Do These Reasons Not To Invest In Customer Experience Sound Familiar?
When I talk to leaders of manufacturing and construction companies about improving customer experience, I often hear one of two things:
- We are so damned busy, why would I waste time and money on trying to get even more customers?
- Things are so slow we can’t afford to invest more right now.
In answer to the first objection, I hear you. However, if you take some to assess how your company is doing things — your processes, staff training, responsibilities — you’ll be able to bring some sanity to your overworked organization and staff.
You’ll also be a lot less vulnerable to smart competitors springing up who are more productive, have better ways of doing things, and can steal your market share as soon as the economy slows even a little bit.
As to the second reaction, if you are going to have to cut, or slow spending, wouldn’t you rather look at the things you can cut without hurting your business? Just slashing 15% across the board, or telling every manager they’ve got to lay off a certain number of people makes no sense! Sure, it’s easy, and seems “fair”, but you want your company to survive, right?
If so, forget being even-handed and think about what matters most to your customers. You may discover that you can do things more efficiently internally so that you could afford to let some people go without hurting your customer service, or maybe divert them into sales so you bring in more revenue.
You want to be able to take advantage of the slow time to prepare for when the good times roll again. Because they will, eventually. If you can hang in there long enough.
Are you using your resources — including your people resources — as effectively as possible?
Odds are that you are not. Because as you’ve grown, the ways you’ve “always” done things may no longer make sense. Or your staff have started skipping steps to deal with emergency situations. And emergencies seem to crop up regularly. Rather than waiting till things hit a crisis point, it is better to review all your processes at least once a year. (Ideally more often than that.)
Don’t Blame Your Workers
Most employees want to do a good job. Or at least they start out that way. Over time, if they get bogged down by unproductive processes, unpleasant co-workers, or unsupportive bosses, they may lose that positive attitude. If you are starting to lose them, here are a few things to do:
- Talk to them. Listen to them! Find out what is frustrating them. You may be able to do something about it.
- Review your processes. If your employees are stuck in an inefficient system they can’t possibly provide the sort of efficient and effective service that leads to satisfied customers. (Let alone satisfied staff!)
- Empower all levels of staff. The Ritz Carlton hotel chain gives all employees, including the housekeeping staff, $2,000 they can use with no advance permission to “make things right” for a customer. Sounds like a recipe for going broke, but it does just the opposite. Employees don’t abuse the fund, but they do use it to create customers who are loyal advocates of the Ritz Carlton brand.
- Get input from employees from all departments and levels if you want to make changes. Imposing change from the top is not only likely to meet resistance, it is often going to result in changes that do not make things more productive. You need to involve everyone from the start both to ensure that you really understand all the variables that affect how things are done in your company, and so they feel a commitment to the decisions that are made.
- Toughen up.It is natural to get your back up when employees (or customers) suggest better ways you could be doing things. Stay calm! Give yourself time to think about what they’ve said. Most of the time, you’ll find that there’s a fair bit of truth to what they are saying, and their ideas can help you become more productive and more profitable.
Get Closer To Your Customers
CEOs and senior executives often lose touch with their customers. We become so focused on making the next sale that it is easy to start taking existing customers for granted.
But the world is changing quickly, and you may have new competitors you haven’t even realized exist. Your neglected customers will be hunting for alternatives if they are no longer happy with you. Or even if they aren’t actively hunting, they’ll be open to listening to your competitors.
We’re not talking here about just doing a voice of the customer survey. We’re talking meeting with them one on one. Asking them to join customer panels. Giving them a factory tour. Not only will this remind them that they are valued, you are likely to get great feedback from them about how you could meet their needs better. You may get ideas for new products or services. We all get blinkered, but seeing the world through a customer’s eyes helps bring reality into focus.
Your sales team is often more motivated (and incentivized) to make new sales than to keep existing customers happy. So go with them on some sales calls to existing customers. By going with them, they don’t need to feel that you are taking over their role. But you will get a deeper understanding of your customers than you likely would filtered through the sales rep’s eyes. And your customers will feel valued because you, the CEO, took the time to meet with them.
(This article is based on one that first appeared on the Frank Reactions website. You can hear or download the transcript of the interview that inspired the article at http://frankreactions.com/40)