People pleasing—for as long as there have been sellers and buyers, there have been efforts by sellers to get those buyers coming back for more. If we think all the way back to the dark ages of retailing, we can imagine that there was heavy competition for those stone-chiseled wheels—and certainly the stonemason with the best service (and ratings on Yelp) had the most robust business.
Of course, most businesses will SAY that THEY have a keen focus on delighting their customers—that THEY are the best at building retention and ongoing loyalty. “Of course we do,” they say. “It’s a company virtue! We’ve been doing it for years!”
Yet, when you examine the actual processes and procedures used in the interaction with their customers, you will often find the opposite. This is not necessarily willful—it likely is a function of a reliance on tried and true business processes in a selling environment when the business situation may have changed. (Pity the stonemason who was beat out by Goodyear to put rubber treads on those wheels!)
One of the best examples of how flexibility around people pleasing can make all the difference can be found, surprisingly, in the health insurance industry. Aetna Healthcare formerly required advance approval for certain procedures. The company had a huge bureaucracy that reviewed claims. Its customers, the patients trying to get care, had to fill out a detailed form, justify why they should be approved, then wait while the claim worked its way through the process.
A new CEO joined the company, saw what was happening, and asked a simple question: What percentage of submissions, he wanted to understand, were being approved? The answer was more than 90 percent! So all this wasted time, all these resources, for a claim that, nine times out of 10, would be approved anyway? At Aetna, the negative control was hindering what could have been a net positive experience. As a result, Aetna changed its policy to drastically reduce approval requirements. This saved the company money, and, more importantly, got care to their customers faster—and with less effort.
What’s the lesson here? Lead with positive intent to build the customer experience, and make it easy! This doesn’t mean you should eliminate financial controls, and other sound business practices, in order to delight the consumer. It simply means that your controls should be working behind the scenes to support—and not get in the way of—a great experience.
Here are seven simple actions you can take right now to make sure you are delighting on the ground and not disappointing:
Apply these seven actions to your company. I’m guessing you will be surprised at what you find, even if you already believe you have your customer focus down pat. Being customer focused is a journey, not an end point—and if the road is traveled using slick radials rather than jouncy stone wheels, you’ll have a much smoother trip. Also, if you start the journey but they do not continue it, your service and satisfaction will go down, because it takes effort every day to make it work. If you invest the time and energy, you will be amazed how quickly you will hear positive feedback, and reap the rewards in the form of better business results.