Being customer focused and acting on what customers say is a challenge in many companies. I recommend learning from an industry that does it much better than most – Retail.
Here is a strategy that several retailers adopted.
1. The CEO spends a lot of time going into stores talking to customers, especially on Fridays and weekends. At his Monday morning meeting he tells his senior team what he has heard and seen and asks them what they are doing about issues that he has uncovered. This can be quite painful for unprepared members of the senior team.
2. The senior team not wanting to be caught out by the boss go out to stores and listen to lots of customers on Thursdays, before the CEO visits on the Friday. This gives them the opportunity to fix problems before the CEO finds out about them.
3. This creates pressure for the direct reports of the senior team. They soon catch on that they better go round the stores on Wednesdays before their bosses visit on a Thursday.
4. As this thinking cascades down and across the company management staff are in stores every day talking to customers, finding issues and acting upon them. They also enjoy contact with staff and customers and the experience helps them make better decisions.
You don’t have to be in Retail to use the same approach
In BtoB companies senior management frequently go out on Sales calls to hear what customers are saying or sit in on calls in the call centre. Some go out on deliveries or do service calls with their engineers. The secret is for all senior managers to become simply another member of staff rather than an “important person.” Done well it’s very effective at getting everyone in the company to act in a more customer focused way.