Reflections on customer-centricity and leadership


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Today, New Years Day, has been an interesting day and I want to share with you that which showed up for me. Why? Because it occurs to me that it provides useful pointers to customer experience, customer-centricity, customer service.

After breakfast I got busy painting doors even though the sky was blue and the bright sunshine was calling me to go and spend the day outdoors. What allowed me to transcend my psychology which was pulling me outdoors? Commitment and being a stand for the commitments I make. Put differently, I had made a commitment to my wife that the doors would be painted. And I take it upon myself to play full out to honour my commitments, which is to say that I am a stand for the commitments I make.

What is the lesson for customer experience, customer-centricity, customer service here? As I see it the lesson is that a genuine commitment, a powerful stand, is necessary if organisations are to provide the kind of customer experience that is necessary to cultivate customer loyalty. Who needs to make this commitment? It always starts with the Tops. Why? Because it is the Tops who determine organisational priorities through funding arrangements and resource allocation. What have I noticed to date? Tops do not show genuine commitment to customer service, to customer experience, to customer-centricity. And this lack of commitment is visible to the Middles and Bottoms.

Noticing me busy with the painting my son came over and asked my why I was doing the painting. He suggested that we leave it for his mother to do it. I explained my commitment and carried on painting. To my astonishment I found that, later, he started cleaning his room – thoroughly. Now this was something I had asked him to do earlier and he had refused.

Once I had finished painting the doors I had to leave them to dry. So I got busy cleaning the bathrooms and toilet. I did more than my fair share. Why? Because I had asked my son to clean the bathroom he shares with his siblings. He refused. And I knew that the bathroom needed to be cleaned. So I cleaned it thoroughly. As he was finishing cleaning his room I asked my son for the Dyson to clean my bedroom. To my shock he told me that he would hoover upstairs including my bedroom. And that is what he did. Then he did the stairs and finally the downstairs. Later, he cooked a meal for the both of us. All of this showed up as a miracle! What happened here?

Leadership: influence through being a model. Seeing me do the right thing – paint the doors to make our home better, he chose to thoroughly clean his room. And in the process he found his passport that went missing six months ago. Seeing me do his work – cleaning his bathroom – he felt shame. And he dealt with his shame by doing what he could do to make amends: hoovering upstairs and downstairs. Noticing that I was tired after the work that I had been doing, he chose to cook for us rather than wait for me to cook.

What is the lesson here for customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity? Actions speak louder than words. The most powerful way to influence human beings, and employees are human beings, is to model the right behaviour. Which means that the most powerful way for Tops to show a genuine commitment to customer-centricity is to do the necessary work, to model the desired behaviour on an ongoing basis. This means serving customers in the store, answering calls in the call-centres, making sales calls, walking in the shoes of customers by being the customer and going through what the customer goes through.

Summing up, if Tops are serious about making their organisation customer-centric, excelling in service and the customer experience, then the Tops have to put away their words and lead by being models of customer-centricity through their behaviour and their attitudes. Gandhi said it best when he exhorted us to ‘be the change’ we wish to see in others, in the world that we dwell in. So far Tops have been deaf to this message, I wonder if they will hear/act on this message this year. I am open to being surprised and delighted.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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