Tag Archives: Center for Services Leadership

NACCM 2009: Make Customer Strategy a Reality: Moving from Vision to Execution ‘ Implementing Your Customer Strategy with Speed

As we end the North American Conference on Customer Management 2009, consider how we take the ‘what’ we learned and turn it into a strategic ‘how’. This thought was posed by Tom Atkinson, Director of Customer Research for the Forum Corporation.

Atkinson talked about developing ‘strategic speed’ because of the impact it has on sustaining our businesses. The 1980′s and 1990′s were about first-generation speed. It’s now time for second-generation speed which is about mindset and mobilizing people.

Strategic speed means delivering value to customers faster. The key to strategic speed is how your organization’s leaders think and act. They don’t aim for speed per se, but rather for increases in three people factors:

1) Clarity ‘ shared understanding of the situation and the direction you are heading. Employees should be able to answer the question ‘where are we going and why’?

2) Unity ‘ collaboration across departments, geographic boundaries, etc, is the main driver of unity in business. A culture of collaboration helps projects and strategies hold together.

3) Agility ‘ Encouraging people to find ways to meet strategic objectives in a constantly changing environment rather than sticking to a rigid plan. Companies which can quickly resolve customer issues win.

Atkinson stressed that strategic speed requires leadership and that leaders need 4 key abilities to succeed:

1) Affirming strategies
2) Driving initiatives
3) Managing climate
4) Cultivating experience (learning and sharing by all)

He challenged the audience to think about these concepts as they return home to develop new strategies. Visit Forum’s website at Forum.com to read more about this concept.

NACCM 2009: Walk the Walk: The Most Important Rule for Real Leaders

Leadership takes guts! Alan Deutschman, author of Walk the Walk, shares how putting customers first sometimes starts with putting something else first. His book delves into the concept of what it takes to put customers first. If you put customers first, then someone else is second, i.e., vendors, executives, employees, Wall Street stock analysts, etc. Leadership means making the tough choices over these competing constituencies.

Deutschman shares the example of Starbucks and its CEO, Howard Schultz. Schultz was responsible for Starbucks incredible growth over the years, building from 400 stores in 1994 to 14,000 stores today, reaching a 75% market share. He came to realize that in their pursuit of market domination and growth, Starbucks had lost their vision. Schultz believe that they had strayed away from what made them popular over the years – caf??-like experience, aroma of fresh ground coffee beans, and personal interaction with the barista, to name a few. Schultz realized that he had to lead his company back to the basics and ‘walk the walk’.

A company that built a truly customer-centric focus is Amazon. CEO Jeff Bezos made leadership decisions that were unheard of in the industry. For example, he allowed customers to post negative reviews about books, allowed third-party merchants to come in and offer lower prices, and gave away free shipping. Wall Street analysts asked Amazon’s board to remove Bezos because of his radical marketing tactics. Bezos understood that these strategies would ultimately create long-term customer loyalty and it did. Amazon succeeded at putting customers first says Deutschman.

Some companies have chosen to put customers first by putting other things first. An example of this is Southwest Airlines which has chosen to put employees first. During bad times, Southwest took a different approach than other airlines. In over 35 years, they have never laid off a single employee during a downturn reports Deutschman. Their high retention allows them to train employees in more creative way. By putting employees first, they have put customers first.

You can also serve customers first by putting a group of employees first. For example, Sony’s mission was to create a company for brilliant engineers. When color televisions came on the market, Sony held back from entering the market because they wanted to create a superior product driven by their engineers. Because of their investment in technology, they came out with the best color television in 1968 that had a superior picture quality called the Sony Triniton. Their CEO ‘walked the walk’ because he chose to put their engineers first.

In another example, Deutschman points out that putting ‘cleanliness’ first allowed McDonalds to grow exponentially. Ray Kroc was a clean freak and made cleanliness their #1 virtue. Fast food restaurants at the time were originally a hangout for teenage boys. Families stayed away. Kroc wanted to create a family restaurant that was clean and could offer value. Cleanliness, transparency, uniformed staffed, etc., helped to create this value. To date, cleanliness continues to be the #1 concern people have in choosing a fast food restaurant.

