Innovative Leaders Enable Customer Success
The problem with many organizations is that they've lost sight of their customers. While companies may claim that they're customer-focused, their day-to-day thinking and behavioral patterns contradict basic customer relations and servicing tenets. Seriously, how many executives/senior leaders walk into their companies each and every day with one glaringly obvious and unrelenting mission emblazoned in their thoughts and actions...
Today I must do absolutely everything in my power to win my customers' hearts and minds!
In fact, I'll take this one step further...how many leaders even know what success specifically looks like to each of their key customers at a deep, meaningful and non superficial level, because they've invested quality time in getting to know their customers? Asked a different way, how many leaders perceive and appreciate their customers as multi-faceted, genuinely interesting people who have goals, ambitions, dreams, life stories, challenges and heartaches — just like everyone else?
Make "Getting to Know Your Customers" a #1 Priority
Traditional (aka status quo) leaders sit behind their desks or spend a lifetime in meetings or shield themselves from customer interactions and expect delighted and loyal customers. The world doesn't work that way. Delight and loyalty are emotionally-driven reactions based on the degree of care that customers receive across all levels of the enterprise. Brand building and customer humanization is not exclusively owned by those in the front-line. Innovative leaders however, not only take deliberate steps to heighten the customer experience, but they also actively and intentionally seek out opportunities to help their customers become wildly successful. To earn our customers' loyalty, we must continuously and consistently:
- Schedule and engage in customer face time.
If we don't intentionally carve out time to regularly meet with our customers in non-rushed settings, we'll never build a heart-felt connection with them.
- Communicate human being to human being.
Put aside levels and corporate-speak. Refer to our customers by name, inject humor, be polite and conversational, empathize, emote and allow ourselves to be vulnerable so our customers get to know the real us
- Discover what's important to our customers both personally and professionally.
Look around their surroundings for clues. On a personal note, ask them about their family pictures, sports trophies, plants, vacation memorabilia or customized computer screen saver. As we're learning more about our customers' personal world, actively look for and point out commonalities so we can build a deeper connection. Also be on the alert for opportunities where we may be able to assist our colleagues with personal challenges. Maybe our colleagues are looking for a reputable home builder who provides quality remodeling services or a trusted financial advisor who offers sound investment options or a top-notch real estate agent who excels in negotiation. While helping our colleagues is the right thing to do, the social construct of reciprocity also comes into play — when we do something nice for others, they may feel an innate obligation to return the favor at some point. Human beings helping each other out is a good thing! What could be more important than learning as much as we can about our customers including their definition of personal and professional success?
On a professional note, conversationally ask them:
- What are you currently working on and how is it going?
- What would you like to accomplish in the next 3-6 months and why?
- What would you like to accomplish over the next year and why?
- What things are driving you crazy and why?
- What's keeping you awake at night and why?
- Learn about our customers' personality traits, talents and styles.
If our goal is to make our customers' lives easier and more successful, then why not adjust our approach and style to best accommodate our customers' personality traits, talents and style. Through simple observation, we can gain a fairly accurate read on how our customers react under various circumstances, plus pick up learning and communication style clues. From there, we can determine the best way to interact and ultimately resonate with our customers.
- Know our customers' servicing and experience track record.
While we would never say "I truly don't care about you" to our customers, that's exactly what we're saying when we meet with them, ask them how they're doing and find out that our customers are either in the midst of or have just recovered from servicing and experience train wrecks! We must do our homework in advance and learn about what's going on in our customers' worlds so that as we're meeting with them, we're bringing empathy, updates and solutions.
- Actively elicit, embrace and address customer complaints.
Never assume that no news is good news and always assume that our customers' complaints might somehow translate into our customers believing and feeling that we've jeopardized their chances of success. We must take our customers' complaints to heart and ask probing questions to truly understand the full extent of both the obvious plus the not-as-obvious customer impacts. And above all, no matter how much we might delight our customers, reducing their effort in getting their problems solved, is a relationship linchpin.
- Build and nurture trust.
Show our customers that we're committed to their success by leading with integrity and honesty, keeping our promises, demonstrating our competencies, actively listening to and fully understanding their needs and desires, caring about them, partnering with them to help them achieve their goals, offering a helping hand when they're facing difficult situations and seeking out new and inventive ways to make their lives easier and more fulfilling.
- Continue with the personal touch.
Don't treat customer face time as a check-off-the-box transaction. Make sure your customers know that they're genuinely important to you and that they're special. Send your customers cards on their birthdays. Congratulate them when they've been promoted or when they've achieved significant personal or professional goals. Reach out to your customers and let them know that you're thinking about them during challenging times plus provide your support.
Beyond The Customer Experience
In addition to strengthening the customer experience, enabling customer success must: 1) become a part of our Innovative Leader DNA; 2) become integral to our mission and agenda; 3) be the common thread that authentically binds us together as human beings; and 4) influence each and every customer interaction if we are to thrive in the new age of the customer.