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Two great strategies that build profit machines

Steve Sorensen //October 5, 2011//

Two great strategies that build profit machines

Steve Sorensen //October 5, 2011//

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker

High performing leadership and organizations such as Apple, Google, Zappos and Nordstroms have built their strategies (their futures) around customer cultures and proactively hearing the voice of their customers.

Having spent 30+ years in the Fortune 500 world, I have seen firsthand how visionary leaders reorient their organizations to customer cultures, reenergize teams to care and nurture customer relationships and reinvent process or services to exceed customer expectations. I believe to create a profit machine, visionary leadership will focus their organizational culture around retaining loyal, high value customers.

Here are two simple success strategies that have worked for me:

#1. Building the customer culture.

A recent IBM survey of 1,800 CEOs found that 80 percent consider “getting closer to the customer” their top priority. No rocket science here: This survey simply confirms that those high-performing leaders are reinventing, reenergizing and reorienting their organizations to provide a world-class customer experience.

It’s not surprising that the CEOs of major corporations understand its mission critical to get closer to customers, (a.k.a., creating loyal customers), for two reasons. Simply put, it creates a profit machine by focusing the organization’s resources toward generating top line revenue growth – loyal customers buy more, pay a higher price, stay with you longer and refer you to others. Secondly, let’s do the math: 80 percent of 1,800 is 1,440, within those 1,440 there are direct competitors. Those 1,440 CEOs know that you must own your market by serving your customers better than your competitor. (The 360 remaining CEOs have most likely been replaced since the survey.)

What’s a customer culture? Simply stated, it’s a wheel with the customer at the hub and the spokes being the organization’s capability/attitude to serve the hub. The four major spokes are culture or the critical mission mindset of serving the customer then finding the best and the brightest people who embrace your culture. Process, or as we like to say continuous process improvement by clearing the operational speed bumps. Measure your organizations effectiveness, market effectiveness, customer interactions, employee engagement, leadership direction and product/serve trends.

#2. Hearing the voice of the customer.

Many years ago, I conducted a meeting with a customer, the first since taking over the account. I knew there already had been some misfires between us. After the pleasantries, my customer’s VP of operations turned to me and said, “Your company sucks – your delivery is awful, your customer service is the worse I’ve seen, and I think we’ll take our business elsewhere.”

I was fortunate because it taught me the value of proactively pursuing the voice of my customer. I salvaged this relationship, and they became the highest revenue-generating customer within our organization. I implemented a quarterly business review (how simple is that?). We adopted the attitude that it’s not about selling products, it’s about being a business partner determined to create mutually profitable solutions. I listened to what they wanted, sorted out the problems, latticed their teams with mine and created an opportunity for programmatic communication.

Lesson learned, quarterly Customer 360’s are the foundation to any company’s future success. Not surveys, I mean actual 360’s, results oriented, programmatic, actionable strategies that engage customers and create loyalty.

A good business consultant will educate the organization on the financial windfall of retaining customers. A great consultant delivers a programmatic methodology to create a sustainable profit and productivity machine. This machine comes from systemically building a customer-centric culture. Right now, 1,440 visionary leaders are reenergizing, reinventing and reorienting their organizations to compete. They are deep into customer culture and will reap the rewards of the incredible ROI it produces.

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