How to Inspire and Drive the Very Best Customer Experiences and Customer Service
Inspired customer leadership in the very best companies on earth came from the heart and soul of the impassioned leader of the organization who had an instinct on where to take the business for customers, and absolute clarity on how to inspire the organization to make it happen.
Lands’ End, for example, when it began started in a humble walk up building in Chicago’s sailing hardware district – and it was Gary Comer’s personal vision that moved the company forward. In fact, even as we grew, he pulled us back to our roots, saying “Think small, think one customer at a time…the rest will take care of itself.” And it did.
YOU are the impassioned leader they look to – and how you inspire and motivate their purpose and performance will impact how they feel about their job.
Take these actions to differentiate your leadership actions and to keep your team motivated now!
Communicate that purpose for your business. This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many companies have every part of their company defining what they do separately – the parts don’t add up for customers. For example, one emerging home builder changed his mission from ‘building contractor’ to ‘delivering on the American Dream.’ That was as much for his internal team (probably more) than for customers. Do this litmus test to see how connected your company is in knowing the higher mission they all collectively serve for your customers.
The next ten people you speak to, simply ask them; “What’s your job?” and “What’s our collective job?” You’ll be surprised at the varied answers you’ll get. No wonder – if you haven’t been the beacon for them telling them where you’re headed, they’ll chart their own course. They’ll decide on their own where they’re taking your company for customers.
Establish your own set of guidelines for how to treat customers. Consider the various dimensions of your business and make a set of statements about how each one of them should show up to customers. Be clear about what the frame of reference should be in people’s minds for making decisions about each dimension and what your standards for customer treatment are.
Track and trend complaints and do something about it. Beyond the conversations you have with the frontline, give them some sort of tool to track and trend those issues. By doing this, you have an immediate “hand on the throttle” management device for steering your company. As you track this feedback month after month and year after year, the trends will help you understand in more detail what your customer needs are. Most importantly, this type of discipline will let you take “real time” action on resolving issues that may be sending your customers away.
I know that everyone wants to survey their customers – but really – we’ve exhausted our customers with the mass that goes out with no apparent action that follows. If you must survey to get that statistical data we all crave, you will find that it validates what you will have already found out by trending and tracking customer complaints and issues. In fact, if your survey is telling you new things you don’t know – you’re just way too distant from your customers – and in a most precarious position in your relationships with them.
Give the front line the training, support and tools to do their job. The frontline is the company to your customers. This is not the place to cut costs. Ensure that you allocate ample resources to ensure that they have what they need to give your customers what they need. This means ample communication from you (that won’t cost a thing), but also the right training, skill development and technology resources. There’s nothing worse, for example, than putting a customer through watching their sales rep struggle with slow response time or inadequate support materials, or listening to a service operator struggling with a system to find customer information.
Conduct a quarterly or monthly customer loss review meeting. This is a potent profit management technique you can begin today. To prep for this meeting, compile the data on customer defections so that you know which customers you lost and why. In addition, assign your key lieutenants to make outbound calls to up to ten customers who have left during the month or quarter to find you why they left. There’s nothing quite as compelling as a customer speaking right to someone who has accountability for making something happen.
Customers are often so amazed by the effort that they consider trying the company again. After the calls have been completed, convene the meeting to discuss what’s happening with your customers and what is driving them away. In that meeting get alignment on how to prioritize the issues and assign accountability. Use subsequent loss review meetings to track progress on resolving issues, continuing the process of calling customers who defected.