Seven decisions that won’t cost a thing
By Jeanne Bliss
By Jeanne Bliss
Sept. 27, 2013 – Jeanne Bliss outlines several things that you can do to ensure best business practices and happy customers. Best of all, it won't cost you a thing.
Sept. 27, 2013 – 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.
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.
Communicate that purpose for your business
This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many companies have every part of their company defining what they do separately, and the parts don’t add up for customers. Do this litmus test to see how connected your company is in knowing the higher mission they all collectively serve for your customers. The next three employees you speak to, simply ask them “What’s your job?” and “What’s our collective job?” You’ll be surprised at the varied answers you’ll get. If you haven’t been the beacon for them telling them where you’re headed, they’ll chart their own course. They’ll decide on their own where they’re taking your company for customers.
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.
Know your customer segments and how their needs vary
Especially where resources are tight, you will want to cluster your customers by how much revenue they generate and their profitability. From these clusters, you should identify commonalities in what they need from you. The intention is never to 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 who, rather than sending out an individual to call on them separately, can be brought together for a networking event that benefits them all and reduces your cost for servicing them.
Give the front line the training, support and tools to do their job
The frontline is the company to your customers. The frontline is anyone who speaks to 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 (that won’t cost a thing), but also the right training, skill development and technology resources. There’s nothing worse, for example, than putting a customer through watching their sales representative struggle with slow response time or inadequate support materials, or listening to a service operator struggling with a system to find customer information.
Conduct a quarterly customer loss review meeting
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 month or quarter to find you 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 away. 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.
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; and 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 ); a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. She is a world-wide 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. Go to www.customerbliss.com to get a reality check audit on your customer commitment and ability to make customers an asset of your business.