Customer Experience

How To Create Customer Centric Culture?

Everyone who touches a customer needs to be a steward of the brand and seek opportunities to deliver value and create revenue. Everyone else in the organisation ultimately supports people who interact with customers – back office and technical staff therefore have frontline employees as their internal customers. Customer service is the new sales model in a world where social media gives every consumer the ability to instantly damage or build a supplier’s brand. Unhappy customers tell everyone who will listen and they can do real damage to your brand. Your website, other digital points of presence and social media strategies must be used to empower staff to engage customers and stakeholders in meaningful conversations, not just to project your sales and marketing messages.

Rather than restricting staff in their internet and social media activities, consider thoughtfully implementing programs that educate and empower staff to be transparent and responsive to customers through any channel. Be clear with your employees that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability. Also be transparent and communicate openly to staff and customers that when mistakes are made you always seek to rectify the problem to the complete satisfaction of the customer.

To ensure productivity and control, provide tools to staff such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems with embedded social media feeds delivering a ‘single source of the truth’ about customers. Implement ‘web to lead’ systems so that when a customer interacts with your website you have a system to capture their interest or complaint. Especially reward staff who listen in social channels and convert unhappy customers into advocates – every complaint or negative Tweet about your brand is a sales opportunity! Reward staff who refer new business regardless of whether they work in the sales department. Most importantly, acknowledge staff who go above and beyond their job description or market expectations in delivering exceptional customer service.

Vision, mission and values statements are meaningless without validation through the actions and behaviours of employees. Personal attitudes and values must be aligned with the corporate ethos and connected with emotion. To achieve this consider your vision, mission and values statements and then write something new: ‘Here at our company we believe …’ Then define how these beliefs should manifest in the attitudes and actions of you and the team. Make it real with examples and acknowledge those who exemplify the culture and values. Consider the effectiveness of Richard Branson who personifies the Virgin brand. It can be argued that Richard Branson is the Virgin brand and he ensures that every Virgin business obsessively hires based on cultural fit. This is because they know they can train skills but it is very difficult to alter attitudes and values.

Conversely, look at the disaster of Enron where the appalling values within the leadership drove recklessness and greed that spread like a cancer to eventually destroy the corporation and harm hundreds of thousands of lives. Enron’s caustic culture was their biggest commercial risk and it festered behind a paper-thin facade of clichéd mission, vision and values statements.

The leader is the culture and poor hiring, especially within senior ranks, introduces significant brand and business risk. Corporate and individual reputations take years to build and can be lost in an instant through the misbehaviour of an individual. Because the foundation of positive culture is values, authentic leaders are committed to a solid moral framework regardless of whether anyone is watching. Anthony Howard is a thought leader on moral leadership and his white paper, It’s Time For Moral Leadership, is a must read for exploring this in greater depth.

The reality is that there will always be a gap between aspiration and execution but without striving to become better we do not grow. Look deeply at the value you bring customers and markets to identify the higher purpose of what you do. How do you impact individual lives and society? In what way are you a force for good in the world? Instilling a foundation of positive values and beliefs for making a difference is tremendously powerful in harnessing human energy to build your enterprise and brand.

As a leader, first strive to be a good human being who places customers and staff ahead of your own needs. Be a force for good and, rather than criticise, encourage and seek solutions. Be energetic and passionate about the success of your team and customers. Be accountable and driven to achieve results.

In summary: Define what you believe about yourself and your organisation concerning the value you offer your customers, markets, investors and employees. Then document how these beliefs should emotionally impact behaviours at every level. Begin with yourself and become obsessively focused with customer success and bring your entire team on the journey of change so that every individual can personally own the right values and embody the culture. The leader’s actions need to be the culture. Constantly ask yourself: How are my actions evidencing the culture we claim to have? Be the change you seek in your organisation and carefully recruit only those who share your customer centric values. Empower and liberate the team to represent the brand and trust them to step up and do the right thing.

These are the key ingredients for creating a positive customer-centric culture:

  1. Focus on your higher purpose relevant to customers when defining your culture and create emotional connections for all staff.
  2. Use a mirror, not a manual, to transform your organisation by living the values to transfer the culture.
  3. Carefully hire only those who are culturally aligned and have proven themselves to possess the necessary attitudes and values.
  4. Empower and liberate all staff to embody the culture and represent the brand. Trust the team to step up and reward and recognise those who create customer magic.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Nick Webb

      Message To CEO – Change Your Job Description

      Have you ever looked at the management team sitting around the boardroom table and wondered, who are the most important people here? If you’ve had the privilege of being a father, you’ll be familiar with the question: ‘Am I your favorite?’ We love all of our children to the same degree but in different ways because they’re unique. Later in life, most little girls grow up to be women, marry and then ask: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ I’ve come to learn that there is no good answer to that question even if you respond with: ‘For me, you are the most beautiful woman in the whole world.’ Yeah – right; it’s the dog-house for you.

