Global Services member (United’s top tier for frequent fliers) I was appalled at how badly United handled a relative routine situation that probably happens multiple times a day in various cities across the US. What on first pass looked like the removal of a potential terrorist happened to be a paying passenger who was also practicing physician.

United sometimes over sells airline tickets in order to make sure they fill their flights and remain profitable. I am not against this practice, it makes business sense. However when this impacts customers, (and it inevitably will) this becomes a true test of an organization’s customer centric culture. Will it do what’s best for the customer? (A customer centric view) or will it protect a short term myopic view of its profits for that particular flight (a transactional view).

In this case United choose its policy and procedures over doing the right thing for its customers. Clearly there was an upper limit on what was available to be offered to make this situation right for their customers. United claims they offered $1000 to passengers to take another flight so that crew members for another flight could board to go to another plane – there were no takers. Instead of upping the compensation to a point that passengers felt like it was a fair deal, they decided to pick passengers based on their frequent flier status and other connecting flights. Three left peacefully although clearly unhappy and one refused resulting in the social media and traditional media storm that came after a video showed the passenger being forcefully removed.

Company Centric CEO Reaction – Oscar Munoz

Those of us that work in the culture space know that the CEO and top team set the tone and shape organizational culture.

Oscar’s initial response was to apologize for having to “re-accommodate these customers”. While externally he made attempts to diffuse the anger at the situation internally he sent a memo to employees that defended the crew’s actions, calling the passenger ‘disruptive and belligerent’ and praising his staff for going ‘above and beyond‘.

united_comment_twitter

I understand he wants to stand behind his employees, support them and not throw them under the bus for this incident but really he was trying to “protect” the company and the United Brand. This message also reinforces poorly thought out policies that do not get to the heart of what great companies do – they have a culture that puts the customer first.

Finally, two days later Mr Munoz has accepted responsibility for the disgraceful incident:

“I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard………. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

A colleague of mine recently relaid an experience he had in a very similar situation on an Emirates flight. He said they just kept increasing the enticement to get of the plane. Eventually enough people took up the offer. They ended up giving away 2 business class return tickets from Australia to Dubai  as well as accommodation plus $US600.

This price was small compared to what United will now go through…..

United takes a $255 million dollar bath.

The value of United has fallen by $255 million as a result of this one incident and the bad press and social media storm surrounding it. How much were they offering passengers to deplane again?

Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, termed United’s handling of the incident “brand suicide.”

“When you go onto a United flight, you shouldn’t have to be concerned there will be blood or you will get slammed in the face,” Schiffer said. “I think you will see an effect on sales from those who are disgusted by the gruesome action. And it’s catastrophic for a brand’s trust.”

No doubt United will lose customers and it deserves to, what comes next is a question of leadership and culture.

If all employees have a customer centric mindset and are empowered to do what is right by the customer this would not have happened.

That’s what we do at MarketCulture. We help companies understand the importance of putting the customer at the centre of the organization – a mindset that establishes the idea that “What’s best for the customer is best for the business”

Are you making life easier or harder for your customers?

A_frustrated_customer

The credit department of most organizations is quick to ask customers to pay their accounts – particularly if they are overdue. If you get a call from a certain cable company in the US and are asked to pay your account, it should be easy to do so – but it is not! The options you are given as a customer by the caller are:

  • you find your invoice and pay it
  • you go to a shop and pay it or
  • you go online and pay it

Each of these 3 options require you to do something – taking extra time you don’t have. The person calling you on the phone is not able to either send you another invoice (since you can’t find the original one) or take your payment by credit card. Their reminder call has already taken up your time and you are obliged to spend more time.

A simple change in process would add value for you as a customer. The current process reduces the value of your relationship with the company.

If customer relationships are important to your business find out if your finance department adds or reduces value for your customers. It may be inaccurate or confusing bills for the customer, difficulty in paying bills online or in person, unhelpful customer service people or confusing terms and conditions relating to payment. If it reduces value then you are at risk of losing customers through their frustration and dissatisfaction.

Being customer-centric is just as important for the finance department as it is for the marketing, sales and customer service groups. They need to have a view that they are not only collecting money, but they are in the business of retaining satisfied customers.

Without a strong customer culture, this behavior will continue, unquestioned as its just the way we do things around here

Don’t let this be the case in your company!

Macy’s Customer Experience: the good, the bad and the ugly.

RETAIL SALEMacy’s, like most retailers, has frequent sales to generate store traffic and boost sales. Here is an account of what happens in- store based on customers’ experiences.

The good: If something is purchased just a few days prior to an upcoming sale, Macy’s will offer the customer the sale price for the items purchased before the sale – that’s good!

The bad: The administrative process for sales assistants to record these pre-sale purchases at the sale price delays the customer 10-15 minutes for the procedure to be carried out. If there is a line of people having this done (which is common due to the shortage of staff on the floor) then a customer can be waiting 30-40 minutes. The pre-sale purchased products are put away for the customer to return to collect on sale day – that’s bad!

The ugly: The customer must return to the store during the “sale” period to collect the goods purchased pre-sale. Again, a line of people waiting for the sales assistant to go out back, locate the goods, bring them back to the counter and process the transaction – that’s ugly!

Why is it like this? The alternative can be such a better experience – either online or in stores that have streamlined processes and found added value to make it a much better experience for customers.

At Macy’s it seems that none of the executives or store managers have actually “walked in the shoes of their frustrated customers”. If they had they would be asking the questions:

What do we have to change to simplify this process for staff and shorten the wait for customers, knowing we are always short of staff on the floor?

How can we improve the customer’s experience while they are waiting in line?

What innovations can we introduce that will enhance the customer’s buying experience?

This is so basic, yet to even ask these questions requires a complete mindset and cultural change starting with senior leadership and through all levels of the organization. If Macy’s and similar stores can’t do this they will accelerate the shift to online buying and hasten their own demise.

You can read more on what it takes to become a customer centric organisation in our award winning book, The Customer Culture Imperative.