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Putting People First: the path to Customer Centricity
Guest articles > Putting People First: the path to Customer Centricity
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
Charlie Rose interviewed Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, recently as he discussed their new Customer Focus initiative: prioritizing Customer Centricity over revenue by putting their customers first. He said something like, âThe money will come. Letâs take care of the customer!â I havenât noticed many companies, including Bank of America, whoâve actually done the work of re-organizing around customers; to be Customer Centric means you must put rules, staff, tasks, websites and customer interfaces in place to, um, put People first.
My long-held ideas and questions on what a true Customer Centric company would look like begins with an admonition: stop making it so hard on your customers. They purchased something from you. That automatically puts them in a relationship with you (And probably in a leadership position, since if customers donât buy anything youâre not in business at all.). They paid the price you set and trusted your promises enough to believe theyâd get what they paid for. If they have problems, questions or needs, their resolution and your kindness are a representation of your promise, must be a part of the relationship, and cannot be separated from the purchase.
You claim you want ârelationshipâ with customers, yet you create rules that disrespect, offend, ignore, insult, and frustrate them. Your customers have bought-into being on your team; donât make it so hard on them. All that does is cause customers to complain to their 1000 closest friends, damage your reputation and give your competition the competitive edge. You forget that your customers are your competitive advantage.
âPutting the customer at the centerâ means having rules, procedures, hiring and training practices, and baseline values that use a People filter. It demands a customer lens through which to view every aspect of your company. It demands that your customer be the heart and soul of your company.
Corporate identity: Since behaviors and rules are translations - the daily actions - of your foundational identity and values, a Customer Centric company has the commensurate People values and ethics at its core. I always ask myself, after being hung up on, or ignored, or disrespected by a contact with a company whose solution Iâve purchased, what the foundational beliefs of that company must be: That Iâve made a purchase from the wrong provider - a company that doesnât care about me. That my problems and needs are secondary to profit. That Iâm not worthy of care once Iâv. ade my purchase.
It must begin with an identity of ethics and integrity. How you accomplish this will take the work of change â assembling and assessing the broken elements, getting buy-in for change from each of the broken parts, addressing disruption and confusing implementations. There are lots of decisions to be made that will ripple through the company.
Stakeholder alignment: All stakeholders, all company employees, all managers and Board Directors, must share, exemplify, and communicate the exact same beliefs and values. Your marketing and customer service must portray your kindness and respect; youâll hire people with values that match. There used to be a legend that Nordstrom had a one line customer service rule: âUse your best judgment.â Imagine how hiring practices, management, and training shift if such rule is in place.
With a People orientation, everything and everyone has one goal: to keep a customer happy. Then, a lower level rep would feel free to make this sort of adjustment on her own:
So sorry this is happening. Please accept my apologies on behalf of X company. What would make this right for you? And Iâll be your Team Leader to make sure your problem gets handled, including speak to whoever I need to speak with on my side and get back to you with a resolution.
not this rule-based, disrespecting flip-off that we all suffer time and time again:
This is not something I can take care of. Iâm transferring you (and transferring you, and transferring you, andâŚ).
With a Customer Centric filter, each rep, each internal stakeholder, each person who touches a customer, owns the problem and resolution. This will change your rules.
One more thought here: your employees are your first customers. Donât ever forget that.
Proximity to customer: With âCustomerâ in the center, organization is based on the proximity to the customer, giving the most importance (and training) to help desk and sales groups who directly touch customers, and Senior Management, the Board and CEO at the far end with the job of coming up with the ideas and maintaining the foundation of values and vision.
ORGANIZING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY FROM INSIDE OUT
In order of customer proximity, here are some thoughts on the organization of a truly Customer Centric company. Again, each customer touch point must have a criteria of putting the focus on People first, with Task, Rules and Profit Margin second.
First touch point:
Iâve been told by customer service reps that theyâre only allotted a short time frame â minutes â to handle a problem and then get on to the next customer on the cue. One rep called me back on his own cell phone because he didnât want to âget in troubleâ (his words) for taking too long with a customer. Seriously?! Of course this means youâd need to train your team differently. And yes, youâll need to hire more reps to get them off âthe clockâ and into ârelationship.â Keep thinking: People vs Task. Which will it be? Here are two conversations I had with different ATT reps, 5 minutes apart, when I called to change my billing address. I bet you can tell which one has a People filter:
Rep #1: You donât have your password? Sorry. I canât help you. I know you only want to change your address. But call back when you find your passwordâŚ.. (And then she hung up on me).
Rep #2: You donât have your password? HmâŚ Letâs use your social security number to start with. Then we can change your address, and then Iâll send you a link to reset your password so you have it for the next time you call.