      As a leader, it’s always a mistake to play favorites or comment on the size of someone’s rear-end; instead we must value difference in building balanced teams. All of us in leadership roles stand or fall on our values, competence, and the team we which we surrounded ourselves. IQ and EQ are both essential – intelligence and wisdom, energy and discipline, inner strength and humility, financial management and people skills.

      Success is a team sport and it’s amazing what can be accomplished if you always pass the credit to others but accept responsibility for failure yourself. The desire to be the smartest person in the room stifles collaboration and crushes the creativity of others. Hiring people just like you creates terrible blind-spots in perspective and weaknesses in execution – the best leaders hire complementary traits, experience and personalities.

      But there is another side to great leadership – the willingness to face the awful truth and accept that the biggest problem and opportunity for your business is in the mirror. Your personal values and behaviors are the culture of the organization. Even if the problem is with others, they are your responsibility because you either haven’t fired them or failed to get beside them and support them in overcoming the issues.

      Forgive me for the generic assertion but I’m right most of the time – sales management is the weak link in your revenue chain. You don't really understand the sales machine and so much about it frustrates you. The results should be predictable, the reports should be trustworthy, the forecast should be accurate, the pipeline real – but selling is a mysterious black box to you and the people feeding you with information seem to be flaky. You are part of the problem because you don't understand complex selling, yet you wrongly regard it as being like every other direct reporting line. You can't lead that way – The Board will eat you alive, the market will punish you. Worse still, you or those within your team could succumb to the temptation to make bad decisions driven by desperation to hit the numbers.

      Here’s the reality of business. One problem, above all others, is terminal – lack of revenue. Every other problem can be managed, massaged, resolved; but shrinking revenues are fatal. For some enterprises cost-cutting is strategic but for most it is a mere tactic and all it usually does is stall the inevitable. It’s rarely a winning strategy to engage in a ‘race to the bottom’.

      Revenue, on the other hand, is like air-speed – it creates lift. You can have the most beautifully engineered aircraft in the world but without airspeed it will never fly. Sales is the thrust that creates forward momentum, and with enough speed you can lift-off, climb and soar into the wild blue yonder. Your sales and marketing team is the engine that creates thrust, their commitment and passion is the fuel – prospects and customers are the wind beneath your wings. In proper aeronautical terms, they are the low pressure area above the wing that sucks you upward.

      But as you survey your generals [I swear this is true: Word somehow changed ‘generals' to ‘genitals’… funniest autocorrect I’ve experienced and very happy I caught it on the proof-read!] sitting around the boardroom table, do you see commanders of fiefdoms acting in their own best interests? Or do you see a unified team, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and act in best interests of the greater good? Are sales, marketing, customer support and service disjointed? These are the most important roles around the management table and they need to be united in their vision and commitment. You are their common leader, the catalyst to bring them together. But you need to create the right focus and set the right agenda.

      Sales and marketing must especially be an integrated function; simmering hostility or finger-pointing cannot be allowed to prevail. They must come together to define and map customer engagement lifecycle. Everything from social media thought leadership, brand building, website education, differentiating video content, reasons to contact and then the entire sales cycle, on-boarding and retention through to case studies and upselling. Beyond your product, service or solution; what’s the customer experience you can create that sets you apart? How can you be the most insightful, helpful and the easiest supplier to deal with in the eyes of your customers?

      You must take personal control – it’s too important to delegate. You need to become Chief Revenue Officer with sales, marketing, support and service all reporting directly to you. Set a vision for the customer experience you want to create that will outshine your competitors. Facilitate workshops to brainstorm the future-state of your company. Gag anyone who wants to talk about technology. Force them all to first define and then workflow the end-to-end customer experience your clients deserve. What is your customer relationship management strategy and what are the metrics and KPIs that guide you on the path?

      Don't approve any investment request that comes to you for technology; CRM, social, and marketing automation included, unless they can clearly articulate where it fits within the end-to-end strategy. You need to drive a culture of customer success though best possible customer experience with every touch-point providing consistent high levels of service. Maybe you will appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) in the future but for now you will grasp the role yourself. It’s a terrifying role because you cannot manage revenue or results; you can only manage activities and inputs. That’s the very reason why these next two roles must also be assumed by you personally to instil the vision, unity and discipline in your team and throughout the entire organization.

