The ‘Secret Ingredient’ to Creating a Customer-Centric Organisation

GUEST BLOG FROM PETER WHITELAW, AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS CONSULTANT AND CO-AUTHOR OF “Customer at the Heart”

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Customer At The Heart
 

What is the most important ingredient for creating a customer-centric organisation?

Since John O’Connor and I embarked upon writing the book Customer at the Heart more than a year ago, I have had the opportunity to meet many people interested in customer centricity. I have also delivered several presentations to small and large business groups on the topic. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but people often asked me the above question. It indicates that people are curious and keen to embark upon the journey towards customer centricity.

My simple answer: Passionate Leadership is the secret ingredient.

All of the senior executives we interviewed for our book demonstrate this trait. We selected them for this reason – to share their passion. However, over many years of assisting organisations to change and become more customer-centric, I have encountered a spectrum of leaders. I’ll tell a couple of stories, but first I need to explain why Passionate Leadership for customers is so important.

The first premise is that leaders are ultimately accountable for the performance of the organisations. The second is that without happy customers, the organisation won’t exist for very long. The logic is simple. Leaders and their organisations don’t survive unless their customers are happy.

Business Barriers

Unfortunately, a lot of ‘stuff’ can get in the way of that simple equation. Organisations are continuously evolving and changing as the environment changes. This constant movement creates uncertainty and to counter this we develop rules, policies procedures, role descriptions and other bureaucratic tools to maintain control. Much of this inhibits creativity, innovation and sensitivity to the needs of customers.

Culture

Then there’s ‘culture’, commonly described as ‘the way we do things around here’. Much of the current culture is derived from the history of the organisation. The people on board the longest see it as a safe haven and permeate it through to newer members of the team. You can really see the entrenched cultures when you merge two organisations. The problem with entrenched culture is that it’s intransigent. We know people resist change because it’s scary – even when it’s bleeding obvious that we have to change to succeed.

Passionate Leadership

Passionate leaders know all this. They’ve usually been there before and they see that their real role is to make change happen. That means challenging the status quo and being prepared to break a few things and rebuild them. They start with the equation ‘happy customers = business performance’ and begin to influence their people into putting customers’ needs into every decision. Alongside that, they challenge their people to question why they do the things they do, unless they ultimately assist the customer. Passionate leaders are risk takers.

How to make it happen?

How do leaders do it? They talk constantly about customers and to customers. They visit customers and they ask and they listen. They seek regular information on the quality of customer relationships.

Next, they act on what they learn. They know they can’t change culture overnight, but they can put in train a series of initiatives – all intended to respond to customers’ needs.

By taking this stance and embarking on the journey towards customer centricity, they begin to influence their people. Some will enthusiastically join in, some will remain passive and some will be obstinate resisters. Gradually the culture will shift – even if it means shedding some of the resisters.

Passionate leaders reinforce the momentum by celebrating successes. Their people become collaborators and contributors to change and they grow into their new identities.
 
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Case Studies

Last year I met with a passionate leader who has been working assiduously with his leadership team and his people on a 5-year transformation to not only adapt the business to a world of disruptive competition, but also to change the internal culture. He’s been doing this ‘brick-by-brick’ so that the company is now clearly differentiated from competitors because of its superior customer service and depth of relationships.

A couple of years ago I endeavoured to assist an organisation in a very competitive industry where profit margins are thin. Their CEO gave lip service to customer centricity to the extent of branding the business as ‘customer-focused’ while doing little else. The corporate priority was to automate as much of the front-line services as possible, and to shed staff. When I interviewed some of its key customers it was obvious that there was a growing problem. One comment I recall was: “next they’ll be offshoring their customer service”. That CEO has since moved on.

I recently met with a relatively new leadership team who are commencing their customer centricity journey. They have many challenges ahead – a legacy of broken promises, little in-depth insight into their customers, staff who are keen but nervous about the future. However, the new CEO will succeed because he has boundless enthusiasm for customer centricity and he has a leadership team who share his vision and the passion. Their first step is to reach out to customers and listen.

The Secret Ingredient

Passionate Leadership is the secret ingredient to building a customer-centric organisation. It’s not the only ingredient. Customer centricity also requires innovation, commitment, time and persistence. It’s also obvious that it will not succeed unless that secret ingredient – ‘passionate leadership’ – is fully activated.

 

Peter Whitelaw is an Australian consultant providing customer relationship assessments, customer centricity guidance and change management services. Peter has a background in engineering, sales and general management with Hewlett Packard, Tektronix and Optus Communications. For 11 years he was CEO of project and change management training and consulting company Rational Management, training thousands of managers across the world. In recent years he has been lead consultant on several change management and customer centricity projects for both commercial and government organisations.

Deep-Insight takes to the High Seas

NEW CLIENTS ANNOUNCEMENT

We are delighted to announce two new clients at Deep-Insight. Both have a strong maritime feel.

