Note: In case you missed yesterday's Webcast featuring Jeanne Bliss in our Oracle WebCenter Social Business Thought Leaders Series, Jeanne has provided us a wonderful summary to use for your Annual Planning process. You can also watch the full webcast On-Demand.
Annual Planning Checklist: 10 Actions of Beloved and Financially Prosperous
Guest post by Jeanne Bliss, President, CustomerBliss
planning just around the corner, here are 10 actions that business leaders and
their organizations should invest in to exponentially increase customer loyalty
and drive profitable business growth in the upcoming fiscal year. Execute on them to move toward
"beloved" status in the eyes of your customers. Good news is; many
don’t cost a thing but your commitment and leadership alignment on messaging
Believe in the integrity of your customers. The majority of business policies and rules
are created to protect business from the minority of customers. Be bold, like
Connecticut Griffin Hospital, which began sharing hospital records with
patients and saw claims against the hospital drop by more than 43 percent. Take
a leap of faith and believe that trust is reciprocated by customers when
they feel that you trust them. Find one rule or policy to relax and watch what
Invest in employee trust.
Show your employees that you believe in them. Beloved company Wegmans invests
in its employees by training them in the skills that remove rules, regulations,
policies, and procedures that pen employees in. This enables Wegmans to throw
away the rule book and live by this one edict: "No customer goes away
unhappy." As a result, its margins are higher and profitability more steady
because the grocer's turnover is only 7 percent of employees versus the average
in its industry of 19 percent employee turnover.
Practice democratic decision making. Make sure your company's best ideas have a
way to see the light of day. Give good ideas a chance to prosper no matter
where they come from in terms of your organizational chart. Innovation and
marketplace differentiation come when employees are respected as part of
achieving a mission greater than their set of tasks, and when their voice counts.
W.L. Gore has become a $2.7 billion dollar company, was named by Fast
Company as "pound for pound, the most innovative company in
America," and earned a place on Fortune magazine's best companies
to work for list since its inception because of how the company unleashes its
employees' spirit and ideas.
Grow and invest in customers as a primary asset of your business. Talk about customers lost and gained
in real numbers, not percentages, to illustrate the vast number of lives your
business impacts. Understand what drives customers out your door, as well as
their long-term potential. Zane's Cycles in Connecticut has experienced more
than 20 percent growth every year for 29 years, with 45 percent margins because
the retailer never loses sight of the fact that its customers' average lifetime
value is $12,500. And employees manage relationships bearing that in mind.
Valuing customers makes it easy to make decisions about how to treat them.
Know your power source for bonding with customers. Regularly connect with customers, not
only through surveys and other feedback mechanisms, but also as they experience
your products and services. Take a page from Trader Joe's, which uses employee
taste buds at its testing kitchens to determine what items should make it to
the grocer's shelves, but uses customer "tasting stations" inside its
stores combined with sales to determine what items stay. This closeness
contributes to Trader Joe's ability to generate $1,300 in sales per square
foot--twice the supermarket industry average.
Have clarity about how you uniquely serve customers' lives. Unite your operation to ensure that
decisions connect to deliver an experience customers want to repeat and tell
others about. This ties cross-silo decision making together and releases the
organization from excess bureaucracy. IKEA, for example, designs the price tag
first because employees at all levels know that the store serves customers who
have less money than sweat equity, so are willing put together their items
themselves at home. Across IKEA, the understanding that the price drives
design, innovation, and what the retailer will and will not do drives its
growth...sales that increased even in 2009 by 7.7 percent.
Deliberately walk in your customers' shoes. You need to know your customers' life to
serve their life. Yet as people rise through the ranks or even join
organizations, orientation is often more about process and policy than learning
about the customer at the heart of the business. Be deliberate in establishing
a process for new hires, such as insurer USAA, which require new
"recruits" to wear the flak jacket and helmet that many of their
enlisted customers wear and to read their letters. All this is done so that
when calls come in employees first connect with the customer, and then conduct
the process of the business. Ninety eight percent of its customers stay with
them year after year.
Make employee selection one of your most important decisions. Select your employees as you would
customers: for lifelong value. At Chick-fil-A, operators and employees are
selected based on their values, ability to build grow and sustain partnerships
in all areas of their lives, and then their technical skills. As a
result, Chick-fil-A has operator turnover of just 5 percent, and the fast-food
chain just achieved 43 years of consecutive sales growth. Hire people who you
want to become a part of the story of your business, and then watch how your
social media story improves.
Proactively solve mistakes when they occur. When mistakes happen (and they will) get out
in front of customers and admit the flaw; then make peace with your customers.
Repair the emotional connection, reduce the concern, and solve the problem.
Southwest Airlines reviews every flight every day to know when delays
interrupted their customers' lives, whether it was the airline's fault or not.
The company contacts customers to explain what happened and, when warranted,
sends out LUV bucks for a future flight. Being proactive earned Southwest a net
revenue increase from those bucks of $1.9 million in 2010. What can you be
Accept the order and the accountability. In a world where customers are use social
channels as a megaphone to broadcast the experience you're delivering, invest
in reliability. Don't make the customer wonder where the order is, how long
until it gets there, or what happens when it backorders. If a customer can't
tell another customer what they get from you, how they get it, or how it feels
when they receive it, they you don't have a story to tell (at least one you
want heard). Investing in reliability earns you the right to grow.
have grown in this economic downturn did so because their customers became an
army of advocates who grew their business for them. They earned the right to
their customers' raves, and the growth that ensued, because they deliberately
made decisions that moved their operations in the direction of their customers
and employees. And many times because of how we budget, that commitment must be
baked into annually planning. Don’t lose
another year of opportunity by letting annual planning pass by without
considering these important commitments.
Watch Jeanne Bliss On-Demand along with our other Social Business Thought Leaders.