1. Your Customer Really Is the Key – Lead With Your Customer, 2nd Edition:Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence


Your Customer Really Is the Key

What creates a consistently successful organization? In our extensive work with a wide range of organizations in the private sector (including hospitality, retail, healthcare, transportation, and food and beverage) and the public sector (at the federal, state, and local levels), along with companies based in dozens of countries, we have noticed some transformative yet timeless concepts that all world-class organizations share. What does this mean for your organization? There is much that you can learn from others, but you cannot cookie-cutter your way to long-term success. Like every other organization, you are likely facing very real everyday business challenges. How do we get customers to comply with what we’re asking them to do? While you may have unique differences with regard to organizational culture, your goals are the same as those of any other serious professional: Grow your business and become as successful as possible.

The Chain Reaction of Excellence Model

Many excellent business books describe the strategic process that drives all organizational success. Whether it’s collected Gallup surveys or the classic groundbreaking study featured in The Loyalty Effect by Frederick F. Reichheld (2001), the same pattern emerges. Simply said, this process is what makes a successful organization. We call this the Chain Reaction of Excellence Model (Figure 1-1). The model has four links, and each link is the catalyst for the next one—progressing from left to right in the figure. Here, however, let’s consider these four links from right to left—to trace the path from the end result back to the beginning root cause.

Figure 1-1. The Chain Reaction of Excellence Model

Loyalty and Long-Term Success

To explain the Chain Reaction of Excellence Model, let’s start with the link at the right side of Figure 1-1: loyalty and long-term success. All organizations—in both the private and public sectors—are responsible for successful results, whether or not they generate revenue. Successful organizations generate value or profit, which they derive from loyal customers, who return and even become advocates. With private businesses, there is the obvious cause-and-effect process of generating revenue from goods and services. This applies to the public sector as well. Loyal constituents vote you back in, and happy citizens support you with the tax revenue and votes you need to fulfill your mission.

Customer Satisfaction

The next link in the model, moving from right to left, is highly satisfied customers. The customers you serve externally are the reason you are in business—and stay in business. In public-sector and even some private-sector situations, we can also refer to these individuals as compliers. Unless you understand what your customers want, you will not succeed. And while highly satisfied customers are vitally important, mere satisfaction is not the goal. Truly engaged customers are the only customers who ultimately become loyal.

Employee Engagement

Continuing left, the next link in the model is highly engaged employees. To transform matters externally, you need to improve the key dynamics of this part of your operation, which drives these results. According to Jacob Schneid (2009) of the Canadian performance assessment firm the Momentum Group, “Engagement has been referred to as an organization’s ultimate competitive advantage—and possibly the only one it can fully control.” When your employees are engaged, they are involved, committed, and passionate about accomplishing organizational goals. They typically function at more effective levels and provide excellent service and functional execution. World-class organizations view their employees as internal customers. Serving employees as customers, using the same tools used to engage external customers, can result in loyal employees—and all the benefits connected with this outcome.

Leadership Excellence

The final link in the model is leadership excellence. Effective leaders throughout an organization are the catalysts for action, improvement, and excellence. Leaders who communicate a compelling vision, involve employees, and effectively manage company resources create the fertile environment within which employee excellence—and the rest of the Chain Reaction of Excellence—can be optimized to achieve long-term, sustainable success.

Understanding the Heart of the Chain

If you look at any successful organization, you’ll find the four steps of the Chain Reaction of Excellence Model at work—and the results at any given step directly reflect the effectiveness of the previous step. Thus, if your organization is experiencing a problem in one area, the root of the problem can typically be found in the step that comes before it.

One important observation needs to be made here. At the heart of the Chain Reaction of Excellence Model—the middle two links—are your employees and your customers. Consider what many do not: These two links of the model, representing these two basic categories of people, are what stand between you and the results you desire. Therefore, if you want to influence your organization’s ultimate outcomes, you can do so only by influencing those people with whom you do business day by day. In this book, moreover, we explain how both categories of people are really your “customers”—your employees are your internal customers, and those normally called your customers are your external customers.

Another insight is just as critical: You cannot achieve external customer loyalty sustainably without first achieving internal customer loyalty. When you model the attributes that create committed, passionate employees, you are laying the foundation for them to create relationships with their external customers that will result in repeat business, advocacy, and a bigger, better reputation. And you are also engaging employees who are more likely to become informal marketers to their family and friends—and even become loyal customers themselves. This is one reason we titled this book Lead With Your Customer—to provide solutions that exceed the expectations of all your customers, external and internal!

Summing Up

Now that we have overviewed the Chain Reaction of Excellence Model, we can begin to see the truth that world-class organizations have discovered: Creating your organization’s culture and building your brand are inextricably linked. The key to success and excellence is to serve both types of customers with a seamless, strategic approach, which we will be modeling and exploring in the chapters to come.

While the title of this book is Lead With Your Customer, it is not your typical leadership treatise. This book deals largely with improving employee engagement and creating a great customer experience. Still, there are some key leadership principles you must follow to achieve these goals. Let’s explore those in the next chapter.

Next Steps for Developing Your Big Picture:

What does loyalty and success look like for your organization?

What does a great customer experience look like?

What connections can you draw between employee engagement and the customer experience?

What efforts are you making to measure and assess the customer experience?

What examples can you offer that show you have a highly engaged workforce?

What connections can you draw between leadership excellence and your employees’ engagement levels?