Culture, Change and the age of the Customer! While the theme was leadership, those 3 topics made up most of the conversation at the C-Suite Conference in Boston!!
As a passionate champion of creating engaged employees and happy customers, it was heartening to hear the C-Level leaders of companies such as Sales Force, Dale Carnegie Training, ACA Inc, Liberty Tax and others riding the customer & culture train.
There were both keynotes and panels – and all focused on those three areas. Here’s a sneak peek into the conversation.
CHANGE: We can’t run from it. It’s happening (as it always does) and it’s happening rapidly. Not only that, it will affect the way we do business and the expectations of our customers – whether we like it or not.
Futurist Faith Popcorn, author of several books including Clicking: 17 Trends that Drive Your Business, recalls when she told Kodak that the future of film was video and they said “We didn’t pay you for that,” and refused to change. We all know how that worked out. Today Uber has revolutionized the transportation business and cut into cab revenue, Airbnb.com enjoys more reservations per day than any single hotel, and Netflix has changed the way we watch television and movies.
The world is changing and our companies need to change with it.
CULTURE: During one of the panels a question was asked – “What should the C-Suite be concerned with going forward?” The response was “Invest in Culture, Lean Process and Talent.”
This is so right on. As the world changes and your customer changes, building a high performance culture is so critical. This goes beyond any program. This is about building a “way of life” for your entire team. What are the shared beliefs, habits and values that define how you and your team interact with each other and your customers? It goes beyond lip service to “core values” and your mission statement. This is about leaders at every level LIVING and BREATHING the culture and bringing the front line team along for the journey.
Joe Hart, the new CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, said his number one priority was to build a high performance culture. “Culture,” he said, “is the energy that drives the business.” His first step was to go out and listen to his people, working at every level – so they can tell him where they’ve been and what they think needs to be done.
There was also a lot of conversation about collecting data (metrics, Key Performance Indicators) and sharing them with great transparency. Greater transparency (with your team) equals greater accountability (for everyone involved)
Speaking of accountability, Dale Carnegie research indicates that one of the single greatest factors of people being disengaged and demotivated is inauthentic leadership.
To that end, once again – when it comes to building a service culture – you must walk your talk. If your team members feel you are only giving lip service to the importance of creating a red carpet customer experience – they will detect it and they will act accordingly.
The Age of the Customer: There’s no doubt about it. Your customer is now in control. The terms, “the age of the customer” and “the connected customer” revolution came up in conversation a great deal.
Said one panel, “the idea of the company being in control is an illusion.”
As an example, did you know that 50% of Americans are Amazon Prime Customers. This means they are used to “free” shipping for everything. When these kinds of changes take place – customer expectations change and as service providers, we’ve got to change with them.
1 in 5 American adults are almost NEVER offline. This is indeed the connected customer revolution. I’ve said it before: your customers have louder voices and wider choices than ever before.
As one panelist put it bluntly, “If you and your employees don’t change, you will lose your jobs because your company will go out of business.”
To that end, the panel offered 3 questions to think about:
1. Do your employees know who your customer is instantly?
2. Are they empowered to get me the answer or solve my problem?
3. What are you doing to break down silos?
One of the biggest problems, according to one panelist, is that the “front, back and the middle” don’t talk to each other.
I’ve got to say I was applauding this statement as a great deal of our work when it comes to building a service culture is centered around getting people to talk to each other. I know we’ll be adding more systems around this topic going forward!!
I was also applauding when Joe Hart, the new CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, said that while e-learning is good for supplemental education, it is no substitute for the face-to-face learning experience. You’ve got to get people out of their comfort zone and practicing their skills in a safe environment. YES!!!
Joe and I are definitely on the same page. That’s why even our off-the-shelf training program is designed to be a face-to-face learning experience.
When it comes to embracing change, building a high performance culture, and succeeding in the age of the customer, the following suggestions were made:
1. Adopt a beginners mindset and challenge your own assumptions.
2. When leading change, involve the entire team and explain the WHY.
3. Remember that communication, transparency and leading by example are the keys to culture.
4. Take an outside view of your business. In other words, how do your customers view your business? Does your customer have the experience that you would want to have?
So, what’s it going to be? It’s time to realize that the world is changing, culture is king and your customer is in control. It’s time to focus on creating a high-performance service culture and roll out the red carpet for your customers.
As the keynote presenter Steve Rizzo said so eloquently – “Seize the day before the day seizes you!”
Donna Cutting is the Founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc. and the author of 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers. While the C-Suite is conceded with the What and the Why – their team is also concerned with the HOW. The team at Red-Carpet Learning Systems provides tools and strategies for building a high performance service culture and engage your team to deliver a red carpet experience for today’s customer.