Leadership on Point

How Your Customers Have Changed

May 26, 2011 Chip Bell - Guest Author

Customers today are Picky — more cautious in their choices (and they have many more choices) and interested only in getting obvious value for their money.  They are well-informed about choices, smarter in choice-making, and selective in whom they elect to join.  Blame it on a scary recession, but the is customers are picky!

They are Fickle–much quicker to leave if unhappy.  They not only show a lower tolerance for error, they will exit just on account of plain old indifferent service.  The hype of a brand name means little in deterring the disappointed customer’s exit.  And, their expectations for their encounters with you are up 33% over this time last year!  The old “tired and true” is no longer the “tried and true.”

Customers today are Vocal–more apt to rapidly (and loudly) register concerns with their higher standards for value and their expectation of getting a tailored response.  They assertively tell others their views of service; they also listen to fellow customers’ reviews and make choices without even giving the organization a chance.   Three-fourth of customers makes a decision not to do business with you based solely on “work of mouse” from other customers.

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Powerful, Persuasive Book Captures New Reality in Customer Care

May 23, 2011 Richard Levin

Book Review: Wired and Dangerous, by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson.

Wired and Dangerous, Chip Bell and John Patterson

I have distinct childhood memories of my grandparents sharing the latest news with their neighbors.  I remember my grandmother tapping on the pipes in her apartment to summon her upstairs neighbor to a conversation.  And I recall my grandfather talking to friends over the back fence, and my grandmother chatting with neighbors across their mutual clothesline strung across their backyards.

We’ve gone from clothesline to online in communicating the latest information.  And while my grandparents had the quaint opportunity to share product and service reviews over the back fence, their customer experiences reached a miniscule fraction of the consumers we can reach today with merely the click of a mouse.

Thus is the premise of Chip Bell and John Patterson’s powerful and persuasive book, Wired and Dangerous.  The title is apt.  Today’s customers can bring a business to its knees by virally spreading a negative consumer review online.  Wired and Dangerous is full of real-life narratives of customers distributing stories about their horrific experiences.  But more than that, Wired and Dangerous issues a siren call to the business world: treat your customers with respect, and you will thrive; treat them poorly and you will lose market share and earnings literally in an instant.

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Effective Steps to Significantly Boost Customer Loyalty

May 16, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Outstanding customer service is rarely the result of high-priced employee training and performance-monitoring programs.  Before launching a costly plan to overhaul the organization’s customer service operations, consider inexpensive steps that can significantly boost customer loyalty—right away.

Energize employees.  Pep rallies can help, but nothing energizes employees more effectively than seeing senior management demonstrate enthusiasm toward customers.  Bill Marriott of Marriott Corporation has been known to work the front desk from time to time.  It isn’t for the guests’ benefit, but for his employees.  They never forget seeing the head of the company doing what they do—and enjoying every minute of it.

Be generous with customers.  In the rush of day-to-day business, small favors might seem trivial.  To customers, however, they can be the key factor in a decision to develop a long-term relationship with a company.  It might be as simple as a compliment an employee gives to a customer.  Or, it could be a special tailor-made recognition given a customer for placing a larger order or being loyal for a long time.

Keep pace with changes in customers.  Customer expectations are constantly changing.  They are up 33% over this time last year.  Organizations that don’t keep up with them have little chance of developing long-term relationships.  Instead of asking customers how they like the organization’s service, ask them; “What can our company do to provide the best service in the business?”  Answers will help keep you up to date on what customers expect.

We work in challenging economic times.  As margins get thinner, budgets are squeezed.  Sometimes, the best service is simple service.  Just like that homemade holiday gift given during lean years when you were growing up, frugal service can still be fantastic service.

 

 

Written by Dr. Johnny D. Magwood, Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for Northeast Utilities. A well-known industry spokesperson, he can be reached at magwojd@nu.com.

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Professional Advancement in the Corporate World: The First Steps to Fostering Female Leadership

May 9, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Women Executives in Corporate America, Female Leadership

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Coaching Urged for Women: Inadequate Career Development Holds Back Female Executives, McKinsey Says”, addressed a significant yet often overlooked dilemma in today’s corporate world: how do corporations cultivate and sustain gender diversity among managers and eliminate barriers for female advancement in the workforce?

In order to exemplify a reputable and respectable manager, one must execute basic leadership functions. The three C’s – command, control, and coordinate – have become standard management oriented skills, and are often executed by the male-dominant corporate world.  How can women advance in the workforce if the three core managerial skills are man-made, developed by men decades ago?  These standards are ingrained in our minds; we assume that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is authoritative and direct, and typically a male figure.  We presume that women do not have the time or energy to act as senior-level managers because of their role as mothers and caretakers.  The women who do, in fact, rise to the top and assume senior management positions often execute more behavioral/supportive leadership skills; we often describe these leaders as those who motivate, inspire, and articulate a vision.  Women who have taken on more senior and managerial roles often work in women-oriented careers such as health and education, rather than business and technology.

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