As promised, here we are starting where we left off in Blog #1, Part 1.
- I have seen how this can go wrong. I was invited to tell the Emperor (CEO) of a major HMO (healthcare organisation) in Iowa that he had no clothes. What do I mean? Two years before my arrival the CEO had instructed each member of his senior management team to go out and talk to their customers (B2B). However, since no well-defined guidance was given as to how these interactions should be conducted or any performance expectations set, the whole exercise had become a “check the box” exercise. So the head of IT for the HMO would go out and meet the head of IT for their customer (they had to visit 3 customers quarterly or semi-annually if I remember correctly). They would talk about IT. Then the box would be checked. Was the business relationship strengthened? Who knows? Were those things discussed that could help the customer’s organisation to be more successful? Who knows? Can a senior IT executive only speak to another senior IT executive? If you are an executive, you should be able to discuss trends in the market, future direction and business issues as well, shouldn’t you? Or am I just expecting too much? I met with the CEO and his 18 senior people and just indicated that he had a great idea, but like any idea, it should evolve over time – some innovation should occur to enhance the effectiveness of the approach. He thanked me later for my diplomacy in getting the message across. I worked with his staff then to take the approach to the next level.
- I remember well my experience at Duke Power in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was meeting with the CEO, the President (Rick Priory) and the rest of the senior staff. They were trying to use the Malcolm Baldrige framework to help them improve performance. As I stood in front of them, I said, “Imagine that I am a Baldrige Examiner. My question to you all is “What does each and every one of you do every day to clearly communicate to all levels of staff the importance of the customer?” There was dead silence! I stood there waiting. It felt like hours! Finally Rick Priory was the brave one and put his hand up. I asked Rick what he did. He said. “I visited 100 customers last year!”. I said that’s great and ran to the flip chart to write it down. There were no other offers. So I took Rick’s approach and asked a few questions. Why? Because being an examiner you are concerned that the approach used is systematic, well-defined and integrated – not just a one-off or ad hoc approach.
i. I asked Rick how many customer Duke Power had. He said about 6 million residential, 100,000 small businesses and a 1000 large companies/manufacturers (the exact numbers are a little foggy after 20 years).
ii. I then asked Rick what data he gathered and how he analyzed it to determine that 100 was the right number of customers to visit. I mean, maybe he should have visited 200 or only 50, right? And if 100 was the right number, why weren’t any residential customers contacted, as they were the largest segment. Or if 100 was the right number, what were the criteria used to determine if a “visit” was appropriate? I did not wait for an answer because he had none – I knew that and he knew that.
iii. I then asked him if for his 100 visits he used a consistent (methodologically sound?) approach each time – in other words, he had done his homework, discussed with other Duke Executives what was most important to learn as well as how best to strengthen relationships with that particular account (reviewing all complaints, customer satisfaction survey feedback, account visit data, electricity usage patterns and so on), or was each visit conducted in a completely different manner (which it was – again he and I both knew this was the case)
iv. Oh the pain! I kept going! I asked how he recorded the information he learned while at the account. Did he write anything down or just keep it in his head? You know the answer.
v. I further applied pressure by asking if he shared what he learned by visiting customers with anyone at Duke Power who would might benefit from the knowledge. You know the answer! No!
vi. In summing up, I then asked if at the end of the year he reflected on his experience – a sort of lessons learned to determine what worked and what didn’t and how he might improve the customer visit process next year.
vii. Was I too harsh? You tell me. What am I missing here?
More to come in the next Blog Post where we will begin with (c) and complete the story
Dr. Ted Marra