Same company; but one rep was Task/Rules-bound with no criteria re taking care of me and just wanted to get me off the phone quickly; one was Customer Centric and got creative so I was cared for. Both had the same customer screen in front of them when I called but one had a People hat on. And btw, who the hell was supervising that first Rep? Why was that ok? Do companies even KNOW what their representatives are saying to customers?
I urge you to consider having whoever answers the phone âownâ the customerâs problem. This way customers donât get hung up on, and donât get shuffled between departments to explain their issue over and over again â only to be disconnected after 45 minutes and on maybe the 6th person! The initial rep must take the customerâs phone number, give them a case number, and a call-back number that connects directly TO THE PERSON THEY SPOKE WITH so there is a continued process. How much will that cost? Compare that with the amount of business and reputation youâre losing now from NOT doing it, from complaints against your company showing up on social media, from customers cancelling service because they canât take it anymore.
Website: Your site is often the first (and sometimes only) connection with a customer and it can go a long way to making sure customers feel cared for. Here is where a lot of companies fail. Almost all sites are strictly Rules, Company, Profit, Product driven. Thereâs no way to talk to anyone, and lots of hoops to go through before itâs even a vague possibility.
Few sites have their phone number available. Whatâs the deal with that? How much business are you losing because a customer or prospect canât ask a simple question, or get directed to their best resource? What is the cost? I buy only from companies whose sites offer a phone number so I know Iâll have fewer hoops to go through if thereâs a problem.
And whatâs the deal with ONLY having the sign-in boxes in the Contact area? Youâre soliciting their data for your marketing lists and reducing their ability to make contact only according to YOUR terms? You want something precious from them and youâre not willing to offer something in return? What percentage of real buyers wonât fill out those things? I have never, ever filled out one of those damn things. I want my vendors to take care of ME, not me take care of THEM, especially when it might involve me receiving tons of unsolicited email.
And while Iâm on a rant, how âbout including a real time Customer Tweet roll bar on your home page? Invite customers to Tweet their thoughts, questions, and feelings to make it a living dialogue. Too scary you say? Well, if you focus on a customer, and all your rules are similarly focused, you should hear nothing but good things, no? And where thereâs a negative comment, it will exhibit how quickly and accurately you handle the situation. After all, these folks are going onto social media to complain about you anyway; you might as well hear it straight and deal with it immediately and show other customers your fallible, but trustworthy.
This is your first line of contact. You can use your site as a good representation of your brandâs promise. Youâre blowing it.
Second touch point:
Customers donât need you for the details of your solutions until theyâve decided they cannot fix the problem themselves, what sort of a solution everyone agrees to, and how to manage any change that will occur when they do buy. [A purchase is a change management problem before itâs a solution choice issue; a prospect is someone who CAN buy, not someone who SHOULD.] Your site might be one of their steps toward deciding on whether or not to buy anything. Help them. It will not only differentiate you, but youâll have vast amounts of data to bring back to other groups in your organization to help them be more Customer Centric, including R&D, customer service, manufacturing, billing. All areas of your company will shift according to the voices of real customers and their needs and problems â so long as the focus is on serving, not selling. Remember: People filter, not Task. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities.
Third touch point:
Have managers sit alongside of reps and coach them for hours during a week, to check their skills real time. You could even design a Customer Service Check List to hand out to managers for their phone coaching hours. Obviously youâll have to employ new hiring practices to hire People oriented people rather than Task oriented people. Like the ATT story above, we all know to keep calling back until we get a âgoodâ rep. How much does that cost you?
Question for you: how will you know that the front-line staff are congruently representing your values? What is it costing you to have reps who hang up on paying customers? Or transfer transfer transfer to the point of madness because no one owns the problem? Why are managers acceding to this practice? What is it costing you?
Fourth touch point:
Add a People/Customer filter to your marketing: send out content marketing that helps them make sense of those decisions they need to make as they figure out if they even want to make a purchase. Itâs possible to create staged marketing to address each of the 13 stages of a buying decision. Because people arenât buyers until a purchase is their only viable option to solve a problem, youâre missing entering earlier in their decision cycle and only focusing on those relative few who have already decided to buy (at the end of the buyerâs journey). Make it easier for those who CAN/WILL buy.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself moving forward:
I hope Iâve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?
Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying FacilitationÂŽ - a change management model that includes learning how to Listen for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions, and understanding the steps of systemic change. For those of you wishing to learn more, take a look at the program syllabus. Please visit www.dirtylittlesecrets.com and read the two free chapters. Consider reading it with the companion ebook Buying FacilitationÂŽ
Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With Integrity, as well as 6 other books on helping buyers buy. She is also the author of the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew keynotes, trains and coaches sales teams to help them unlock situations that are stalled, and teaches teams how to present and prospect by facilitating the complete buying decision process. She delivers keynotes at annual sales conferences globally. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 512 771 1117
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 05-Nov-17