It’s the golden rule, the one we were all taught as children: “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”
Hopefully, it’s a rule that’s still central to your management style, and to your company as a whole. The data makes it clear that with so much competition in the marketplace, customer experience can be the deciding factor between whether you win or lose a sale. According to Salesforce, 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.
To meet these expectations, our Denmark-based company adopted a culture of “humble confidence.” The culture’s tenets: If you want to be a respected market leader, especially in the technology space, you must balance superior products and services with exceptional customer experience. And if you want to be a respected organizational leader, you should develop the same type of relationship with your employees. In fact, you should be comfortable with every one of your interactions displayed on a 100-inch screen in your lobby.
As we applied humble confidence to our U.S. operations, we saw the differences in approach to customer and employee experience between the two countries. I’d like to share a few of the lessons we learned in applying humble confidence across cultures:
Give the customers a stronger voice
In Denmark, there’s a strong emphasis on trust between the customer and the business. Consumers want an even playing field with businesses, as well as the ability to receive a swift response when voicing complaints. They have multiple outlets to express their concerns and seek resolutions; for example, the Danish Consumer Council, which boasts a membership of more than 80,000 and has a hand in crafting legislation. And if a consumer has a dispute with a business or a service provider, they can take it before a Consumer Complaints Board, neutral bodies that broker an agreement between the customer and business.
Initiatives such as the consumer council and the complaints board have fostered a culture where businesses keep a “customer-first” mindset in decision-making. Customer-first is critical to humble confidence – there’s nothing wrong with seeking to be the market leader with a superior product, but you shouldn’t let customer satisfaction slip in the process.
Take stock of your customer experience and consider how your product or service puts customers first. For example, if you develop software, is your UI easy to navigate and grasp? Do consumers have a way to report concerns and receive responses in a timely manner? And is your team emphasizing conversations with customers to determine how to make your offering better? Putting customers first now avoids a loss of trust – and ultimately business – down the road.
Earn your employees’ respect
Danish businesses place significantly less emphasis on hierarchy than their American counterparts. In 2018, out of 140 countries, the World Economic Forum named Denmark’s business culture the flattest hierarchy in the world. Employees in Denmark expect the same level of communication with their CEO as their direct manager, and open disagreements with senior leadership aren’t taboo.
To be certain, authority is important in the workplace – there needs to be a clear vision for your business’ future, and someone needs to be in charge of moving the company toward that vision. You must boldly lead the company forward, but not so bold that you neglect the input and value of your staff, all the way down to the entry-level team. That’s where humble confidence comes into play. It can help define leadership while making employees feel recognized and heard.
You have a great opportunity to practice humble confidence when solving internal challenges between managers and employees. Try approaching the situation as partners regardless of titles, recognizing that each party has a basis for their argument, and that ultimately all involved are working to better the company for its customers. By allowing your team to be heard, you develop a culture that extends to and positively impacts business-customer interactions.
And don’t forget: employees are your greatest asset and represent your brand to the public, so seek their feedback and communicate often. Each person brings a different perspective to a business challenge, and all input is valid – especially as your company grows and you look to reach new, diverse audiences. That intern could be the key to your next business breakthrough.
How to employ humble confidence across your business
Humble confidence is a guiding factor for Stibo Systems in Denmark, but its lessons aren’t restricted to the Danes – it’s also how we guide the company in the U.S. and around the globe. Customers worldwide expect better communication and faster conflict resolution from the businesses they patronize. Employees worldwide seek a greater sense of purpose in their work, and want to have their ideas heard and considered.
The bottom line: strive to be an industry leader, but never forget the customers and employees needed to get your company where it wants to be. Use humble confidence to lead in a manner that emphasizes customer and employee experience, and watch your business grow.