Tag Archives: customer focused leadership; customer focused executives

Customer focused leaders are willing to take short term pain for long term gain

Customer Focused Leadership

Becoming a truly customer focused organization takes effort. Remember:

“Nothing worth doing comes easily”

There are substantial pay-offs to aligning your business with your customers. With the Market Responsiveness Index we have proven that customer focused businesses excel in every financial measure important from sales revenue and profit growth and overall profitability.

Unfortunately a key hurdle for many leaders comes when faced with the decision to sacrifice a short term profit in the hope of a longer term pay-off.

What do I mean by this?

There are three investments leaders must make in shifting the culture:

1. The investment of time, energy and thought to what it means to be customer focused. To paint a vision that people buy into and build a strategy to achieve that vision, just like any other business endeavor.

2. A financial investment in understanding customers in unique ways that will allow the company to compete more effectively in the future. There may also be decisions designed to build stronger loyalty that may cost the company in the short run but result in customers becoming long term advocates.

3. An investment in doing things differently. For companies to become customer focused, individuals need to become customer focused and this often requires developing new skills and a new mindset.

These investments take courage, strong leadership and ultimately are only undertaken by leaders that really care about having a sustained impact on their organizations.

Is your leadership committed to aligning the business with its customers?

Does your leadership have a monopoly on brainpower?

Monopoly on customer focused brainpower

In many organizations the leaders act as though they have all the answers.

In customer focused cultures the leaders recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere and their job is to create the environment in which creative thinking can flourish.

Who better than front line people to suggest ideas on how customer service can be enhanced? Why not ask finance how to improve the billing experience?

Unfortunately many organizations ignore this powerful resource by simply not asking or even worse asking and not taking any visible action on feedback received.

Customer focused cultures are closed loop environments where honest feedback is sought out, processed, acted on and communicated back.

I found a great story relating to this issue posted by Craig S. Fleisher on the Competitive Intelligence  forum.

To summarize:

A major international pet food manufacturer had been number one in its market space for decades; however, it had run into a period of market share erosion due to, among other things, new-fangled competitors who developed “gourmet” brands.

The CEO tasked their R&D and Marketing departments to work together to create a new product that could reverse this adverse tide. The R&D people went right to work looking at the composition of ingredients in all of their competitors’ foods, hoping to identify those “secret” ingredients that would help create a new success. They and their marketing colleagues “benchmarked” all of their competitors’ products.

About 12 months after the CEO’s challenge, the group had produced their newest product, which all of the data told them was going to be a huge hit and would help them regain and even add to their market share totals.

The product was launched with all the textbook marketing support a product manager could ever ask for. Coupons were given out, contests were held, web and media spots purchased, events held, celebrity spokespersons giving endorsements, and so on.

A year after its expensive launch, the new product barely registered in the marketplace. It had failed to achieve even a 1% share of its niche.

One late afternoon, the CEO called his executive team into one of their quarterly meetings and started asking questions of all his experienced executives who were a part of this task force about what had happened. Every one of the executives trotted out their reports, PowerPoint slide shows, pages of impressive looking statistics, and the like. The CEO heard for nearly an hour about city-by-city sales figures, competitor reactions, ad pick up rates, pricing considerations, channel efficiencies, etc.

Finally, after the marketing head had finished his spiel, the custodial staff member who had come into the room to clean and tidy it reluctantly chose to open his mouth. He commented, with a shaky voice, “I think I know what happened. I brought home several samples of the stuff you had laying around the offices and gave it to my dog Blackie (a big Labrador who was known for his ravenous appetite). You know what happened next? He sniffed it, took a few kibbles, and walked away. He never would go near his bowl as long as that food was in it. He hated it.”

The smartest guys in the room had clearly focused on the competition at the expense of testing its product ideas with customers and it took the company cleaner to point out their mistake!

Does your leadership welcome input from staff and customers?

Customer Focused Executives Lead by Example

Telstra Executives spend a day in the call center

It was great to see the leadership of one our largest clients take action recently by getting some hands-on front line experience with customers in their call center.

There is no better way to demonstrate real commitment to building a customer focused organization than rolling up the sleeves and getting your hands dirty. All of the customer centric benchmark organizations we have worked with have very hands-on executives. It’s really about walking the talk.

Congratulations David and John I hope this becomes part of the new Telstra way.

You can hear more from John Stanhope, Telstra’s CFO on our new easyLearn site that has lots of tools and templates for creating customer focused behavior in large organizations.