Where Do We Get Started? The Quick Hits Are Under Your Nose! 

By Lior Arussy

So you want to delight your customers. Your company realized that the price pressure is not going to ease anytime soon (most likely will intensify to the point of impossible to bear). The customer turnover trend is pointing upwards while the profitability trend is pointing downward (it was really suppose to be the other way around. Something went wrong in the strategic process). In short, the facts are hitting you hard and you need to do something about it − the sooner the better.

Yes you can start in the traditional way by establishing a cross functional team (3 months to form and decide who will participate) that will investigate what has gone wrong (6 months to deliberate and decide what factors should be investigated and what method of investigation should be used). This investigation process will be followed by an in-depth discussion on how to improve things (a 6-9 month engagement in endless cross functional meetings that leads nowhere, while everyone nods and agrees with you). After 18-24 months you will still face your boss with bits and pieces and not a single solution to the problem. By then the problems you faced will probably haves intensified and the problem only grew larger.

The alternative is much simpler and easier than you might think. Start delighting your customers right now. Provide employees with permission to do what is right for their customers. Educate them so they understand customer needs and the financials behind your margins and customer profitability. Then just let them do it.    Many of your employees already know what needs to be done. It is just that their hands are tied. No cross functional, big project engagement will resolve this basic issue. Sales people sent to bring in as much business as possible despite the quality of their relationships with the customers will just focus on that. Customer service people measured on average handling time will focus on phone time, not the quality of the service. Marketing people measured on quantity of leads, will not bother to qualify those leads. If finance is told to collect unpaid invoices irrespective of the customer’s issues, they will damage the overall customer relationships and loyalty.

Our employees do what they are being measured and told to do. Organizations and executives set the tone and the rest follows. Sure, employees would like to delight customers by sending them a birthday card, but they do not have the budget to do it. Of course they would love to chat more with the customer and try to understand their problems and business issues, but this is not in line with corporate productivity objectives. Sure every so often employees might have impractical or expensive ideas. But this is usually as a result of not knowing the financials of your company. Empower them with that knowledge and they will react like business people − with responsibility and accountability.

So where do you start delighting your customers? Right here right now.  Do not delay. Get started. Here are the top ten ideas:

1) Send customers birthday cards.

2) Send a customer a personal apology letter with a small compensation when something went wrong.

3) Assume responsibility when something goes wrong, even if it is not your fault.

4) Give the customer a bit extra, more than what they actually ordered.

5) Check all invoices before you send them to customers.

6) Call customers before sending invoices to ensure they are ready for what is coming.

7) Ask your customers how their business is doing and what else you can do to help them.

8) Upgrade your customer to the next level of service, as a measure of appreciation.

9) Let your customer know you noticed and appreciate their increase in business with you.

10) Ask your customer about their hobbies - engage them in conversation on the subject.

These are just some ideas to get started. I am sure that if you facilitate the right discussion with your employees, they will come up with additional ideas. They will also be more than willing to do try these ideas as they will realize the impact they will have. In all our studies, we identify caring as a major factor in making a difference. It is the difference between the customer as a one-time transaction and the customer as a relationship. Companies which truly believe in a customer as a relationship, invest in caring and generous service. They invest in the long term aspect of their business.

Do you need a cross functional team to design a strategy? Sure you do. Quick hits do not replace a strategy. But the quick hits you can start on will also assist in the formation of the strategy. The moment the organization notices the changes associated with the quick hits, they will realize that the company is ready and willing to make the leap towards customer centricity. This realization will lower resistance and expedite the cross functional strategic team.

Corporate history is littered with major projects assigned to large teams that produced very little, if at all. Focusing on the customer is not a strategic question of “if” but rather of “how”. We can start answering the question “how” right away and do not need the designated committee to lead the discussion to find answers. Our people have the answers right now. They have simply lost hope or the power to make it happen. The question “how do we get started” is really a question of how can we can reignite the fire in our organization. If you finally realized the severity of the issues associated with customer loyalty and profitability, it means the issues are burning. You cannot afford to wait for another committee to do the job for you. You must get started, here and now and make it happen. One employee at a time. One customer at a time. One idea at a time.

Read other articles and learn more about Lior Arussy.

For permission to reprint or reuse this article, please contact Lior at [email protected].

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