As a kid, I had several different jobs. These included a paper route, party planning (The JB & Jimmy Jam junior high school parties were legendary), and working as a cashier. These early work experiences taught me a lot about responsibility, taking initiative, and hard work. But one of the most valuable lessons I learned was to always stay focused on the customer.
To be a good paper boy, I had to learn where my customers liked their papers—by the front door or by the garage. Throwing parties forced me to pay attention to every detail of our guests’ experience. By working retail, I quickly learned how to engage with angry customers and solve their problems. Ultimately, I learned that customers are at the heart of any business, and without happy customers, your organization won’t be successful.
As a professional, this truism became even more evident. Over the years, the companies I’ve known that have performed the best are those with an intense customer focus. Too often, companies fall in love with their product instead of their customer and put the needs of their organization in the center instead of being market-centered. CEOs must establish a company culture that prioritizes forging a deep connection with clients and keeps everyone focused on providing genuine value to them.
So how can CEOs create a culture that delivers profound client value?
Measure it. The adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure rings true when it comes to client value. You must first define how your company will measure client value. NPS is widely considered the best measure of customer satisfaction. An indicator of the client value you deliver, it captures how likely customers are to recommend your company. In addition to NPS, I have found several other metrics that gauge a company’s success at delivering client value. These include renewal rate, product penetration, product utilization, customer lifetime value, and percent of client references.
Raise the bar. Once you’ve established your metrics, set and publish annual goals for improving those metrics. Last year, our NPS improved 21.2% year-over-year and we have even more aggressive goals for this year.
Create forums where your team hears the voice of the customer. It’s very easy for companies to become inwardly focused and forget to get regular input from their clients and the market. Earlier in my career, I took over a business that had forgotten about the voice of the customer. My first task was to get them re-focused on the market. I asked an important client to speak at our monthly town hall meeting to explain how our product impacted their business and what was important to them. This re-connected everyone in our organization to the bigger picture and became a valuable ongoing practice. I’ve also found QBRs (quarterly business reviews), win-loss analyses, and surveys at critical touchpoints (e.g., service calls and implementation go-lives) to be helpful feedback loops that foster a client-focused culture.
Conduct regular client success meetings. Establish a recurring internal “client success meeting” that is open to all employees. This will create a forum for discussing initiatives, opportunities, and challenges related to delivering value for clients. The meetings should be structured from the client’s point of view and are an opportunity to bring together all the tracked metrics and feedback provided by the client to create a 360-degree view of performance. Each meeting should review only a few specific clients and focus on creating, aligning, and executing on specific initiatives to drive client value.
Customer success is critical for business success
Companies exist to solve customers’ needs. The companies that solve those needs the most effectively and efficiently win over time. As CEOs, we must be relentless in creating cultures and systems that promote intense client focus. Value and quality as defined by the customer must be central to everything your company does. In order to do that, we have to see through our customers’ eyes and evaluate our performance based on how they evaluate us. If you get that right, you’ll find that your service and product initiatives will better align with your clients’ needs and that your business success will fall into place.