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“Zero-tolerance” for not taking customer-focused action

In preparing to write something this week, I often go back and review what I wrote the previous week. Last week I wrote about the good things that happened at our Spring User Forum and upon reviewing what I wrote, it dawned on me that I have effectively “thrown down the gauntlet” on taking action. Essentially, we are no longer accepting any excuses for delaying the efforts to improve our customer focus. I stated that we have a solid framework for how the best customer-focused companies operate and that it is not a matter of what or how to do things. The question then becomes, “Do we have the resolve and the discipline to do them?”

One of the six key elements of our framework for world-class customer focus is called “Relevance and Alignment”. This aspect of the framework describes the extent to which listening to customers and acting upon their feedback has become a part of the everyday processes and activities of the organization. I recently saw a best practice in this area that every customer advocate should be implementing immediately within their organization. It goes as follows:

Each week, customer comments are culled from the feedback and a list of “Customer Resolutions” is created by the customer advocate. The customer advocate sends it to her boss who, in turn, sends it onto the division president.  After review and understanding, the president then assigns the items on the list to the appropriate manager or department. The follow up on these items becomes part of the weekly cycle of reporting along with new issues that are raised. This closed-loop process over time has simultaneously resulted in faster resolution of customer issues and also an overall reduction of customer complaints.

This is a very simple and effective way to change culture and it reminds me of one of the basics models of how you go about improving importance. It can be boiled down to three simple steps:

1. State the expectations for performance (follow up and resolve customer issues).

2. Role model the behavior (weekly discipline on reporting and assigning).

3. Institute accountability (closed loop process).

I will plan to continue to post entries around the theme of "Zero Tolerance" in the future. A key takeaway for this week is to assess how much of our time we spend talking about taking action versus actually taking the action to the organization. Let’s resolve to spend more time doing the latter.

Originally posted in Customer Connection May 5, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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