Successful companies are focused on their customers. And customer needs and wants must be an important part of any company’s growth strategy (at Chief Outsiders we call it Big M Marketing). However, day-to-day pressures can take a company off track and cause it to lose that all-important customer-centric perspective.
Once the core strategies are in place, what’s the role of the CEO to assure follow-through and alignment?
Here are 5 actions a CEO can take to look at their company from the viewpoint of the customer and continually re-affirm its growth strategy. With that view, CEOs can determine what actions should be taken to re-align their firms with the needs and wants of their customers.
1) Go undercover. (Have you seen the TV show Undercover Boss?) Few companies are big enough that the CEO can go to a field operation and not have his/her cover blown. But there are many ways to gather this kind of information. Hire a market research firm to do “Secret Shopper” studies of your company and key competitors. Have them record the interactions if possible. Most likely, you will be at least surprised if not shocked by what you see. And the audio/video recordings will be great aids when you reveal the ugly truth to your employees during training sessions.
2) Go meet. Visit (yes, in person) your key customers. Ask them to be brutally honest with you about how your company performs vs. their needs as well as vs. other vendors. Ask them who is their very best vendor overall, what makes them the best and how you can elevate your company to that position.
3) Ask inside. Invite your line employees, including sales, production and anyone else who has direct customer contact (e.g. Accounts Receivable Clerk), to participate in internal focus groups to help identify areas where the company can improve. People on the front line often have insights that will surprise you. Consider having a professional moderator lead the discussion without you there. Your presence may stifle honest feedback.
4) Get current. Pull your strategic planning document off the shelf and review it. This really should be done at least quarterly. Is your senior leadership team focused on achieving the strategic initiatives set out in the plan? It is very easy to lose sight of those important initiatives while fighting the alligators that snap at you and your team daily.
5) Get aligned. In each of action steps 1-4, ask yourself and your senior leadership team if your company is properly structured and aligned to meet your customers’ needs and desires. Where it is not, make adjustments to your strategic plan to become highly customer centric. For if you understand your customer and what he needs from your company – and your company is the best at meeting those needs, you will be on the way to getting your company growing again.
- Clay Spitz, CMO & Partner