How often do your execs interact with your customers?

The BBC reported this weekend that Norwegian prime minster, Jens Stoltenberg worked incognito as a taxi driver one afternoon this summer, in order to hear what real Norwegian voters really think, in the belief that people share their true opinions in cabs. While admirable in theory, this seems to be as much a publicity stunt as a genuine attempt to hear from citizens. All of his exchanges were captured on a hidden camera and the footage – compiled by an ad agency – is already posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page, and has been made into a film for his re-election campaign.

But, there are plenty of other examples of company bosses getting in to the trenches to get closer to their business. My former colleagues Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine wrote about Kevin Peters, former North American president of Office Depot, wearing beat-up jeans and baseball cap in order to interact un-announced with in-store customers. I have a buddy who’s a Jet Blue pilot that often speaks about how he used to look down from the airplane and see David Neeleman – one of the airlines co-founders – loading and unloading luggage from the plane.

How much time does your executive team spend understanding what employees and customers experience?

Focusing on employee jobs helps executives see the reality of how their processes impact employees, and how those processes often get in the way of delivering a positive customer experience. Interacting with customers gives executives first hand knowledge and direct feedback of what’s working and what needs to be fixed.

And, even if getting out and interacting with customers is difficult because of the circumstances and nuances of your business, it doesn’t mean you get a pass. Spend time listening in on customer service calls, or take a leaf from Credit Suisse’s book and encourage your executive team to follow your customer’s process of intreracting with your firm. Nothing will encourage them to fix problems faster than experiencing your customer’s pain.


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