Leadership Qualities: Customer-Focused Leadership.


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Photos courtesy of Edgar Chaparro, Fancycrave, Pascal Müller, Shawn Lee, Alan Caishan, Nathan Dumlao, Štefan Štefančík and Kris Atomic on Unsplash.

What do your clients appreciate the most about you?  Customer-focused leaders and their organizations are not only rewarded by customer loyalty but also consistent profitability.

The estimated cost of consumers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion (Milbrath, 2019).  And, this weekend, every airline was put to the test as they transported visitors to Buju Banton’s “Long Road to Freedom” concert in Jamaica.  But, imagine that an airline considered to be the best in the world by its passengers – appreciated for their flight safety record, their in-flight service, their flavorful meals, and the applause of appreciation each time the captain lands the plane at their intended destination, was chronically delayed.  

It happened to me.  The flight was first announced as delayed by an hour, then delayed several more hours, and finally canceled.  All of us had to be rescheduled on other flights for the night, or stay at a hotel and fly out the next day.  I flew out the next day after spending the night at a hotel with the other stranded passengers.  However, I took the time to write a very strong letter to the airline about that trip and how disappointed I was in their service and the inconvenience I experienced.  For my carefully documented complaint, I was rewarded with a voucher for a trip to the same destination where I would only be required to pay the travel taxes.  I was impressed.  It not only soothed my ruffled feathers, but it also ensured that I would continue to choose my preferred carrier for future travel.

Ranked as one of the top three leadership qualities, customer-focused leadership is “an aligned organization-wide approach to customer satisfaction and service, leading to customer loyalty and advocacy” (Miller, 2019; https://www.thetrainingbank.com/what-is-customer-focused-leadership/).  For many who may not be aware of the power of the consumer today, consider the following statistics on global customer service:

  1. 54% of customers have higher expectations for customer service today compared to one year ago; this increases to 66% for consumers 18 – 34 years old (2017 State of Global Customer Service Report).
  2. Companies lost $75 billion in 2017 from customers switching to competitors due to bad customer service; representing an increase from $62 billion in 2016 (NewVoiceMedia) (Rosa, 2018; http://customerthink.com/5-statistics-to-know-about-the-future-of-customer-service/).  
  3. 84% of organizations working to improve CX see an increase in revenue (2017 Dimension Data Global CX Benchmarking Report).
  4. People talk: 95 percent of customers tell others about a bad experience.
  5. 97% of global consumers cite customer service as important in their brand choice and loyalty (Milbrath, 2019; https://www.visioncritical.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics). 
  6. Around two-thirds of CMOs are accountable for customer experience for their organisation (Forrester).  
  7. 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage -social networks, in-person, online or by phone (Salesforce).  
  8. 54% of UK consumers feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their preferences and priorities (Wunderman).  
  9. 70% of companies that deliver exceptional customer experience use customer feedback (ThinkJar) (Aves, 2018; http://customerthink.com/15-vital-customer-experience-statistics-for-2018/).


Photos courtesy of Kevin Grieve, Franz Schekolin and Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash.

In a customer-focused organization, leadership, processes and people are customer-aligned.  So, when customers need something different, customer-focused leaders make it happen.  

In a case study of an industrial-materials company, such was the case.  The managers prided themselves on providing quality that they overlooked affordable quantity.  How?  Well, they sold their material in 50-pound drums.  As customers typically used only 30 pounds for each manufacturing run, the remainder would spoil due to air exposure.  Initiating a review of the problem, visits to their customers; plants revealed the problem.  The solution?  They started manufacturing smaller drums, increasing customer satisfaction and boosting sales (Field, 2008).  

 Not sure how to create a customer-focused team?  Here are a few simple steps:

  1. Demonstrate a genuine commitment to customer focus; real change has to come from the top.  
  2. Get employee buy-in so that everyone understand what is at stake.   
  3. Empower all employees to address customers’ needs proactively.
  4. Ensure that their organizations systematically recognize and reward customer-focused behavior (https://hbr.org/2008/02/leadership-that-focuses-on-the-1.html).  

 Ultimately, customer-focused companies need to evolve and diversify their approach — removing focus from selling points and functionality.  The client must be first in the new market orientation, so there will be an on-going and dynamic process of creativity, adapting to new experiences, engagement and social impact (Craig, 2018; https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2018/04/10/10-traits-of-a-client-focused-company/#415289e924c6).  This was exemplified in the immediate unifying action of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, in the wake of the terror experienced last week.  The message received by all was, “They chose us, but this is not us.”  She has also promised swift and unifying action in stricter gun laws (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-zealand-shooting-prime-minister-jacinda-ardern-vows-to-reform-gun-laws/).  She gave her people, and the wounded world, exactly what we all needed.

 Want to be a more customer-focused leader? Try meeting the needs of your clients with information from Be Prepared , Dear Little Brother,… and Dear Little Sister, … at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfPWaPCJ0vE  .


Photos courtesy of Susie Ho and Marcin Kempa on Unsplash.

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