Lead With Your Customer

What makes some companies consistently successful? They deliver a great experience to every customer all the time, according to authors Mark David Jones and J. Jeff Kober.

Jones and Kober should know. These Disney veterans now are the top officers with World Class Benchmarking. Their firm has a solid record in helping corporations and government agencies improve performance. The two men share their knowledge in a new engaging book, “Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand Into World-Class Excellence.”

This volume has a lot of great ideas supported by interesting case studies. Obviously, space doesn’t exist to examine every important point. However, I do want to comment on five of the authors’ key pieces of advice for executives who aim to enhance their firms’ customer experience:

  • Lead by example. A customer service culture begins at the top. Senior managers must model the behaviors they want employees to use. Leaders can’t just send a memo saying—“Focus on the customer” – and expect people to change the way they act.
  • Match rewards with the right behavior. Jones and Kober note that world-class companies do this and money is not their main form of recognition. Too often, companies ask employees to act one way but reward unrelated or even contrary behavior. Plus, monetary rewards often substitute for good management.  Most people want to do something of value and be praised for it. Noting a job well done can come in many forms – a simple “thank you,” a nice email, a compliment or a token of appreciation valued by the employee.
  • Frontline employees build the brand by delivering a consistently great customer experience. This requires creation of strong customer-focused culture. Too often, frontline employees aren’t considered when a company develops a new strategy or process. For these to succeed, the people who meet the customer daily must have the right tools and procedures, and understand what’s expected of them and why it’s expected.
  • Define clearly expectations for frontline personnel. World-class companies do the up-front work needed for great customer experiences. That means setting clear expectations, describing correct behaviors and, then, modeling them from top to bottom. Managers also must define a small set of actions required in every customer interaction.
  • Make sure that policies, procedures and your culture support a great client experience. Executives frequently blame service failures on frontline employees when the problem actually rests with policies, process and corporate culture. Frontline personnel are told to avoid saying “no,” although many policies require a negative answer. That can change to a “yes,” if the matter goes to a high enough level. Yet, by the time “yes” is achieved, the customer is unhappy and so is every employee who had to say “no.” Companies should remember that policies and procedures must work in the real world not just in a conference room or on a financial projection. Cultural obstacles to superior service are tough to solve. If employees aren’t engaged at a corporation, they aren’t engaging the customers. So, companies must try to create an environment where great employee experiences lead to great customer experiences.