Once upon a time there was a king called King Success. His kingdom was called Happyland.
Happyland was famous for its aura of happiness and prosperity. Everything seemed organised and orderly. Things just happened. Nobody complained. People went out of their way to help and serve. Visitors flocked to see it for themselves. They spoke high of the kingdom and wished to stay for as long as they could. All this brought in fame and fortune for Happyland. It made Happyland an envy of many kings far and wide. Other kings implemented similar policies but could not achieve the same results. In spite of all their efforts they realized there was something lacking.
A neighboring king friendly with King Success visited Happyland to see it for himself. Admiring the state of affairs he asked King Success What is the secret of Happyland. King Success simply replied “I AM MY SUBJECT”
Baffled, the other king asked “How can you be your subject?” King Success replied ‘It is simple, I want to make sure my policies and programs are right. Does it lead to comfort and happiness? I want to ensure if this is what my subjects really want. One way of knowing is to ask them. But this only resulted in positive feedback. Though pleased with myself it cast a shadow of doubt in my mind. I wondered if they were after all hesitant to voice any grievances. Hence I wanted to check this for myself. And the only way to know if this is true is to be one amongst them. I hence roamed around the kingdom dressed as a commoner to see for myself how things were really working. Are my policies adequate? Does it require improvement. Am I happy and satisfied as a commoner for only then can I expect my subjects to be happy and satisfied. This exercise produced positive results. For, what my subjects hesitated to voice, I experienced it for myself and corrected it soon. Till date I go around my kingdom as my subject.”
In modern day parlance and in the world of business I ask ARE YOU YOUR CUSTOMER?
Are you satisfied with your products and services? The instant retort would be ‘YES’. And, why not? For, any product is designed and its price structured, keeping customer requirements in focus. Systems and technologies are developed for customer convenience. Services are offered keeping his satisfaction as the prime objective. In short any business truly and genuinely focuses all its efforts and resources with the customer in mind. But have you checked if all your efforts and resources are working well. Have you checked if all processes are synchronized and working in harmony. Have you checked if what you are offering is what the customer really wants?
How can we ascertain if our processes are in place? How can we confirm if our policies are right? How can we be sure our customers are satisfied? How we can check our performance.
This can be done by (1) asking your customer (2) being your customer.
The onus of customer satisfaction lies with each and every employee in any organization. It is the responsibility of the chairman as much as the charwoman to ensure customer satisfaction.
Dividing an organization in 3 main tiers, let’s see how or why we should be our customers.
FRONTLINE AS CUSTOMERS
Let me narrate something from Michael LeBoeuf’s ‘How to win customers and keep them for life.’
A young boy entered a drugstore phone booth and the druggist overheard the following conversation: “Hello, is this the Smith residence? … I would like to apply for the opening you have for a gardener… What’s that, you already have a gardener? … Is he a good gardener? … Are you perfectly satisfied with all of his work? … Is he not doing anything that you would like to have done? … Do you plan on keeping him? … I see … well, I’m glad you’re getting such excellent service. Thanks anyway. ‘Bye.”
As he left the booth the druggist remarked, “Johnny, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I know it’s none of my business, but aren’t you the Smith’s gardener?” To which Johnny replied, “That’s right. I just called to find out how I’m doing.”
Frontline staff can be their customers to check on their own activities and performance.
The first point of contact and something that speaks volumes about any company is its telephone systems. How many telephone operators call their company and check on their greetings and hold messages, check for audibility and clarity, is the recording fine, is the volume jarring, is the background music louder than the message itself, the accent in the recording, their company directory, what company information is loaded, its length, time and repetition, messages for after office and public holidays. In short how do you feel as a customer calling your own company? Do you feel ‘WOW that was great’ or was it a ‘hmmm we could do a better job in certain areas’ or the realization ‘I now understand why a customer gets upset after holding for a while’
Being your customer helps measure your performance. Is there a problem? Is it with you, your telephone system or a process? How to improve or fine-tune? It enthuses to offer suggestions and improvements and gets everyone involved and contributing to enhance their area of work. Most important it helps to empathise with your customer.
MANAGERS AS CUSTOMERS
Can you imagine a company that pays its employees to go and watch movies?
