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

Embracing Corporate Culture

I hope I've opened your eyes to the common things industrial and professional services firms do to destroy customer loyalty. It can not be stressed enough, make any three of these mistakes and you're driving customers to your nearest competitor.

Talking with a coaching client since the last newsletter, he questioned, "What if no matter how hard we try employees still make those mistakes that destroy customer loyalty?" Obviously, my off the cuff answer to "fire them" doesn't always work, and that's what I kept in mind for today's lesson.

You can help employees embrace customer satisfaction as part of your company culture if you do what is outlined in the following pages. After all, you have more influence over company culture (as a person in a leadership role) than employees at any level. In fact, they look to you for guidance.

When employees across your company satisfy customers, make them really happy, you can start growing major accounts more easily than ever before. You'll retain more customers, and reduce service costs. In the first lesson of July, I'll add strategic marketing methods that keep major accounts buying from you over anyone else.

These methods only work when your staff has their noses in the right direction, moving forward providing true value to customers. Pay close attention to what you'll learn here, it makes a measurable difference in what you'll get from future lessons.

Some list maintenance: It's almost that time where I update the editorial schedule. I've received a lot of feedback from members; ask campaigns, and clients; but now I ask you, what can this newsletter cover in the coming months that will make a huge difference to your business?

Reply to this email or fax your questions to +1 (877) 207-3798, or use the Ask Justin Hitt Blog at -- how ever you ask; be sure to explain your challenge followed by any questions that would really make a difference to your firm.

This is your newsletter; it's your feedback that shapes each lesson to provide the maximum value for your business. Thank you in advance for your input! Now on with the show ...

My Best Regards,

Justin Hitt
+1 (877) 207-3798

Helping Employees Embrace Customer Satisfaction As Part Of Corporate Culture

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

If only employees would choose to satisfy customers without being told, coercion or threats of dismissal. Why do so many employees treat customers like a burden? Even sales people who are face to face with customers could benefit from a culture of customer satisfaction.

It's important to first define various aspects of "culture." Corporate culture falls into three categories: defined, actual, and published. Corporate culture is a set of behaviors, shared values, and practices considered appropriate for interactions with your organization.

Your defined corporate culture is how you'd like corporate culture to be, actual is how it is, and published is what you want customers to see. When any of these three disconnect you'll find conflict that slows down your ability to increase customer satisfaction.

Culture is often developed by senior level executives through their discipline, encouragement, and modeling. Middle management is expected to enforce the culture and employees to executive its practices. Customer facing employees have the most control over your published culture; this is where a culture of customer satisfaction is most critical.

For a culture of customer satisfaction, each employee must feel they have a certain responsibility to their buyer. To provide the most value in service possible, to set and meet expectations and various other parameters used to manage day to day activities.

Customers are your only judge of satisfaction. Just as each individual has their own preferences; your customers are the only ones who can tell you they are satisfied. Customer surveys are useful; however, customers tend to lie on them.

Is it too strong to say your customers will not tell the truth on satisfaction surveys? No, because most people will tell you only what they think you want to hear and the most telling sign of dissatisfaction is indifference. You'll never see survey responses from truly unsatisfied customer (and even your best most satisfied customers may not take the time to complete them.)

You should still perform periodic customer satisfaction surveys , but make them short. Make them focused, and most of all, make it a part of your daily communications process. Is there is a better way to measure customer satisfaction?

The best sign of customer satisfaction is repeat sales. It takes courage to buy from you once, trust and confidence to buy from you twice. In any business-to-business market place, it's not likely that you are the only provider. Because each customer has choice, the choice to continue to purchase you is a unique sign of satisfaction.

But it's not enough just to satisfy at a purchase. At every interaction point, seek to satisfy. Your buyer could be completely happy with what you offer, but end-users are frustrated with service. Don't you think their experience will influence a decision to buy the next time your customer is offered an alternative solution?

That's why it's important to document the values of your customers. Place greater emphasis on areas important to each individual customer. In most industrial and professional services industries customer lifetime value is high enough to invest in providing individual treatment. This is a responsibility of account representatives, especially among individuals in their own portfolio of accounts.

Employees at all level are to be educated about what customers really want -- not the drill, but the hole. When employees at every customer interaction give what customers feel they are buying, customer satisfaction increases.

You can engineer an environment to be more conducive to customer satisfaction. Remember, a culture frame acceptable norms. Do you over promise? To maximize customer satisfaction set proper expectations, set expectations for less than you can deliver.

Some may then ask, "How do you compete with competitors who promise more than they can deliver just to get the contract?"

Remember, I said set expectations at less than you can deliver, but didn't say anything about what your customers can say you can deliver. Use social proof (i.e. testimonials, case studies, and metrics) to demonstrate what others have actually achieved.

More importantly, you'll always beat out those who over promise by developing a sense of urgency in creating results for customers. Customers want to feel important more than anything else, their satisfaction depends on feeling they got more value than the money invested. By moving customers requests forward quickly and accuracy, you'll demonstrate value early.

To measure customer satisfaction in your organization create your own 10 point customer satisfaction index. Use factors derived from customer and employee interviews. Involve employees in outlining "What is satisfaction, according to a customer, in your role?", and then measure around these points.

Highly satisfied customers buy more, are more loyal, and are the lifeblood of any great company. The fastest, most consistent way to increase customer satisfaction is through the culture of your organization. What kind of culture do you have?

© 2006 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ customer-relations | employee-relations /

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