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Make your business a philosophy

Download the book for free here.

A common goal

It is about time that everyone in your company – you and your colleagues, management and the rest of the organisation, both back office and frontline employees – had a common inspiring goal:

Find out how to make a difference so that your customers will say:

“I like doing business with them.”

“I’m going to choose them again next time” and

“I’m going to tell my friends and colleagues

about them!”

Do your customers remember you? Is it your company that your customers are talking about? Or are you just another noe of those irrelevant suppliers that customers do business with and then unceremoniously drop with the passing of time? Are you remembered at all?

The fight against fat-cat-ism

If you adopt the philosophy that you must do something for your customers instead of simply treating them like cash cows, then you’re already ahead. But all too often the focus is elsewhere. If things are going badly, it is often due to external situations. Then you can start blaming others. Of course, this is the easy way out; you are removing focus away from yourself. This is a part of what we call fat-cat-ism.
In Denmark, we actually have an official dictionary word for fat-cat-ism: “selvfedme”. The closest we can get in English is the slang expression “fat cat”, meaning a person who has become lazy or self-satisfied as the result of privilege or advantage. Sure, it might have connotations of the arrogant city banker, but in our very important context to the theme of this book, it can mean anyone who takes this attitude of self-satisfied, overinflated privilege.

Being responsible for your customers

“Being responsible” does not just mean being more polite or baring a wider smile. This is all about taking responsibility for your customers.
You are here to make a difference. Instead of distancing yourself all the time because you are always too busy in the hunt for new customers, you should focus on being responsible and responsive for every single customer, both existing and potential.
It is about time that businesses injected a human perspective into their operations, rather than following a shortsighted and clinical approach. It is about time that we rediscovered the good fundamental values of loyalty.
This is not a CSR strategy. This is an attempt to make the lives of our customers a little bit better.
This way of thinking can really pay dividends. But more about that later on.
A mission statement and internally distributed newsletter are not enough. This approach demands full focus and engagement by the entire company – including those who do not have direct customer contact. As we will discover later in the book, the galvanisation of employees and transformation of the entire corporate culture are the keys to creating a great business.

When loyalty is misunderstood

Why should you even be bothered about customer loyalty? Companies today are increasingly faced with a fundamental challenge: lack of customers.
Many businesses are finding that they are not growing in the same way as they used to and that there are now considerable challenges to gaining new customers. Every company that has done the calculation knows that it is far more economical to retain existing customers than gain new ones. But many businesses appear to have a problem even understanding what customer loyalty actually involves. Customer loyalty is often approached somewhat one-dimensionally: businesses expect customers to be loyal to them, yet they
themselves are not loyal to these very customers. A good example is a newspaper subscription. As a loyal customer to a particular newspaper for a number of years now, you learn one day that your neighbour, who previously subscribed to a different newspaper, has switched to the same one as you – and is only paying a third of the price you are paying! Why are new customers rewarded but not the loyal ones? From the newspaper’s perspective, it has gained a new customer – but he is not loyal; in other words, it is economically sound in the short term, but will hurt the business in the long term.
Maintaining the hunger

Rasmus Ankersen, an author and international speaker, has written a couple of books, one of which is Leader DNA. In this book, he writes about how businesses and employees can perform better. His focus is predominantly on the world of sport; he has travelled around the world and, among other things, decoded why they are so good at golf in South Korea and why so many of the world’s best runners come from the same little village in Ethiopia. Some very interesting stories have emerged from his research.
Rasmus was visiting Nokia in Finland. When the iPhone started taking over the market, their CEO said, “iPhone will always be a niche product.” He firmly believed that Apple would never become a real competitor and that Nokia would retain their dominant position in the market.
They were smitten with fat-cat-ism. The entire company was patting themselves on the backs and proclaiming that they were the best in the world and that nobody could topple them. They were too busy focussing on what was happening within their own four walls, and completely forgot to look at what was happening in the market and with the customers. It seems so obvious that you should listen to your customers – yet many businesses are so into fat-cat-ism that, as Rasmus Ankersen explains, “They lose their hunger.”
When Lars Lykke Rasmussen (former Danish Prime Minister) wrote his book The Danish Dream, Rasmus Ankersen contributed a chapter entitled “How to create
hunger in paradise”. When things are going really well, how do you keep your drive and your hunger alive? And from a business’s perspective, how can it move its focus from itself to its customers?
This is done by constantly asking customers: “What can we do better?” Not just whether or not they are satisfied, but asking them what it would take for them to have a “wow experience”.
Sometimes you just want to shout, “Listen to your customer, damn it! Listen to what they’re saying.” It is this that should be driving your business. It is not about approaching the customer with an attitude of self-satisfied arrogance. You should not treat your customers in a conveyor-belt-like fashion. You must fight for every customer you get and give the best of yourself every time. There is no longer a place for businesses that are only chugging along at half-steam.
Old-school customer satisfaction surveys lead to laziness

