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Spooky, Yes, but It Works

September 23, 2009  

In a recent post at ClearAction's Customer Experience Optimization blog, Lynn Hunsaker cites a troubling stat from Accenture's Delivering on the Promise study. Though 75% of surveyed executives viewed their customer service as "above-average," 59% of their customers reported their customer-service experience as "somewhat to extremely dissatisfying." Now, that's a disconnect.

Apparently, Hunsaker reports, lots of companies may feel they are customer-centric while their customers feel altogether differently. She cites a CMO Council Customer Affinity study in which half of the companies surveyed said they were "extremely customer-centric, but when customers of those companies were asked, only a tenth of them said [so]." Yikes.

What's a company to do to ensure its customer-centric perspective is actually reaching its customers? Two suggestions:

  1. Get real. Download a copy of ClearActions' free worksheet, "How Customer-Centric is Your Company?" Call your team together and hash it out.
  2. Get spooky. This one's a little scarier, but it apparently works. Hunsaker suggests you follow Jeff Bezos's example at Amazon: He "once started an executive meeting by announcing that an empty chair at the table represented 'the customer.' Throughout the meeting, the executives were compelled to include the customer in their thought process, and to consider their comments' implications on the customer, as if 'he/she' were present." This has been a practice at Amazon meetings ever since, Hunsaker reports.

"As Amazon exemplifies, building a customer-focused culture is an ongoing journey," Hunsaker concludes. "This journey is called internal branding, where outside-in thinking is integrated into the job of everyone company-wide, managing their personal impact on customer experience."

The Po!nt: Put yourself in their chair. Invite a ghostly "customer" to your next meeting, and see how his or her "presence" challenges your team's thinking about customer service.

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  • by Andrea Wed Sep 23, 2009 via web

    We brought a customer into our last company meeting at Peachtree by Sage. After surveying employees, we found it was the hit of the meeting!

    Good advice for any company.

    Andrea Moe
    Director Product Management & Marketing

  • by Linda Ireland Wed Sep 23, 2009 via web

    The disconnect between perception and reality is spooky in and of it itself - and I appreciate Lynn Hunsaker giving us some new data.

    Building on Jeff Bezo's "empty chair" idea, what if you had a clearly defined, target or ideal customer experience, giving some powerful detail to all those daily decisions and actions? The target experience could be a kind of map - of what should happen and how customers should feel as they learn about your org, try you out, buy, use your product or service to solve their need and even evolve to a new need over time?

    In our research and across many companies, we've seen that even if you never achieve the "ideal" experience, having a clear and agreed upon litmus test for daily decisions can move your org toward better financial performance. You can check out ideas and resources here:

    Thanks for the post.

  • by Josue Wed Sep 23, 2009 via web

    good job tying in the picture used in the article to the example provided. Simple and to the point.

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