When’s the last time you talked to one of your customers? Not read a report or sat in on a focus group, but shook hands and talked. If you can’t recall and you are the owner, CEO, or other senior executive of an organization then you might have a problem. One simple leading indicator of whether a company is customer focused can be seen in the behavior of their top executives reaching out to customers directly. It’s also a leading indicator if that company will flourish or disappear.
I recently purchased some Bluetooth running headphones from a small technology company in Colorado. They turned out to be defective. I was getting frustrated with the almost non-existent customer support so I tried to find the name of the owner. That proved to be somewhat challenging as his name was not listed anywhere on the website except in a promotional video. When I finally did hunt him down via a variety of Internet tools and sent him a friendly email pleading for help, I did not receive a reply from him. I did, however, get quick resolution from their customer support after that point. Why did it have to be that way?
Likewise, in my interactions with a ridiculously tardy construction company not only could I not find the owner’s name anywhere, but the person I contacted at the company said he didn’t know who the owner was! I asked him who signed his paychecks, which stumped him. In both of these cases, the owner of the company is not only not connected to the customer; each appears to be hiding from them. How does that you make you feel about their products and services?
On the other hand we find those organizations who successfully stay connected with their customers. I’m sure these organizations have good VOC programs, but their leadership also gets out and talks with their customers.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart would regularly pop into stores across his vast network to check in on the store and talk with customers. His visits weren’t with an entourage that buffered him from his constituency, just him and his old Ford pickup. He just wanted to stay connected to his customers and make sure they were happy with the prices, services, and products his stores were providing.
Recently Pope Francis, fed up with being cloistered in the Vatican took to sneaking out at night, averting his security detail, to help the poor. He also dumped the bulletproof Popemobile feeling it distanced him from his flock. Delta CEO Richard Anderson is known for getting out and meeting customers, recently giving up his seat to a passenger so she could get home on time. You can see this intimacy in thousands of small restaurants, shops, and hotels across the nation who have proud and passionate owners and a genuine interest in their customers’ well being. For the ultimate in “connecting” with customers go to any rock concert where the performers get out and talk with thousands of fans at a time and aren’t afraid to get off the stage to interact.
The customer experience doesn’t stop after people open the box, buy the service, or walk out of the store. It continues long after that initial transaction as customers continue to interact with your brand well into their ownership journey. Great leaders of truly customer-centric organizations get that. It’s about getting out there and finding out what is really going on, not counting money behind a desk and letting the “front line” be the sole touch point for the customer.
So today give that customer a call or stop them in your store and say “thanks.” Ask them what they like and don’t like and most of all listen. And if you are a MaritzCX customer, THANK YOU! We’ll be talking more soon.