Survitec


Survitec is a global leader in survival and safety solutions to the marine, defence, aviation and offshore markets.  It has over 3,000 employees worldwide, covering 8 manufacturing facilities, 15 offshore support centres and over 70 owned service stations. Survitec also has a network of over 500 third party service stations and distributors.

Across its 160-year history, Survitec Group has remained at the forefront of innovation, design and application engineering. It is the trusted name when it comes to critical safety and survival solutions. The new management team has made a commitment to focus the company around its customers.

In a recent interview for SAFETY4SEA, Survitec’s newly-appointed Managing Director for its Marine Division, Baba Devani explains how the world’s leading safety and survival partner is restructuring to become more customer-centric.

Port of Newcastle


Port of Newcastle is the largest port on the East Coast of Australia. As a global trade gateway for more than 220 years, the Port of Newcastle delivers safe, sustainable and efficient logistics solutions for its customers. It is also the largest coal exporting port in the world.

Port of Newcastle’s customers include coal producers in the Hunter Valley, non-coal traders including fuels, alumina, wheat, mineral concentrates and fertiliser manufacturers, as well as some of the world’s largest shipping lines.

The Port of Newcastle is at an early stage of development of a customer-centricity programme. Deep-Insight is delighted to be helping CEO Craig Carmody and his management team on that journey.

How to Maximise Completion Rates for a CX Programme?

B2B Customer Experience (CX) programmes are our bread and butter at Deep-Insight and we’re used to handling questions on how to make CX programmes more effective.

One of the questions we often get from first-time clients is: “What completion rates can I expect from my CX programme?” Another common question from longer-term clients is “How do I improve my completion rates?”

Let’s deal with each question in turn.

“What completion rates can I expect from my CX programme?”

Let me preface this by saying that we are talking about business-to-business (B2B) relationships so there is an inherent assumption in the question that our clients have some existing – and hopefully strong – relationships with their clients and that the contacts in the client organisation will be receptive to a request to give feedback as part of that ongoing relationship.

This is usually the case but clients – particularly senior clients – are busy people so it may not come as a surprise to hear that the average participation rate in a B2B customer assessment is around 35%.

But that 35% figure is an aggregate score and there’s a little more to it than that, if you have a look at the graph below.

completion rates CX Programme

It turns out that the most common completion rate is 26-30% but we have a smaller number of clients – typically clients who have been running our Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) assessments for many years – who regularly achieve completion rates of 50% and higher.

If this is your first time running a customer assessment – either a simple Net Promoter Score survey of something a little more complex like our CRQ relationship assessments – you can expect completion rates of less than 1 in 3.

This may sound OK if you regularly run consumer surveys where a 5% completion rate can be a good result, but for an existing long-standing B2B client relationship, it looks paltry. And yet we have been running customer assessments of all sorts for nearly 20 years and these are the actual numbers.

So now let’s get to the second question: “How do I improve my completion rates?”

“How do I improve my completion rates?”

The starting point is to understand why some B2B companies sometimes get low completion rates and others consistently exceed 50%.

Our lowest-ever completion rate (4%) came from a first-time UK software company where the quality of contact data was simply terrible – people who had left their companies three years earlier, people who had never even heard of our client, and so on. That’s because the Account Managers did not personally sign off the client contact names. You get the picture.

Our highest-ever completion rate came from a company that has been a client of Deep-Insight’s for 10 years and whose customers view the annual CRQ assessment as an important part of their ongoing strategic relationship with our client.

But there are other reasons for low and high participation rates – here’s a quick summary of the profiles of our clients that fit into both categories:

completion rates CX Programme

Try these 6 steps in order to improve your completion rates for a CX programme:

  1. Make It Strategic. If the CX programme is CEO-led and driven from the top, it will not be seen as another box-ticking exercise. Make sure this is a key item on the Executive agenda.
  2. Put in Governance Structures. By this we mean things like: a) Account Directors should supervise and sign all contact names, not just pull them from the CRM system; b) the Sales Director should personally sign off all Strategic Client contact names.
  3. Don’t call it a Survey! At Deep-Insight, we ban the use of the term “survey” . For us, a CRQ assessment is a strategic ongoing conversation with the clients and their views will be taken seriously.
  4. “Warm Up” the Contacts. An invitation to complete a survey should not come out of the blue. Ideally, it should be introduced by letter or by email by the CEO or Country Manager, and while an assessment is “live”, the account manager will know to stay in touch with the client and urge them to complete the assessment.
  5. Close the Loop. This is critical. If you ask for feedback, you need to share that feedback with the client, agree the actions that BOTH PARTIES will take to improve the relationship.
  6. Repeat. Get into a rhythm where your clients and your sales/account teams know that every February or October (or whenever), the annual strategic assessment will take place. You may want to run frequent assessments. Some companies have quarterly Net Promoter or Pulse assessments – but don’t overdo the frequency. Your organisation needs time to put remedial actions into effect.

