Why People Empowerment is Essential to Delivering Memorable Customer Experiences

empower_your_people

Uber, a 5 year-old company recently valued at more than $60 billion, has smashed the taxi networks’ monopoly in many countries. Traditional taxi drivers were expected to follow rule-book procedures with little thought of passengers’ problems and experiences. Uber drivers have a mandate to satisfy and delight customers and they are empowered to do so. High customer satisfaction rates get drivers more jobs showing a direct connection between customer experience and success for Uber and for their drivers.

Costco employees are empowered to take back products purchased by their customers – no questions asked. This saves any potential embarrassment for customers and employees alike. Costco members are loyal and enjoy their experience more because they know if they make a poor purchasing decision, they can return the goods without any hassles.

UK retail giant Waitrose won an award at the UK Customer Experience Awards last year with an initiative called “Licence to Thrill”. This empowered customer service employees to go beyond the rules resulting in improved customer satisfaction rates and sales.

For employees to be effectively empowered they need to have the freedom and desire to act for the customer, the skill to implement the desired solution for the customer and the confidence to carry it through. In organizations that do not have a customer-centric culture this is very difficult for people to do. They will be restricted by a rule-book of business-centered processes, will have reduced motivation to act outside the “book” and will lack confidence – believing their decisions to help the customer will not be supported by their managers.

A strong customer culture embraces employee empowerment to satisfy customers resulting in memorable customer experiences, brand loyalty, increased customer retention and advocacy – and sustainable revenue and profit growth.

Read more about it in The Customer Culture Imperative.

Who is the world’s best performing team?

All_Blacks_Haka

When All Blacks coach, Graham Henry (later knighted for his services to rugby), took over as coach in 2004 he realized there was a need to change the culture of the organization – the players, coaching staff and administration. They needed to build in collaboration, resilience, innovation and good decision-making under pressure on and off the field. After a review, Henry and his wider team came to the view that “better people make better All Blacks”. He put together a team of support staff whose role was to help all the players not only with their fitness, diet, training and skills, but more importantly to build their character and attitudes as people leaders and understand their commitment to the team and to their fans in New Zealand and around the world.

Henry set about building a collaborative leadership team composed of the senior players and senior staff. These on-field and off-field teams knew their roles and responsibilities and worked as a total team to build a winning culture designed to continue the legacy of the great All Blacks teams of the past.

When the New Zealand All Blacks lost to the French in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 it was a shock to the players, coaches and 4 million New Zealanders – the entire population of the country. Henry realized there was more to do so he hired two outside consultants, one a psychologist, and both Black Belt karate experts, to develop a mental skills program to raise the ability of players to handle pressure on the rugby field. They educated the players on how the brain works and each player had triggers to help keep focused when under pressure and when unexpected things happened in the game. This added to their resilience as players and enabled them to handle extreme pressure in tight games and when things were turning against them.

“Better people make better All Blacks”

This program of development has continued and with consistency of players and coaching staff over time has created a consistent world beating team.

The All Blacks won the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups and with a winning rate of higher than 90% over the last 10 years are regarded by many as the best performing team globally in any sport.

Questions to ponder in your business:

How well do your “on-field customer facing teams” and “off-field support teams” collaborate for the benefit of customers and the community?

How well do you support your leaders as “whole” people, not just in terms of skills, but also in terms of their attitudes and alignment of their personal values and priorities with your business’s mission and vision?

Focus on collaboratively creating and delivering superior value for customers is a galvanizing goal for all people in your business – when embedded as a culture it brings out the best in your people that benefits them, your customers and your business performance.

You can learn more in our best selling book, The Customer Culture Imperative.

5 ways the insurance industry is being disrupted

Game_Changer_Disruption

The insurance industry is facing a shake-up. The traditional model using specialist agents who communicate with their customers around the time insurance premiums are to be renewed and offer generalist solutions is being disrupted.

  1. Consumer needs and demands are changing. Independent online research sources enable consumers to buy online, compare alternative offers and enhance self-service choices. Insurers will need to offer more personalized products that take account of individual circumstances and provide more transparency in their pricing.
  2. Sites such as Friendsurance enable friends to pool their premiums and is an example of how social networks are bypassing traditional insurance companies. As these grow they will impact incumbents.
  3. Car manufacturers are looking to add value to their offerings and through technology will have the ability to offer tailored insurance based on a driver’s history rather than industry wide statistics. Just as they bundle in car servicing they have the ability to bundle in insurance as an overall car package.
  4. As more car sharing takes place and the number of low frequency drivers increases premiums can be restructured to cover “pay as you use”.
  5. Many new competitors will be pure play online companies as we now see with specialized travel insurance companies like 1Cover. There will be many specialized market niches for them to attack.