Something that is common for many businesses affected by fat-cat-ism is that they use inappropriate analysis methods. The classic mistake is to measure using the five scale rating method (Very dissatisfied – Dissatisfied – Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied – Satisfied – Very satisfied). Many companies then tend to lump the categories of “Satisfied” and “Very satisfied” together and claim, for example, a ninety-five percent customer satisfaction rate.
But there’s a big difference between being satisfied and being very satisfied – and just because customers answered “satisfied” (or even “very satisfied”) does not mean that they are loyal customers. No; customers need to have had the “wow experience”, meaning that they’ve been really impressed by something the company has done and that it has exceeded their expectations. The alternative, from the company’s perspective, is simply the cultivation of laziness and the only goal seeming to be the preservation of the status quo.
It is all about the culture

Customer loyalty is all about corporate culture. There is a tendency in companies today, especially international businesses, towards a culture of arrogance. Many businesses sorely need a wakeup call in this regard.
If you maintain the myth that you have reached the top (and you believe you can stay there without daily hard work), then inertia becomes a goal in itself. But the world doesn’t stand still, and neither do the needs of the customers.
Imagine that you are a butcher in a supermarket. Early one morning, before the supermarket opens for customers, you decide to take a walk through the various departments as your colleagues are stacking their shelves with goods. In the greengrocers’ corner you see that the greengrocer has built an amazing pyramid of tomatoes. You notice that a single tomato at the top is rotten. Here, you can choose to do one of two things: either take the tomato and gently explain to the greengrocer that such a prominent rotten tomato could damage the supermarket’s overall reputation for freshness; or continue on to your colleagues in the butchers’ department and poke fun at the incompetent greengrocer. This story illustrates why corporate culture is so important.

Another example: you are having a meeting in an open office space. In the space adjacent to you, the phone is ringing constantly and the guy you’re speaking to says,
“It’s typical; Smith has forgotten to forward his calls again.” Why is he complaining? Pick up Smith’s phone and take the call – it could be a customer!

A good sign that a company is customer-orientated is the parking lot. A customer-orientated company will tend to have customer parking spaces located close to the entrance. In the product-orientated business, its man- agement’s cars that are right bang by the entrance. It says a lot about the corporate culture. It is the same when you enter the reception area; you quickly get a feel for whether you are truly welcome or you are taking up their time.
Change begins for those who dare

Sometimes it is because you have a boardroom that is put together in the wrong way. It is often occupied by lawyers and accountants whose gaze is too firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror, making them cautious and mistrusting. It is crucial that at this level you have someone who is representing and gunning for the customers.

Businesses need more diversity and edge. It is a common challenge for many businesses. They simply do not have enough edge. Many employees are so obsessed about making a carrier for themselves and so afraid of making mistakes, that in reality they end up doing little more than irrelevant maintenance – which simply will not drive a business. What is really needed are employees who are prepared to express and fight for their opinions. We are often lacking these types of employee profiles. We have altogether too many smooth, nice, boring types.

Everyone talks about change because it sounds good. But to actually put actions behind those words is an entirely different matter, because then suddenly you’re responsible for those bold actions and are no longer able to blame others if customers started abandoning the company. Who hasn’t tried to blame, for example, the unfair price competition, the financial crisis and everything else under the sun? Change happens when you start taking a critical look at yourself. But many have become so comfortable that they do not even bother listening to customers – that’s too much like hard work as then you will actually have to do something that they request of you. It is a lot easier to just stick to your own little agenda so that you can get home by 5 p.m.

The Rockefeller Institute compiles “TARP studies” each year, with analyses of why customers abandon companies. From that research, it has been revealed that only nine percent of customers say that it is because of the actual price. And the major reason? Sixty-eight percent of cus- tomers said that bad communication and service were the predominant reasons they were prompted to look elsewhere. This is rock-solid proof of the importance of communication with customers and working actively to improve customer loyalty.

Do you create change? Or are you, in reality, suppressing it? Get out in front and be the person in the company who starts the change. You will be rewarded.

• Make customers the inspiring goal that ignites
a flame and energises your employees.
• the goal is not satisfied customers. Satisfied is the same as mediocre.
• Create a culture in which employees continually develop and improve.

Customer service in Silicon Valley
on a visit to San Francisco, i stopped by the café called Coupa Café in palo Alto. After ten minutes, i still had not gotten the cup of coffee i had ordered so asked one of the employees. Five minutes later, still nothing, so i asked again, only to be told it was on its way. it was a further five minutes before i got my coffee, and by that time my patience had worn thin.
So i wrote on their Facebook wall that surely having to wait twenty minutes for a coffee was something they could improve upon. After just a couple of hours they answered:
i’m sorry for the delay. we are short-staffed, but we will be back to normal tomorrow. thank you!
it is great that they answered after just a couple of hours – indeed, it is a better response rate than that
of many of the it corporations dotted throughout Silicon valley. So far so good. but if they had actually recognised good service as an investment instead of an expense, they might have written something like this:
we apologise for the delay. drop by again and get a cup of coffee on the house – and this time with fast service.
the cost of the coffee would have been minimal. i may even have bought something to complement the coffee and they would have made a profit from my visit. And that experience just might have made me into a loyal customer who would have recommended them to others.

The question you ought to ask yourself today is: does everyone in your company know that good service is not an expense but actually an investment?