If you are interested in reading more about running a CX programme effectively take a look at our process or contact us at sales@deep-insight.com.

 
Does NPS Work for B2B Companies
 

What? Zero is a good Net Promoter Score?

Deep-Insight works with clients spanning all industries – and our results show that it can be tougher to deliver services consistently well (and build strong relationships) in some industries than it is in others.

One particularly tough industry is the provision of Outsourcing services. These services include IT, payroll, finance, manufacturing, call centres, washroom services… in fact, there are very few functions and processes that have not been outsourced. This phenomenon is not just confined to the private sector – some of the biggest outsourcing deals involve the provision of services to local, regional and central government clients.

Over the past two decades, outsourcing has become commonplace as companies have focused on their core areas of expertise and hived off other functions to specialist organisations that can provide those services better, faster, cheaper than they can. Unfortunately, many of these arrangements fail to deliver the expected benefits, and many service providers get badly burnt when large contracts that they have bid for, and won, run out of control.

I spend a lot of my time with senior executive teams – including those in the outsourcing industry – helping them understand what their major corporate (and government) clients think of them. When I present their customers’ feedback to these leadership teams – in the format of Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – one of the most common questions I get asked is “Are those scores typical of our industry?”

Put it another way: they want to know what a ‘good’ CRQ or NPS score is for their industry.

SOME INDUSTRIES ARE DIFFERENT

Many executives tell me that their industry is different. My stock response is that the nature of a business relationship is the same regardless of what industry you operate in. If the fundamentals of a business relationship are the same from one industry to the next, there should be little difference in CRQ or NPS scores across different industries.

And yet, in practice, we do see significant differences in certain industries. For example, corporate banks seem to find it easier to build strong relationships with their corporate clients than companies that provide complex outsourcing solutions.

So why is this? Why does it appear to be so difficult for service providers to get really good customer feedback results and scores? And – back to the title of this blog – what is a ‘good’ Net Promoter Score if you operate in the Outsourcing industry?

7 DEADLY SINS OF OUTSOURCING

Several academics such as Jérôme Barthélemy have tried to address this question. Jérôme has identified the “7 Deadly Sins of Outsourcing” – the pitfalls that companies blunder into when they make a decision to outsource a process or entire function to a service provider. These seven sins are:

  1. Outsourcing activities that should not be outsourced;
  2. Selecting the wrong vendor;
  3. Writing a poor contract;
  4. Overlooking personnel issues;
  5. Losing control over the outsourced activity;
  6. Overlooking the hidden costs of outsourcing; and
  7. Failing to plan an exit strategy (i.e., vendor switch or reintegration of an outsourced activity)

THE TERRIBLE THREE

It’s not just the company that’s doing the outsourcing that’s at fault. The vendors – or outsourcing service providers – are also guilty of their own deadly sins, the most common of which (the Terrible Three) are the following:

-The Sales – Delivery Gap. This typically happens when a vendor has a ‘bid team’ – a professional sales and commercial group – that bids for new contracts. Before the ink is dry ve to be able to on the contract, the bid team has moved onto the next major deal, having handed over delivery and implementation to a completely different team that looks at the contract and shouts: “WHAT? You expect us to deliver that? With those resources? And for that cost?”

-The Efficiency Challenge. Outsourcing providers need economies of scale to make money. The unit cost of providing payroll services to 10 companies is lower than to a single company, but only if the service provider can establish a large efficient ‘factory’ for the delivery of these services. In most cases, the ‘factory’ managers operate on principles that are based on efficiency and cost containment rather than on delighting the customer.

-The Offshoring Issue. As discussed above, service providers must run an outsourced operation at a lower cost that the company doing the outsourcing. One way of achieving that is offshoring – locating the ‘factory’ in another part of the world where labour costs are significantly lower. So the UK service provider moves the IT development to India, or the Australian service provider transfers the call centre functions to the Philippines. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s meticulously planned and executed. Often it’s not, and even when it is, there are always teething problems.

SO WHAT’S A GOOD NPS SCORE FOR AN OUTSOURCING COMPANY?

In a previous blog I said that an ‘average’ Net Promoter Score for a European B2B company is in the region of +10% and that scores in excess of +30% are truly excellent.

Our experience is that an ‘average’ NPS score for Outsourcing companies is negative – typically in the region of -10% and that any NPS result in positive territory can regarded as a good result.

So there you have it. Zero CAN be a good Net Promoter Score for some European B2B companies.

If you are a senior executive in a company that provides outsourcing services, you can settle for mediocrity and target your staff to achieve a zero or slightly positive NPS. Alternatively, you can work with your clients to make sure they avoid the 7 Deadly Sins (as well as making sure you avoid the Terrible Three internal sins), thereby outperforming the competition and making much greater profits for you and your shareholders.

 
Does NPS Work for B2B Companies