The 2010 Customer Champion awards from 1to1 Magazine were recently announced. We at Walker were particularly proud to see our client Gloria Berndl, from CDW, earn some well-deserved recognition for the work that she and her team have accomplished. In total, fifteen customer champions were identified across a variety of industries, including IT, retail, financial services, education, airlines, and automotive.
As I reviewed the stories of the fifteen award winners, five themes clearly emerged that the wise practitioner will take note of. Over the next five weeks, I will highlight a key trend and discuss the implications we should consider.
Trend #1: Executive Buy-In Is Key
As we typically see with our clients, the most successful customer loyalty programs are those that are led in a top-down fashion; the same is true with many of the 1to1 Customer Champions. Without a champion at the most senior level in the organization, loyalty is not as likely to take root and yield cultural change at a grassroots level.
Executive support is critical for a number of reasons, including:
1) The executives are ultimately in control of whether the company will invest – and by how much – in the program (including resources to be allocated to the initiative, how much to invest in employee training, whether or not to tie compensation or other rewards to the program, etc.).
2) Internally, it creates credibility – if the executive team is leading the initiative, then it is less likely to be seen as most recent “the flavor of the day” management fad.
3) Externally, the executive sponsor puts a face on the program with customers. This person effectively sets the expectation that customers will have regarding the level of customer focus exhibited by the organization at all levels. This can serve as an effective signal to the market (which, according to the literature and our own Walker Index, responds to such signals) as well as being an effective attractor for new customers.
4) Being the chief customer advocate in an organization immediately provides a context by which the CEO can connect with customers.
It is easy to take executive sponsorship for granted when it exists; it can be challenging, though, to build. In fact, one of the questions we often hear from clients is how to engage executives. The main answer to that question is the second trend we see emerging, which will be the topic of my next blog.
Mark A. Ratekin
Sr. Vice President, Consulting Services
Fornell, C., Mithas, S., Morgeson III, F., & Krishnan, M. (2006). Customer Satisfaction and Stock Prices: High Returns, Low Risk. Journal of Marketing, 70(1), 3-14.