The Situation: When discussing customer centricity, I often hear questions like: "Why in this tough economy, should we invest time or resources chasing some elusive new customer centricity initiatives, when we have so many other priorities? What's the payoff?" Marketers and executives at all levels face this kind of skepticism and resistance.
Making the Bottom-Line Case for Change: Recently, the senior vice president of a client company delivered an eloquent, and instructive, response to this challenge. Based on recent Voice of Customer (VOC) research, management had learned that their customer service reps were perceived as technically competent, but not very easy or pleasant to work with. This was alienating a critical segment of their customer base.
The senior vice president not only made the decision to invest in creating a new VOC-based Customer Centric Training, but he also employed three critical best practices for helping the customer service reps embrace the new, customer-centric way of doing business.
Best Practice #1: Focus on the Metrics. The attendees at the first Customer Centric Training probably thought they were in for another (boring) round of "soft skills" training, with no direct connection to anything anyone would actually hold them accountable for after the training. How wrong they were!
The SVP informed them that the company had an obligation to deliver the highest possible return on investment per customer, by increasing lifetime value. He then explained that a critical factor in achieving these goals was to improve the team's phone-based relationship skills, and then use those skills to achieve far deeper engagement with customers, as determined by the VOC research findings.
With the full support of the CEO and President, he focused the Customer-Centric Training around customer lifetime value goals and introduced ROI performance goals for the reps to achieve after they completed the training.
The message was clear; Customer-Centricity goes straight to the bottom line.
Performance indicators include: customer satisfaction, increased purchases, increased lifetime value, and reduced attrition. The SVP stated that this was a message he personally wanted to deliver to the customer service reps. And, he explained, he would be personally monitoring these results indicators and expected to see a dramatic increase!
Best Practice #2: Emphasize Personal Responsibility. The SVP concluded his remarks by assuring the team members that the training was vitally important, not only to their own careers, but to the future of the company. He instructed them to bear in mind that everyone in the company had a fiscal responsibility to ensure that the training was successful ... and that it would be fiscally irresponsible to do otherwise. The team got the message!
Best Practice #3: Executive Leadership and Visibility is Essential. The visible participation of senior execs was critical in communicating management's commitment to the Customer-Centric change process. The SVP and President attended the opening session and delivered passionate remarks in support of the Customer-Centricity culture change process. The fact that they made time to attend the opening of the training made an impact on the reps. The SVP was visible for the remainder of the 2-day training.
Communicate to all levels of your organization that Customer-Centricity is an essential culture change process, especially in these tough times, and that results go straight to the bottom-line.
Empower employees to demonstrate customer-centric behaviors and to provide their own recommendations for how to improve the customer experience.
Emphasize that the impact of customer-centricity is measurable, and that all members of the organization will be measured on their individual contributions to customer satisfaction, increased purchases, increased lifetime value, and reduced attrition.
Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.
Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Ernan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.
His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.
Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."