By Jeanne Bliss
How established are your customer relationships?
By Jeanne Bliss
Inspired customer leadership originates from the heart and soul of an impassioned leader.
Inspired customer leadership originates from the heart and soul of an impassioned leader. They have the instincts on where to take the business for customers, and absolute clarity on how to inspire the organization to make it happen. Here are seven tips on how to create that same inspiration for your company.
To start off, take the time to know absolutely who you want to be your customers. Your business otherwise will continue to run on auto-pilot, the functions of each of your operating areas (service, support, marketing, operations, sales, etc.) churning out what they do – without much real conversation about what it all means to customers, and how it affects them. Take the time to stew about it and gain the clarity of how you want your customers to think of you and what greater purpose you are performing for them.
Secondly, communicate that purpose you’ve chosen for your business. This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many companies define each segment of their business differently, and the parts don’t add up for customers. Do this litmus test to see how connected your company is in knowing what they all collectively serve for your customers. The next three employees you speak to, simply ask them “What’s your job?” and “What’s your collective job?” You’ll be surprised at the varied answers you’ll get. If you haven’t been the beacon for employees by telling them where you’re headed, they’ll chart their own course.
Thirdly, establish your own set of guidelines for how to treat customers. Consider the various dimensions of your business and make a set of statements about how each one of them should show up to customers. Be clear about standards for customer treatment.
Fourthly, know your customer segments and how their needs vary. Especially where resources are tight, you’ll want to cluster your customers by how much revenue they generate and their profitability. From there, you should identify commonalities in what they need from you. The intention is to never under-serve those with lesser profitability potential – but you must absolutely be aware of those power players on whom your livelihood may be most dependent. Once you know these clusters, you can come up with creative ways for serving them – allocating resources in sync with financial outcomes. For example, you may have a wide number of smaller customers; rather than sending out an individual to call on them separately, bring them together for a networking event that benefits them all and reduces your cost for servicing them.
Fifthly, give the frontline the training, support and tools to do their job. The frontline is anyone who speaks to the customers – this is not the place to cut costs. Ensure that you allocate ample resources to ensure that they have what they need to give your customers what they need. This means ample communication from you, but also the right training, skill development and technology resources. There’s nothing worse, for example, than putting a customer through watching their sales rep struggle with slow response time or inadequate support materials, or listening to a service operator struggling with a system to find customer information.
Sixthly, conduct quarterly customer loss review meetings. This is a potent profit management technique you can begin today. To prep for this meeting, compile the data on customer defections so that you know which customers you lost and why. In addition, assign your key lieutenants to make outbound calls to up to ten customers who have left during the quarter to find out why they left. There’s nothing quite as compelling as a customer speaking right to someone who has accountability for making something happen. Customers are often so amazed by the effort that they consider trying the company again. After the calls have been completed, convene the meeting to discuss what’s happening with your customers and what is driving them from you. In that meeting get alignment on how to prioritize the issues and assign accountability. Use subsequent loss review meetings to track progress on resolving issues, continuing the process of calling customers who defected.
Seventhly, keep track of your customers. Find a way to figure out how to constantly track, actively discuss and manage these five things about your customers. This is called “Guerrilla Metrics.” They help you power the customer onto the agenda of your business: 1) New customers: volume and value; 2) Lost customers: volume and value; 3) Renewals with reasons; 4) Revenue and profitability by customer group; 5) Referrals by customer group.
All in all, take the actions that are good for your customers. Make clear decisions that put the customer first and then let everyone know what they are – customers, suppliers, and most importantly, your company.
Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS (www.customerbliss.com ), which is a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. She is a worldwide speaker on the subject. Jeanne spent twenty-five years at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, and Mazda corporations as the leader for driving customer focus and customer growth. Her best-selling books are: Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action, and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.