My dear friend, Martin Butler, believes that customer-centricity is no longer 'good enough' in today's customer-facing organisation. To quote the cover of his latest book entitled 'It's Not About Us, It's All About Them!' (Management Books 2000, 2016), "In a world turned upside down by technology, customer obsession is everything".
The days are numbered for organisations paying lip service to customer centricity and telling stakeholders that the customer is at the centre of their bullseye. Martin believes that organisations need to be truly customer obsessed in order to survive and prosper in the new economy. The difference lies in what you say you feel and do about your customers versus how you truly feel about the customer experience you deliver.
I love the quote in Martin's book, from John Gilliam, leader of Australian home improvement retailer, Bunnings, who clearly buys into the importance of a customer obsession. "We realise not everything we sell is exciting, but it is always important. A tap washer is never going to delight a customer but if the advice we give helps to stop a leak more quickly, more easily, then that builds towards a better life for our customers, a better home. And that's our purpose."
I can reference several retailers who have closed their doors in recent years, and who have blamed the Amazonisation of retail for their woes, when it is clearly evident that they have lost sight of their customer's needs. I can also reference several retailers, like Bunnings, who continue to prosper in a new retail age, by simply displaying a genuine passion for their customers.
I would, however, like to reflect on two recent personal experience, where I was left feeling valued, as a customer, and compelled to share the experiences.
My first experience was from a recent trip down to Melbourne, where I made a last-minute hotel booking at the Ibis Hotel in Swanston Street. What is interesting about this experience, is that Ibis Hotels play in the budget end of town, and as this was a personal trip, I chose to go budget versus splashing out on something a little more lavish. I also had reason to find something conveniently situated in Swanston Street, and Ibis checked all the boxes.
What really impressed me, was the card I was presented with, upon check-in. In it, was my room card, and a personalised handwritten message, which welcomed me to the hotel and thanked me for choosing their hotel.
When you consider how many people pass through their doors, it is impressive that the team at Ibis Melbourne still stuck to their guns, and insisted on adding a personalised and handwritten touch to their welcome.
My most recent memorable experience came this week when I flew with Rex Airlines to Wagga Wagga, in regional New South Wales, on a business trip. To give some context, Wagga Wagga is about a 50-minute flight (or five-hour drive) from Sydney. Upon boarding the small, twin-prop aircraft, I was warmly greeted by Monique, the only cabin attendant on the flight. As I was sitting in the first row and I arrived on board early, I witnessed that every other passenger was greeted by name and with the same warm welcome.
When Monique learned that I had never been to Wagga Wagga, and that I was going to be there for a couple of days, she took the liberty of writing down a list of recommended places to eat in the town. When my associate, Dan and I arrived in Wagga Wagga, we used Monique's list to plan our culinary journey for the next three days. Whilst Monique's list of recommendations were bang-on and validated by some of the locals, what really impressed me was the effort she made to prepare the list of recommendations.
What Monique displayed in that short 50-minute flight was a passion for her role and a passion for Rex's customers. She was, undoubtedly, the best cabin attendant I had encountered in my many years of air travel.
There are times when I am disappointed by the lack of a strong customer orientation, whether it be the grumpy bus driver who growls at you as you board the bus, or the disinterested retail assistant who keeps you waiting while she completes her conversation with a colleague. What amazes me the most in these situations, is why these people choose to work in customer-facing environments?
Martin Butler believes that for a retailer or a brand, their most important customer is on their payroll. Perhaps then, the journey to a customer-obsessed Nirvana needs to start with who you bring on to the payroll, how you train them, whether they buy into your vision, and whether you recognise their role in your organisation.
For aspiring advocates of a customer-obsessed organisational culture, Martin's book is a highly recommended read.