Charles Schwab wanted to create a stock broker business that put ethics first. They chose not to do investment banking, removed conflicts of interest, worked with individual investors and did not give purchase advice. Brokers were on straight salary so that they could provide service with no hidden agenda. One day, Schwab fired his own son for giving purchase advice to clients. Sometimes ‘walking the walk’ requires us to make difficult choices.

To walk the walk and be a leader, you don’t need a mission statement or post your value proposition for all to see says Deutschman. Your customers should know you by your actions. It is rare in corporate America. In all of his research, he has found few leaders who truly ‘walk the walk’.

Doing More With Less

This is posted on behalf of JoAnna Brandi. It is co-posted on the Customers 1st Blog and JoAnna Brandi blogs. I’m an ‘expert’ columnist for Customer Advantage Newsletter and ever few weeks or months they send me questions which I answer. I almost always forget to publish those Q & A’s and so today with my new eyes on potential blog posts I answered one of their questions and then before filing it away said ‘Yippee! A blog post!’ So here we go. The question: Customer demand is rising, but we can’t add more people to Service. So we have to do more with less. What’s a good way to approach this situation? The way you frame the situation is important. You must come at it believing that every one on your team is smart, creative, talented and has something to contribute. In order to bring out the brilliance in everyone in your organization, you must believe this (or ‘act as if’ you do until you realize it’s true). In holding open the possibility that people will shine they usually do. People live up (or down) to our expectations of them. If we expect and empower them to be competent, creative, innovative problem solvers who create exquisite experiences for customers, they’re more likely to do so. Once you hold this as true it’s time you give people the chance to help. In a meeting, start with the truth. ‘I know we would all like it if we had more resources, but we don’t and in the short term, won’t. We can’t do anything about that but what we CAN do is start getting really creative around here and find ways to work around the reality we’re faced with. I believe this team has the talent and ingenuity it takes to come up with solutions to even our toughest challenges. Let’s brainstorm some ideas together and get started.’ Set aside real time for brainstorming (no judgments, no idea-killer phrases, set amount of time where anything goes.) Get people limbered up with some silly challenges ’52 ways you can use a teabag’ and when they are loose and laughing introduce your real challenges. Try using analogy ‘If this were a zoo (a garden, a circus etc.) how would we look at it’? Convince yourself and your team that you have the creative potential to discover solutions for any problems and you will. A hint ‘ little rewards, like mini candy bars, stress toys and kazoos always make creative sessions more fun. Once people are in the habit of being more solutions focused you reinforce it when ever you see it. ‘Jill, I am always so amazed by the way you come up with out of the box solutions that make our customers happy. Great work.’ You might even want to have a once a month celebration for the most workable solutions. Even in the most severe of situations there’s always enough for movie tickets and popcorn rewards. My answer: The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. Companies everywhere are asking people to do more with less. The second thing you need to know is that times like this give us the opportunity to show how good we really are. I believe that most of us have the ability to do a little better every day. If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!

Speaker Profile: Stephen Brown

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to introduce you to the speakers we will have at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 ‘ 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Brown. Stephen Brown is currently the Edward M. Carson Chair in Services Marketing Professor and Executive Director at the Center for Services Leadership. Stephen Brown has been an integral part of the Center for Services Leadership. Through his leadership and vision, with the help of Edward M. Carson, the Center was created in 1986. This enormous accomplishment has earned the praise of several institutions including Intangibles magazine which refers to it as a ‘Mecca’. The Center has distinguished members such as Cisco, IBM, and McKinsey & Company. In addition, Stephen Brown has been given several honors, including being recognized American Marketing Association’s for prestigious Career Contributions to Services Marketing. Another accolade has received include being given an honorary doctorate from the Swedish School of Economics. Other accomplishments include being co-author and editor for over 20 books, and 150 articles. We invite you to come see Stephen Brown at NACCM as he presents on Wednesday, November 19th, ‘The science of service: the proof is in the numbers’.