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Instilling the Value Proposition

One of the greatest challenges for any CEO is to get his  entire organization to “walk the talk”  in order to make every customer experience enjoyable as well as satisfying. 

It’s true that many firms have mission statements that incorporate  their  credos about  customer satisfaction. Some even  post these throughout all their locations as well as  on their web sites. 

But, as a customer you know first-hand that what actually happens in many  shopping experiences doesn’t come anywhere near to what is expected. So why  do some CEOs inculcate a  desire to “delight”  customers in their employees while others do not? You would think that after reviewing the myriad of reports and published articles on the most and least admired companies year-in year-out some CEOs would get the message. 

One CEO who is receiving plaudits for his success at instilling in his team  excellence in product development and translating that into delightful customer experiences is our old friend – Steve Jobs. 

In a recent interview with Fortune, Steve said “we don’t get a  chance to do that many things, so every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life” ! I’ve always wondered about the same thing. If we have decided to work for a company and spend most of our time, and sometimes most of our life, with the firm then why wouldn’t you want it to be an excellent experience? 

Excellent for you. Excellent for the customer, and excellent for the team. And, in turn, excellent for society.  

Steve also said “let’s make something really great – then everybody will want to use it”. And he went on to say “let’s make a great phone that we fall in love with”. Voila – the iPhone. 

All of Apple’s recent products fit that same philosophy. The iPod, Nano, Shuffle and soon the Touch. How about the latest “thinnovation” – MacBook Air. 

If you then create the insanely successful chain of Apple Stores that I wrote about in an earlier column staffed with wildly enthusiastic iHeads who want to please, delight kids with a variety of computer games, and with a genius bar for their parents to get answers from techie nerd wizards, you have the ultimate formula for delighting customers and satisfying their needs. 

Like Pixar, Apple is now a “dream factory” challenging engineers to really create disruptive products that in turn redefine the business models in their respective industry’s. As a result everybody is “walking the talk” at Apple. The result – Apple was recently enthroned as “America‘s Most Admired Company” by Fortune. 

Is Apple alone in this quest for the ultimate accolades in customer service and satisfaction? The delight index? No, not by a long shot. 

Let’s look at a few other well known companys – Costco and Fedex. How do they fare in customers eyes in terms of customers rating the best company experiences? Best being defined as “enjoyable experiences”, “ease of doing business with”, and “satisfaction of needs”. 

In a recent survey by Forrester Research of about 5,000 customers who were asked about their experiences in terms of “enjoyability”, “usefulness” and “usability” with over 100 firms in about nine different industries, Costco grabbed the  number one slot–ahead of book store giants Borders and Barnes & Noble (who are very customer oriented), Target and Staples.  

Costco employees also “walk the talk” by consistently delivering the company’s clearly defined value proposition. Costco says “our employees are ambassadors on the floor and we make them feel like they are part of a company that cares about them and its customers”. Obviously, the cultural credo works at Costco. 

How about Fedex. Their employees are guided by what they call the Purple Promise – to make every customer experience “outstanding”. This value proposition has not only become inculcated at Fedex so that it permeates the entire organization, it’s also become a way of life. 

The result of this total employee dedication to delivering excellent service is also reflected in the growth of revenues every year for the past 5 years from $22.5 billion in 2003 to $35.2 billion last year. 

The indoctrination to the Purple Promise starts on the first day of employment with a tutorial that explains the Fedex customer-centric culture. It continues with a video series and frequent purple promise stories. After four  weeks of training on the company’s total service offerings, employees areindoctrinated into the language of Fedex – its phraseologies,  and the “team” culture concept of working together globally to make each customer experience outstanding. 

To ensure that Fedex folks stay on message the companyemploys  an independent research firm that randomly selects calls and surveys a sampling of customers every day. If a less than outstanding result is recorded, the firm calls Fedex immediately and they contact the customer to determine what they could have done better. 

Their customer satisfaction index is famous. Fedex rates their service on a scale of 1 to 10 based on a weighting system geared to different kinds of problems that their customers experience. 

Obviously a lost package is the worst thing that can happen followed by a damaged package, and then a later than promised delivery; and so on. This focuses the entire company – all the employees, on working to reduce problems to an absolute minimum to enhance customer satisfaction and the overall image of Fedex. 

This commitment to delivering outstanding service and “walking the talk” has resulted in Fedex leading its industry in customer satisfaction for the past 10 years! It has made Fedex the largest air express company in the world. They are not only moving packages, they are dealing with their customers lives and they take it very seriously. 

I guess the question is “are your employees – walking the talk”? Do you have a measurement system in place to determine if your customers are delighted with their experience with your firm? Are your employees looking forward to coming to work everyday with the thought of seeking ways to deliver excellent service? 

As I have written  in previous  columns  – you are in the customer business. Happy satisfied customers will keep coming back and they will tell others about their good experiences. Unhappy customers will just go away and tell others of their unpleasant experiences.

You need to treat your customers as appreciating assets because that is what they are. You have to deliver on your value proposition and even enhance it. Set a goal to “delight” your customers. Your job is to grow the value of your customers by delivering excellent memorable service. 

Just think of Apple’s goal to make a few products exceedingly well, or Costco’s ability to empower employees to be ambassadors on the floor, or Fedex’s Purple Promise cultural manifesto. 

Let’s establish a dialogue on how you can inject your employees with this desire to be the best in your industry, and to deliver excellent customer service – beyond customer expectations.

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.

He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: [email protected]


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