As a leader it is not easy to “let go”. I find it a real discipline to delegate and enable others in our business to do it their way and to do what’s right for the customer. So many leaders rely on processes as a security blanket that enables them to feel comfortable with what is happening in their business.
But we can take a lead from Tony Collins, former CEO of Virgin Trains in the UK, who told me:
“I put my trust in people not processes”
Tony presided over the transformation of Virgin Trains from an internal oriented public service mentality (when Virgin took the franchise from British Rail) to a customer service culture with customer satisfaction levels and profitability as benchmarks for the European rail industry. This approach empowers people and teams to make their own decisions and not wait for approvals.
Supercell’s Founder wants to be the Least Powerful CEO
Supercell’s CEO, Ilkka Paananen, believes the less leaders control the more powerful their companies. Supercell, a Finnish company, was worth about $10 billion in 2016 from the creation and marketing of games accessed by digital devices. Paananen says he wants to be the least powerful CEO in the world. He believes the best people will make the best teams that will produce the best games. He explains it this way: “What I mean by this is that the fewer decisions I make, the more the teams are making. In a dream scenario that means the team is making all the decisions. A couple of years ago, we were working on something called Smash Land. Everyone in the company loved it, and it was so close to meeting its targets but didn’t quite make them. So the team went to a sauna together, talked it out and took the decision to pull the plug. I was travelling at the time, so they didn’t bother to consult me – they just emailed the company to let them know. That’s just how Supercell should work.”
He was inspired by the Netflix approach to operate like a top sports team. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a former New Zealand All Blacks rugby coach who told me that they coach in the belief that “ better men make better All Blacks”. Players are empowered to make decisions under extreme pressure on the field without consultation with the leaders. This makes them a world beating team that almost always wins close games.
As a CEO of a very successful Telecoms company told me recently, when he and his senior team “got out of the way” and let their teams do what’s best for their customers, his company dramatically increased its customer retention rate and customer satisfaction levels resulting in earlier customer account payment – happy customers pay earlier. This translated directly into sustained revenue and profit growth.
These examples constantly remind me to trust my team and our partners to get on with it and create great experiences for our customers.
Learn more in our award winning book, the Customer Culture Imperative.
Posted in Customer Centric Leadership, Customer Centric Values, Empowerment, Freedom, Trust
Tagged all blacks rugby, customer centric leaders, empowerment, ilkka paanenen, supercell, tony collins, virgin trains
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.
When we measure the customer-centric culture of organizations around the world, one of the recurring themes is a low score on “empowerment”.
Lack of empowerment – real or perceived – has a huge impact on the ability of frontline staff to solve a customer’s problem. It also has a big impact on costs and is seen in many ways – duplication of work, mixed messages to customers, bottlenecks and slowdowns in customer service, and new product introductions – just to name a few.
For frontline staff to be empowered to solve customer problems or rapidly respond to customers’ requests a business needs a culture that encourages staff to be accountable for ensuring a solution for the customer is delivered. They need to have the confidence to make a decision that is right for the customer without fear of retribution from their managers if it seems to cost the business money. If they can’t fix it themselves they need to be confident that those who are alerted to the issue will fix it for the customer quickly.
A great example of this is seen in the hospitality industry. Chateau Elan, a boutique resort hotel with a property each in the United States and Australia has created an empowered culture in which a customer can ask any member of staff to do something for them – book a restaurant or a cab or get extra towels in their room. The immediate response by the hotel employee is “consider it done!”
This is an emphatic promise to the customer that it will be done. Not only does it give confidence to the customer but it empowers staff to collaborate and ensure the customer is satisfied.
How do you go about creating a customer culture of empowerment in your business?