Focus on Mission, Deliver Customer Experience

I have recently written about how moving to a social business model requires us to shift our thinking on metrics and accountability. My argument has been that metrics need to reflect the real business impact (the example was Customer Service being credited for new business because it was result of referrals by happy customers).

But partial metrics and extrinsic incentives (goal setting, management by objectives, accountability) is not the best way to coax workers to perform knowledge-based tasks (i.e. anything that requires more than just motor skills) and deliver what customers need. There is a great TED talk by Dan Pinker (via @berkson0)on that specific subject.

So how are we going to drive business with less reliance on analytical metrics and personal accountability?

The Customer Perspective

I once heard Michael Fauscette (from IDC) use this example during a conference session. He asked “What is the mission of an airline carrier?” Is it to fly airplanes? Is it to fly airplanes on schedule? Is it to fly airplanes as efficiently as possible?

Yes, airlines do those things every day, but they are internal aspects of the business. The true mission of airlines (from a customer’s perspective) is to offer safe and comfortable transportation from point A to point B. The true measure of the business is the quality of the air traveller’s experience.

Zappo’s, the online shoe retailer (now part of became a reference for good customer experience. It understood that it is not in the shoe business (they don’t design or make them, their shoes are the same you can find in other stores). Zappo’s business is to create an environment where I can select and buy shoes and then have them delivered to me, in a stress-free shopping experience.

So tell me, What is new?

I can see the rolling eyes, we have heard all the above before. Why do we need to keep talking about it?

The reason: most businesses, including successful ones, fail that test.

We grew accustomed to decomposing the mission and assigning partial goals to people in our organization. We went too far on segmentation and specialization. A front-line agent who doesn’t know or worries about internal metrics cannot stay focused on the customer experience.

The broad adoption of Social Media by consumers and business in the next years will bring a world where new customers are acquired through indirect (mediated by social media venues) or direct (like in the old times) word-of-mouth and referrals from happy customers instead of traditional broadcasting marketing methods.

The Customer Experience (and perspective) will matter more

So to survive, companies will need to focus on their essential mission (from the perspective of their customers) and empower their employees to deliver it well. Happy customers bring their friends. You need to know who they are and what they want to keep them happy.

Does everyone in your organization know what it is that customers want from your company? Are employees emotionally involved in delivering on the mission?

They better be. The world is changing.

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