Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School, UK, carried out in-depth interviews with leaders in more than 100 private and public organizations around the world to identify what is required for organizations and leaders to be successful. He came to the conclusion that the starting point for any successful organization or individual must be ‘value’.
He says; “The insights from my research have a deceptive but refreshing air of simplicity: success is about delivering value and this is best and most reliably achieved through engaging with people, markets and data and then gathering evidence on that reality and making decisions accordingly.”
This research supports the notion that being customer-centric requires the creation and delivery of superior value to our customers. This ‘value’ mindset must prevail throughout the entire organization. Kakabadse found that ‘diversity of thinking’ is a key element in the creation of value. This enables, through teamwork and collaboration, a blending of ideas and viewpoints that results in innovative new products, services and processes that add value for customers. This should be supported by evidence – that is, feedback from and contributions by customers.
The Virgin Group has a mantra that says; “there is always another way.” This cultural norm encourages new ideas, differences of viewpoint.
IDEO’s core business is based on building new products using a diversity of viewpoints during their design thinking process. At IDEO they suggest there are three elements: inspiration, ideation and implementation. In their words: “Inspiration is the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions. Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.”
When this approach to value is applied to building a customer-centric organization it galvanizes the change required to sustainably create and deliver superior value for customers. But it must become part of the customer culture.
You can find out more in The Customer Culture Imperative: A Leader’s Guide to Driving Superior performance.
Actions are more powerful than words
Customers are smart, they recognize pretty quickly if the messages you and your company are sending match up with reality.
You say you are customer focused but then you communicate poorly, deliver a product that doesn’t work and then I can’t get hold of you when I need a solution.
Unfortunately this is still a common refrain for many customers. This lowers customer expectations so much that companies that just get it right really stand out. Wow! you did what you said you would and it solved my problem……what a great experience!
Virgin is a company that really recognizes how to manage expectations. This allows them not only to do what they said they would do but go the extra mile and surprise customers. This approach to exceeding customer expectations in turn creates more value and leaves their competition in the dust.
Here is Sir Richard Branson discussing how Virgin delivers on this approach:
“Doing things better doesn’t have to cost more – all it takes is a little creativity and attention to hiring, training and management…… rather than providing rules or scripts, you should ask them [employees] to treat the customer as they themselves would like to be treated – which is surely the highest standard”
Even if your strategy is not to focus on customer service as a differentiator ensuring your actions align with your words is crucial.
Ryanair don’t pretent to promise an outstanding customer experience, in fact in many ways it appears they go out of their way to treat customers poorly. They do however deliver on their fundamental promise “fly cheaper”.
The real problems come when companies over promise and under deliver. Do this consistently and customer trust erodes quickly.
Are your actions aligned with your promises?
Last week we had our first webinar in the Market-Driven Leadership series and I was honored to host Jeffrey Hayzlett the former Chief Marketing Officer of Eastman Kodak.
One of the topics raised from his new book, “The Mirror Test” was the idea of “Conditions of Satisfaction”. The idea is to drive change and improvements in organizational performance by establishing the critical elements a company must deliver on to satisfy customers. Once these are established they can be used to rally people around delivering.
Jeff shared his experience during a recent McDonalds drive through where he was asked to wait to the side for his order. This action was a clear break in the McDonalds conditions of satisfaction. Many customers go to McDonalds because they are busy, they need fast service and want to get their food and get on their way. Every time McDonalds fails this test they fail to deliver on their conditions of satisfaction…
It is a nice model for thinking about how as marketers we can rally the organization around its purpose and really deliver on it.
If you are interested in seeing the full recorded webinar click here.