Is There A Connection Between Leadership And The Customer Experience?

When the customer experience meets or exceeds expectations, one embraces the entire organization, including the leadership. Would this be Zappos?

When the customer is disappointed with the product or service or their experience, it reflects badly on the organization and on the Leadership. Would this be Blackberry?

There is often an enormous distance between the Leadership of an organization and those who directly touch the customer. Bridging the gap between those who do organizational things and those who do customer things really amplifies an organizations success. In truth, everyone in an organization is responsible for the customers’ experience….. so how do you successfully inject this “customer experience” mindset into the DNA of your organization; even into areas of your organization not directly related to customer service (operations, manufacturing)?

Should everyone be a leader in the customer experience space?

Marketing/Advertising focus has traditionally been a one-way flow, in the past driven often by what the organization believes the customer needs to know about the company / product / service.

Even the small business and startup companies I mentor present me with lists of things they feel compelled to tell the customer, and I ask them if this is what their customer really needs to know? Have they talked to their customer (what a concept) What do they want / need to know about your product or organization, and today with social media, where can they and where do they touch you? Customers want to tell you their stories; the good, the bad, and the ugly! It’s all about their experience, how they perceive their interaction with you and your company. And here you must remember: perception is reality!

When you start to examine where you touch your customer you will realize the answer is “just about everywhere”, and that your customer is “just about everywhere” these days ~ think mobile!

Today with so much “customer touching” happening, you need to design a seamless web experience into your online presence. Both design and functionality are important ingredients, and take note; the customer usually sees the design first, quickly followed by the user experience. A bad first impression will often stop your customer from going any further.

Many companies still touch customers by phone, and often the dreaded automated phone system (voice mail hell) is the first touch point! When I encounter seemingly endless automated menus, I equate this to the leadership being out to lunch!  If you want a good laugh on how not to do automated, buy the novel by Benoit Duteurtre on Customer Service: Customer Service (The Contemporary Art of the Novella) 

A welcoming first impression does not need to be expensive. We don’t all have ‘Google’ budgets for architectural or interior design, but clean, simple, uncluttered, and organized sends a message to the customer that their experience will be without hassle! The very same “no hassle” message (positive or negative), can be communicated by how you present yourself on your personal stage via video, Skype, Hangout, GoToMeeting or similar.

There are lots of helpful and informative information and training on how and what to do related to customer service; usually about how the customer’s problems are handled. This is part of the customer experience when things go wrong, but how about when they go right? How often do you get… “we appreciate your being a customer since 1995…..”. In banking, “we’ll ignore you just like we ignore the new customer”, that’s my personal experience with a major bank!

If you are on a ship without a captain, it’s quite obvious; it feels like it’s free-floating and if the wind changes or there is an emergency, no one takes charge. Similarly, it’s obvious when the leader of an organization is not paying attention; and that filters on down all the touch points with the customers. Did this happen to Xerox, Polaroid, and Kodak” Are these examples of leadership unable to respond to the digital winds of change? Obviously they did not listen to their customers……they knew better!

18 years ago a small startup company showed Kodak an interesting product; the first IP camera; (a digital camera connected to the internet). It was summarily rejected…..”our customers would not be interested in this…..there is no application for this….” Even at the time, to our minds, this product had wide-ranging applications for a photographic products organization…. Why do I remember this? Because I was consulting for that startup!

People will do amazing things when they feel the leader or leadership really cares. Against all odds, my mother survived an extra two years, waiting to receive her letter from The Queen; something you get when you turn 100 years of age in the UK.

Touching the customer, dealing with their experience, is no longer only the job of the sales people and those in customer service! Everyone in your startup, small business or even big company, needs to be empowered to ‘be a leader’ when it comes to the customer experience. Don’t you just love it when the shipping department employee is empowered to give you a discount without running to their supervisor!

What is your ‘empowered employee’ story, where they took the initiative and enhanced their customer’s experience?

CASUDI aka Caroline Di Diego
Caroline Di Diego aka CASUDI is a Social Media whisperer helping Brands, Communities and individuals find their social voice. She is the creator of the successful Entrepreneurs Questions blog; an effective self-help resource for Entrepreneurs. She is an award winning documentary film-maker, using New-Media to tell people's stories with impact. Esse Group, boutique consultancy has been helping companies move from concept/chaos to fundable and or profitable for over 25 years. INCLINEDESIGN focuses on Architectural Design solutions. She is a Co-Founder of the non-profit BankOnRain, solving the global water crisis with an available resource, THINK RAIN! . She is an avid guest blogger
CASUDI aka Caroline Di Diego
CASUDI aka Caroline Di Diego

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  • August 9, 2013

    Jen Olney

    Interesting story on Kodak, @casudi Kodak really did miss out on a product. It is amazing how many leaders refused to listen to their customers and they miss out on the innovation they could have from taken from that feedback.