      CEO should really stand for: Chief Example Officer.

      CEO and Chief Customer Experience Officer. Align the business for buyer engagement. Create retention strategies based on irresistible value and service. Love your people and customers. Delight them, inspire them, and show them a better way. Create emotional connections to the way you do business.

      CEO and Chief Culture Officer. Love your staff and serve them with all you have. Be Chief Encouragement Office. Take your vision, mission and values statements off the wall and write them on everyone’s mind and heart. Bring it all to life in the way you live and lead. Be authentic – ditch the persona and instead be human in how you operate. It will cascade down through the organization and the market will notice. You’ll be ‘the good guys’ in your industry and partners and customers will want to do business with you over anyone else. Are you brave enough? This case study can show you how it can work.

      CEO/CRO/CCEO/CCO… it has a ring to it, doesn't it. Seriously, no need to put this inane mind-boggling acronym string on your business card or LinkedIn profile but ensure no-one is in doubt about your obsession. Customer intimacy combined with innovation to create the best market-leading customer experience is the most powerful form of differentiation. This, combined with a motivated and competent sales team is what creates profitable revenue, the life-blood of any enterprise.

      How many business out there already have a CRO or similar role that brings sales, marketing, service and customer support all together under a single leader? What are the barriers you see to breaking down fiefdoms for the benefit of customers and the prosperity of the business?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: John Taylor

      Why Customer Experience Trumps Customer Service

      Andrew Vorster is a brilliant futurist and technologist from the UK and we were both speaking at a recent Customer eXperience (CX) conference. He made the important distinction between customer service and customer experience while explaining how technology is disrupting traditional business models. I asked him how he sees the customer experience of the future. Here is his response.

      "I have to start out by saying that many people I come into contact with immediately start talking about 'customer service' as soon as I say 'customer experience'. I point out that while customer service is an important facet of the customer experience, most people will only experience your customer service once they are a customer."

      "But the customer experience begins way before that point in time and it's a large component of how your brand is perceived"

      "Marketing departments are therefore been the early adopters of technology, constantly seeking new ways to augment and amplify engagement by using technology. Take for example this stunt pulled by Pepsi in London which is an example of people experiencing the brand, augmented by technology. The goal of a customer experience is to evoke positively memorable emotion and I think Pepsi certainly hit the mark on this occasion."

      But it’s not just about a new advertising format. I constantly ask clients about how they can you use the 'Internet Of [their Company’s] Things' to enhance customer experience. There is a fantastic example of how Samsung proposes to use its own technology to save lives on the road in Argentina by rendering its trucks 'see through'. This is a incredible example of using technology to improve lives and deliver innovative customer experience."

      Andrew believes this technology should be rolled-out globally and that those who lead with practical innovation that improves lives create powerful following. I asked him how he thinks it converts to revenue.

      "Can you imagine the first time you experienced one of these trucks on the road? I think that the enhanced customer experience would make you think very positively about Samsung as a technology company and would quite possibly influence your next purchase decision."

      "When you enhance customer experience you increase loyalty. Rather than pushing marketing messages and offers, think about how to create exceptional customer experience. Meat Pack is a trendy footwear store in Guatemala and they used a clever combination of technology including indoor location sensors and real time marketing to generate the kind of customer experience that its target market would love.  Hang in there watching this video explaining how 'Hijack' works... it has customers sprinting at break-neck speed to do business with them."

      Meat Pack's “Hijack” campaign successfully created a buzz around the brand on social media through customer advocacy – who wouldn’t want to share that kind of experience with their friends? I came across a great advertising campaign in Australia the day before my opening keynote – it’s for Hahn Superdry beer and the slogan goes “if you’re not collecting experiences, you’re not living” (https://experiencecollectors.com.au/). The campaign is full of aspirational dreams and activities that many of us stuck in suburbia might yearn for but deem to be way out of reach. But that’s not the point. The point is that deep down, we are all “experience collectors”. How will you leverage technology in the future to give your customers an experience worth collecting?"

      Andrew makes excellent points and is not saying that great customer service isn't important. He highlights that service should fit within the overall customer experience that you create well before someone becomes a client. How do people feel about you and your brand before becoming a customer. Sales and marketing must work together to innovate and create best end-to-end customer experience.

      Contact Andrew here in LinkedIn and also follow his Publisher page. If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main image photo by Flickr: Craig Sunter - Some people are just never happy!