Tag Archives: corporate culture

6 questions on customer focus every leader must answer

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There has always been a lot of talk from business leaders about being customer driven, customer focused, customer centered in their business activities but what does that really mean?

Here are some key questions and answers to help leaders wanted to improve their organization’s level of customer focus:

1. Why be customer focused?

a. It pays – countless studies tell us businesses with high levels of customer focus sustain a growth path and are much more profitable

b. It’s more satisfying – a pat on the back from a customer makes the hard work all worthwhile

2. How does a customer focused business and team think?

a. It has a shared belief that “what’s best for the customer is best for the business”.

b. The customer is at the heart of all decisions – it is enacted by saying “How will this decision affect the customer; how will it benefit the customer?”

3. What do customer-focused people and teams do?

a. They get feedback from end customers and act on it

b. They get feedback from service provider partners and act on it

c. They gain insights on what bugs customers

d. They understand what will create real added value for intermediate and end customers

e. They realize that it’s the customer’s perception of what is valuable that counts, not their own view of what’s valuable

f. The biggest challenge is for us to gain a customer’s perception of what is really valuable

4. How can we measure how customer-focused we are?

a. Measure what people do in the business that affects the value delivered to customers – adding customer perceived value is a positive; doing non-value work is a negative

b. This comes down to how we behave – in relation to customers and competitors; how we collaborate with each other and our partners

5. What leads to loyal customers spending more and not considering the competition?

a. Personal relationships that create advocates

b. Consistent high value service delivery

c. Continually interacting with customers, listening for feedback, asking, customers how we are doing

d. There is great satisfaction in understanding a customer’s real need and helping them satisfy it

6. Who creates value for customers?

a. Everyone – if you are not creating value for customers, you are draining the business of its potential and future

b. The user experience is affected by everything the business delivers or does not deliver

c. Customers don’t care about your processes, they want a solution to their real problem

d. We should all be focused on solving the end user’s business problem/needs

To improve customer experience take a look inside your corporate culture

A Customer Experience Culture

There is a increasing recognition of the fact that a customer’s experience with your company plays a significant role in customer satisfaction, retention and profitability.

So where do you start with a customer experience initiative?

In our experience the best place to start is by defining a vision and goal for a customer experience initiative that inspires people to want to get involved. This creates a reason for change, a compelling vision of the new customer experience that will be created and delivered by the company over time.

While customer experience is a process that can be mapped, refined and improved over time what is important in the beginning is to capture the hearts and minds of the people that are going to have to deliver the new experience. Why should they do things differently, how will changes in their behavior benefit them?

A good place to start an initiative is to gain a sense of the organization’s current culture as it relates to customer experience. Is the company’s culture already customer focused? Meaning there will be less resistance to changes that will clearly benefit customers. Or is the culture an internally focused one that sees the customer as a necessary evil?

The Market Responsiveness Index and the Customer Responsiveness Index are two tools we use to gain a sense of where the culture lies against a benchmark. This provides a great rallying point for company’s to self diagnose just how big a journey they need to undertake.

Why culture is important to customer service – vonage example

Unfortunately I had to have our Vonage phone line canceled today. I was a big supporter of Vonage when they first launched, I felt they had a great value proposition – fixed price unlimited calling nationwide with low cost international calling and lots of cool online features to manage voice mails and call forwarding etc. I thought this was innovative new approach in a market dominated by monopoly style businesses.

But it seems at least for us they could not deliver on the basic need of a clear high quality call. So I asked our office manager to cancel our service.

What happened next was not an AOL type experience like below……

But it was unpleasant, the agents are obviously trained to try and retain you as a customer so they try and diagnose the problem and send you to customer support if its technical or offer a reduced rate. Meanwhile our office manager was getting frustrated just trying to get one of a thousand tasks done…

I think companies should really rethink this strategy, are there better ways to deal with exiting customers? Yes some can be saved but how do you treat the ones that just want to cancel?

Companies have two options:

1. Try as hard as possible to aggressively salvage the customer through different offers and risk leaving customers with a bad taste in their mouths

2. Just ask the customer permission to understand why they are canceling, if they are irritated just thank them for their business and process their request as fast as you can at least the customer does not feel like they were held hostage and if the customer divulges honestly why they are leaving the company has a chance to fix it.

These are really difficult areas of customer service to manage but ultimately the culture of the organization determines the tone that is set in all customer dealings. If the culture is one that supports a primary focus on delivering value for customers then when it is clearly not delivering it will take those opportunities as a chance to improve.

What do you think, does culture impact customer service?

Here are some great sources of information on building a customer service culture:

From: Customer Service Zone, Inc. Magazine and  Businessweek

Why culture is critical to being customer-centric

I came across this short video of Forrester researcher Peter Kim today which outlines their view on what it takes to make customer-centric real:

While I agree there are 3 ingredients to making customer centric real for customers, the cultural aspect is by far the largest challenge. Metrics and technology are enablers of culture change but ultimately people have to believe that the purpose of their organization is to create value for customers and as a result generate profits rather than the other way around. Without this mindset built into to the dna of the organization the goal of customer-centricity will always be off in the distance….

Tipping Our Way

In an article published in this month’s Fast Company magazine, Columbia professor cum Yahoo! researcher Duncan Watts debuffs Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of the Tipping Point. Using network simulations (whose alternative uses include predicting the spread of disease) Watts determined that the role of the Influencer, that highly connected firestarter of new trends, is not as important as previously believed. Trends propagated or withered, regardless of an Influencer’s presence. Networks that consisted of a few people who knew a few people were just as probably to reach critical mass as those venerated in The Tipping Point. Interesting read.

The conclusion that Watts comes to is that targeted viral marketing is really no more effective than good old fashioned mass marketing. I’m not a fan of this on many levels, one of which is highlighted by the number of offers I receive in my spam email folder. But another interesting take-away is this:
“Watts believes this is because a trend’s success depends not on the person who starts it, but on how susceptible the society is overall to the trend — not how persuasive the early adopter is, but whether everyone else is easily persuaded.”

So what is our society susceptible to?

It might be that corporate culture can affect the way you deal with your customers.  The subtitle of the 2008 New York Stock Exchange CEO Report is “Putting Customers First,” and the report proceeds to highlight the importance of the relationship with the customer.  From the executive summary:

  1. “The first  theme is that this may be the year in which there is a renewed vigor around the customer — 2008 may be a year where [sic] many CEOs put the customer at the top of the long list of issues on which they must focus.”
  2. “Brand, reputation, and investments in corporate social responsibility are more important this year — all efforts that are focused on winning the hearts and minds of the customer.”

Here are two core components of a corporate culture – executive leadership and shared company values – that must focus on the customer.  This is at the heart of a strong market culture, and the message we’re sharing.  Folks are starting to listen, and those that adopt these principles and apply them to their business the fastest are the ones that are going to keep their customers the happiest.