Are you focusing on your customer?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos first book Delivering Happiness is about creating a culture around Profits, Passion and Purpose. If you are the CEO of a small to mid size service company or a business owner of a regional or national “for profit” enterprise than this book is a must read.

If you are looking for a clear differentiation between you and your main competitor, focusing on customer satisfaction is a great place to start widening your competitive edge by measuring that your leadership team is delivering on your #1 goal. Your second goal is creating a cohesive management team. Align your team with your vision. Individuals that can get it done today and have the mental capacity to get it done when you are three or ten times the size you are today. Your executive team should create a transparent personal performance contract that requires ownership and rewards “above average” results. Your third challenge is developing key performance indicators that gives you and your team a snapshot of how are you doing against your plan. Financial KPI’s that focus on the numbers and leading indicators that pay close attention to customer satisfaction and what drives sales.

100% customer satisfaction should not be a dream; it should be your minimum standard for you and everyone in your company. Customer loyalty is essential to create sustainable performance year over year. Will they continue to do business with you and do they not will they give you referrals? Are you tracking monthly what percentage of your customers refer or is your repeat customer percentage higher? Surveying clients and customers needs to be an ongoing effort by everyone. Phone calls for whatever reason, need to end with “…tell me if how we can make our relationship better?” or “…are we delivering our promise?” or “…what can we do differently that would make your job easier?” Your website should generate leads for your sales team. Your employees should be empowered to provide customer satisfaction without having to ask permission.

A cohesive leadership team is essential if you want to move from good to great customer satisfaction. Instill a “hard on performance and easy on people” culture. The hard part is getting the entire organization aligned around those objectives and understanding them. Developing a culture of accountability in exchange for their pay check is not a bad was to run a “for profit” company. In building and maintaining a cohesive management team requires 1% vision and 99% execution. I encourage you to have scheduled one-to-one’s with your management team and use this time to not only review performance but a time to get to know a little more of their personal side. Marshall Goldsmith’s newest book What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There is another good read.

Key performance indicators are either leading (windshield) or lagging (rear view mirror) snapshots telling you that up is good and down is bad. Have your CFO or controller create up to 8 financial indicators graphs or charts on one page using trailing 12 month (TTM) charts and graphs. Visit Kraig Kramer’s website for a complete list that will answer the question what gets measured gets done. Then you create up to 8 forward facing indicators also on one page that focus on leading indicators. What is essential when it comes to measuring your sales pipeline and getting your arms around predictability of your business? What are you measuring to improve your customer satisfaction?
At the end of the day, as Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos said, it’s all about profits, passion and purpose.

Book Review: Getting Naked

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni is an easy and must read on customer loyalty with several key take-aways for a small to med size business owner or CEO. This book focuses on:

  • Focusing on your customer  and developing client relationships
  • Developing a vulnerability and a transparent internal culture within your organization
  • Understanding consultative selling and that “pull” vs. “push” marketing wins out
  • Coming to grips with your 3 fears as a small business owner or CEO
  • Losing your customer and business
  • Fear of being embarrassed
  • Fear of feeling inferior

I encourage each of my clients and members to read a book a month on improving one’s leadership skills, defining or redefining your internal culture, focus on delegation and creating a cohesive management team.  If you will drill down on these four disciplines, you are on your way toward becoming a growth driven and profitable enterprise.

Business Owners need to be change agents

Even though the economy has forced many to re-evaluate business models, I find that some business owners still have their head in the sand when it comes to change. Evidence of that comes from declining revenue with no attention to what customers are actually buying.

I’m reminded of the story of the hole in the wall–in the 50’s, someone suggested that a burger joint cut a hole in the wall and start selling food to people through the window so the customer wouldn’t even have to get out of their car. At the time, people scoffed at the idea, but I’m pretty sure you realize where that’s taken us today.

So what’s your hole in the wall? If you’re doing things the same way and you’re struggling, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Simon Sinek does a good job of demonstrating this in this video where he talks about drawing a bulls eye to determine where the customer’s pain truly is. If the customer doesn’t have some sort of pain, he or she is not going to pay you X hundreds or thousands of dollars–it’s that simple.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to be a change agent, which means that you need to get all of the people affected by the company and projects involved to ensure their support and commitment.

Here’s a few qualities that change agents have:

1. They live in the future, not the present. It’s important to have a vision of what could be or should be the dictates the actions.

2. They have passion and inspire people to do great things. Change is difficult, even though it’s always occurring. Many people in your organization may be resistant, and therefore managing change comes with instilling inspiration, and ensuring that people are passionate about making the change.

3. They are self-motivated. The change agent needs to find the motivation to keep the ball rolling on a day-to-day basis. Validation may come at a future date, and the risk is being misunderstood in the short term, and even pulled off course.

4. They have a high degree of emotional intelligence. It’s very important to understand people and human interaction, and developing a high degree of emotional intelligence is paramount. You must have the ability to communicate effectively and take into account all of the opinions and doubts of others.