Incumbent insurance companies will need to build a cultural capability around customer and competitor foresight – a capability that is attuned to future customer needs and future competitive threats. This will require a cultural agility that enables them to innovate and act before customer changes and new competitor models break the floodgates and seriously erode their businesses and their future.

Is your company being disrupted or a disruptor?

You can read more about what you must do to build customer and competitor foresight in The Customer Culture Imperative.

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!

Trust – An essential Ingredient for Customer-Centric Leadership

 

Trust it the Foundation for Customer Centricity

Trust is the Foundation for Customer Centricity

A strange dynamic is happening in the run-up to the US Presidential nominations and voting for the November Election. The two front-runners leading up to Super Tuesday were Bernie Sanders (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican), both unlikely candidates. Sanders is believed to be a left wing socialist and Trump is an irreverent, anti-establishment, “say it as he sees it” first time politician. Both are seen to be extreme in their views in relation to the ruling Washington establishment.

How has this happened? It’s happened because the existing establishment politicians on both sides of politics have lost the trust of the American people – their customers. You cannot lead without your customers’, employees’ and key stakeholders’ trust in your vision, your ability to carry it through, your authenticity and your commitment to the long haul for their and everyone’s benefit.

Stephen Covey (Speed of Trust, 2006, p.1) says:

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love…….That one thing is trust.”

Today there is a strong movement in all types of organizations to improve their customers’ experience. This requires customer-centric leadership that takes the view that “what’s best for the customer is best for the business.” For that to occur these organizations must have a strong customer culture which can only be developed by leaders who are trusted by their employees. We see trusted leadership in companies like LEGO, Starbucks, P&G, IKEA and the Virgin Group of companies.

What is the level of trust in leaders in your organization?

It’s LEGO, not EGO – collaboration is central to LEGO’s customer-centric culture

The name LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well”. It was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen and remains a family owned company. It has incorporated a number of characteristics specific to the Danish culture, such as a non-hierarchical structure – which translates into a very flat organisation in LEGO. So they look for people who are going to embrace collaboration and have fun. Even in sales teams that are normally very competitive they look for people to be more collaborative to partner and work with their teams to build longer-term customer relationships and brand loyalty.

There is no room for “EGO” at LEGO where employees at every level are expected to challenge their boss as a means of coming up with the best ideas.

LEGO’s CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp says “Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help OR ask for help.” This is reinforced by the owners of LEGO, who promote collaborative family values.

David Gauntlett, in his contribution to the book LEGO Studies (Mark Wolf, 2014) sees LEGO bricks (the product made up of interconnecting parts) as a social tool, fostering connection and collaboration spurring the potential of children and adults and their natural imagination. New employees are already customers who use the LEGO system to create new products – in many cases part of the job interview is to design a new LEGO product from a bunch of bricks provided.

Collaboration – up, down and across the organization and with suppliers and customers – is a secret to LEGO’s spectacular growth over the last 10 years. It has given them the capability of customer foresight – a cultural ability to develop and deliver new products that excites their customers’ imaginations and creates incredible loyalty and advocacy.

To find out more about how you can create this culture in your business, read our book, “The Customer Culture Imperative“.

Lexus – a beacon of customer centricity

lexus_windy_road

The auto manufacturing industry will soon be under siege – impacts are already being felt with easy consumer access and convenience of services like Uber, better public transport, parking costs and restrictions in increasingly large cities around the globe and technological advances in communications propelling less commuting between home and work.

Traditionally auto dealers have focused on each transaction – just getting a sale – and not on nurturing the long term relationships with their customers that will make them lifetime brand loyalists.

Lexus is an exception. Nick Dieltiens, a customer centricity consultant based in Europe, tells us of his experiences when working with Lexus in Europe. First the mindset. It’s not about the “car”, its about the “customer’s journey”. This is illustrated by the fact that on the rare occasions when a Lexus broke down in the French Alps, Lexus arranged for a helicopter to be flown in to collect the stranded family and fly them to their destination.

Also, customer service people at Lexus in Europe are empowered to make the decision to take back a car if the customer is not entirely satisfied with the purchase. Nick tells the story of a senior Lexus executive taking back a car from a customer because the remote control would not connect to the customer’s garage door and the issue could not be fixed. So the executive purchased a Mercedes at a discounted price and provided it to his customer at that discounted price.

The next car the customer bought was a Lexus.

The customer culture in many Lexus dealerships in Europe is strong. Staff are trained to observe Lexus vehicles on the road. If one is see with a broken tail light, they would wave down the driver where safe to do so, give them their car, take the car to get the light fixed free of charge and return the car to the owner.

You may think this costs Lexus a lot of money. It may cost a little more in the short term, but it pays off in a big way with high customer loyalty in car servicing and repeat purchase.

The most important investment by Lexus is in building and retaining a customer culture! This will be essential for all auto companies if they want to grow their businesses in future.