Well … 35 years ago when television was unheard of in India, the only place one could see advertisements were in movie theatres. During those times one of the multinational giants in consumer durables devised a strategy to check on their advertising and marketing. When any of their employees went to watch a movie and the company’s ads were shown they came and reported it. Data such as the name of the movie, date, show-time, product advertised, feedback on the audio quality and visual effects, was it shown full length or clipped by the theatre were collected. Employees helped to check on the ad releases. In return their ticket cost was reimbursed. Here managers worked around and implemented a policy that brought about a win-win situation. The employees acted as their company’s customers. The managers monitored the releases, its quality and impact.
Let’s go back to the telephones and suppose managers had to call their board numbers instead of direct lines or mobiles. Suppose they had to call as a normal customer would do. They will certainly get an insight on how a call is answered, the time taken to pick, the greetings itself, effectiveness of the mailbox, review if company directory needs amendment due to any restructuring. Take it a little further and get creative. Make your telephone systems more customer friendly. Come up with friendly recordings for the festive season? Wish your customers EID MUBARAK OR HAPPY NEW YEAR and then inform them of the working hours for the public holiday rather than the usual recording one hears day in and day out. Make your telephones empathise with your customers. Think about it.
Think how the customer might feel. Put yourself in his place and experience the process or activity, look for areas to fine tune that will satisfy you and you will end up delighting your customers.
Such checking mechanisms help managers to capture, analyse, monitor and measure data. It helps managers to amend procedures and processes making it more customer friendly. While frontline can report findings and suggest improvements, it is managers who can actually bring about those changes. Be your customer, check your satisfaction and change for the better.
MANAGEMENT AS CUSTOMERS
Moving to the top it is the responsibility of senior managers to nurture company’s mission and vision statements. They need to ensure sufficient impetus to meet company’s objectives. Are we in the right direction to meet our goals? Are policies in place? Are our customers delighted? Are we making profits?
Customer satisfaction can most certainly be determined through market surveys and customer feedback. But a sure shot way to get first hand information is by being your own customer.
For example a customer while waiting at the cashier overheard a senior manager bragging about the quality of their milk and milk products. No doubt they were the best in the market but they had a problem which the customer just had to share with the manager. So he walked up to him and asked if he had used his products. The manager beamed “of course, I only use our products”. The customer asked if he had opened a 2 litre can of milk and poured it in a glass. The manager replied “No I have not, for our maid opens the can and brings the milk”. The customer said ‘Go home and do that and you will realise that while pouring, a good 2-3 spoons of milk spills over the mouth of the can. The spill leads to wastage, makes milk costlier and creates a mess.
This senior manager seemed more a consumer than a customer.
The corrective action here would be to redesign the mouth of the can making it convenient for any one to pour milk. Even a child should be able to easily pour his own glass of milk.
While the quality of a product might be excellent one needs to look at various other aspects that play an important role in satisfaction. For example, ease in use, convenience, colourful packing, working hours, safety standards, environmentally friendly, price etc. All these play a key role in satisfaction. This is where R & D comes in, this is where policies come in and this is where senior managers should come in as customers to check and better the business.
Frontline can check, report and suggest changes, middle managers can bring about operational efficiency and corrective actions. But it is senior managers who have to review policy decisions, missions and visions, strategies and goals, check customer satisfaction and steer the organization in the right path.
Statistics show that a typical business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers. The balance 96% just walk away depriving you the opportunity to improve. While you have to work on the 4%, a majority of the 96% can be retained if you anticipate their areas of dissatisfaction and work on eliminating them. You correct, before you are told to correct. It is a simple philosophy of “PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.”
To conclude I urge frontline to check their performance. This most certainly benefits the organisation but in the long run the only beneficiary will be yourself. For you carry your goodwill wherever you go. Goodwill …. that has to shine sooner than later.
I urge managers to spend an hour in a week or even a month to consciously check on various aspects of their business. Look and you will find plenty of areas that need to be overhauled and others that can be improved and encouraged. Put yourself in the place of the customer and see if you are satisfied.
I urge senior managers to make it a policy decision for every employee in the organization to act as customers and report areas of dissatisfaction. You maybe inundated with complaints and suggestions from a cross section of employees, some venting their feelings and others being, genuine well wishers. Study them, prioritise them and correct them. Encourage the process with rewards and recognition. Work your appraisals keeping this angle also in perspective. For after all it leads to a win-win-win situation whereby if your employees win then your customers win and when your customers win then you win.
In short if you are your delighted customer, you’ll make sure they are your delighted customers as well.
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