Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Understanding The Customer Experience and The Law of the Native

During recent executive coaching sessions, I often hear someone talk to me about the importance of transforming their organization. The phrases, “raising the bar,” “expanding our bandwidth,” “thinking outside the box,”or “pushing the envelope,” are often stated with great passion. The desire to achieve a new level of performance is quite strong, especially given the current economy.

When asked by these dedicated people what they can do to be successful, I often suggest they read a book such as the recently published one by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen called Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, HarperCollins, 2011. I also might suggest they spend time listening to the voice of the customer. But more recently, I have suggested they do two other things.

First, focus on the customer experience, and second comprehend The Law of the Native. Every day in for-profits and non-profits customers have an experience. In some organizations, these experiences are superb, but in most they are disorganized and fragmented, resulting in a low level of confidence and engagement.

Furthermore, many leaders forget to listen to their employees who are creating these experiences. As the The Law of the Native states, “Unless you know the territory, you are not a native.” Every day employees struggle with poorly designed systems and poorly trained managers. Most come to work wanting to do good and make progress. Yet, many experience few opportunities to make progress on things they consider meaningful, and suffer poor management along the way. The result is a disengaged staff who are attending work but not truly committed to the work they are doing. They want to do good, have fun and make money, and instead are pendulum swinging between frustration and active disengagement.

Recognizing how common this situation is at this time period, I was delighted to read an article by Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president for North America, called “How I Did It... Office Depot’s President on How “Mystery Shopping” Helped Spark a Turnaround,” November 2011 Harvard Business Review, To understand why sales was falling, Peters went undercover and visited 70 stores in 15 states. He talked to customers and observed their behavior. What struck him the most was how often customers walked out of the store empty-handed. The result is that Peters began a process of transforming Office Depot.

For those of you who are talking about transformation and improving sales, this is a great article to read, and discuss with your management team. In combination with understanding the customer experience and listening to the natives, this is a good first step in the journey of transformation.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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