From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

Your Executive Responsibility

While many other newsletters will talk about New Year's resolutions and goal setting, I want to share with you something more substantial.

We strive to create stronger business relationships for the mutual gain of each party involved.

Inadvertently the communities around your business are just as much a part of the business relationship as you are. In addition, these communities are a part of a larger nation within an ever-expanding world economy.

What is your business doing to make the world around you better?

I'm not saying you have to be charitable, but your business must have a mission beyond its doors. Inside you, there is already a larger mission that drives your business -- Isn't it about time you shared it with your staff?

Relationship strength comes when you honestly share your larger mission with your people and through them with your customers.

What are your responsibilities as a leader? With Enron and WorldCom you saw what happens when leaders line their own pockets -- the "look out for number one" mentality doesn't last for the long term.

The bigger picture: What you do influences more people than you think.This newsletter reaches business leaders in more than 27 nations, including those hit by the recent tsunami.

These same leaders are responsible for picking up entire economies after a devastation whether natural or man made. Will your company be strong enough to do its part?

Over the next year, read this newsletter with renewed vigor for reaching your bigger mission. Since you need other people to get what you dream, relationships will be a big part of conveying your leadership.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the mistakes executives must avoid that ruin customer relationships and even undermine their own leaders. Build on the last lesson where you learned why customer interactions are ideal places to increase brand loyalty, and the 25 other lessons from the previous year.

My prayers are with those hurt by the tsunami and even more with leaders who can make a difference in their relief. If you have ideas about how business through its relationships can solve bigger problems, please write.

At your service,

Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

10 Mistakes Executives Must Avoid That Can Ruin Customer Relationships And Undermine Their Own Leadership

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

What do you think it takes to be a leader of a relationship-based company? To be a leader with strong business relationships you can't afford to make mistakes that harm customer relationships or undermine your leadership. Are you making these mistakes?

  1. Not being clear about your priorities and goals. If the people around you don't know exactly what you want to accomplish, they will never be able to help you. First, be clear with yourself about your priorities and goals, and then share this message with your employees starting with those closest to you.
  2. Not connecting with peers at customer companies. In your customers business, there are people just like you who experience similar challenges, and connecting with them will increase your credibility. When thanking customers for their business, be sure to introduce yourself to others beyond key decision makers.
  3. Not experiencing the front line in a way that helps you collect feedback. To understand what your employees can do to be more effective, take some time to work along side them. Set aside at least one week a year to work on the front lines just like those people serving your customers.
  4. Not letting employees solve customer related issues. Help your employees think independently in a way that supports your objectives for the organization but builds customer relationships. Provide guidelines for solving customer related issues that let employees take immediate action when problems arise.
  5. Providing answers instead of letting clients and employees design their own solutions. Instead of solving problems for others, help them get the tools necessary to resolve the issue on their own. You will accomplish more, without having to come up with all the answers, when you surround yourself with strong problem solvers.
  6. Not insisting on measures in marketing, sales, and service areas. Everything in your business is measurable if you take the time to set objectives; this is especially true in customer facing divisions. Work with your marketing, sales, and service departments to set measurable goals that advance corporate objectives.
  7. Not insisting on relationship value instead of transactional value. While individual transaction costs are meaningful from a profit standpoint, so are certain aspects of relationship value for the long-term viability of your company. Seek loyal customers who buy frequently over quick win transactions that provide only a short-term gain.
  8. Not understanding what customers are really buying. Your customers don't buy your products and services as much as they buy results derived. Identify specifically what customers want to gain from owning or using your solution, and clearly demonstrate your understanding of these points in every customer interaction.
  9. Keeping around bad people or problems because they are familiar. The people who serve your customers (or don't) create an impression to which your company will be known. Someone who doesn't build strong business relationships is a liability to your organization. As much as it may hurt, remove those bad seeds quickly.
  10. Not making people responsible and able to make decisions. It's very important that individuals can make quick and accurate decisions if you want them to advance business relationships. Do this by providing clear goals, guidelines, and rules that guides the actions of customer-facing individuals.

When you make these mistakes, you ruin customer relationships and undermine your own leadership. If you are guilty of any one of these, understand you are not alone; others much less informed are doing the same. Now that you are aware of these mistakes, be on the way to eliminating them from your business.

© 2004 JWH Consolidated LLC dba Center for Strategic Relations, All rights reserved.

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