Episode 26 – Customer Intimacy

There are many ways to provide the highest value to customers. Though it’s important to meet the industry expectations in product leadership, operational excellence, and customer intimacy, one value needs to be identified as the most important value for the organization. Let’s talk about the value of customer intimacy.

Episode 26 Show Notes

Episode 26 – Show Transcription

This is Rebecca Clark. Episode 26. Customer Intimacy This’ll Podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work that are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Some of you may be thinking, What on earth is this topic today because of the word intimacy? And when the organization I was in decided that they were going to have this as a driving value discipline, it caused a bit of a ruckus. Because even if you hear about situations in the news, from government and military, about inappropriateness in the workplace and on the job and that kind of thing, it’s not typical to talk about intimacy in normal, everyday conversations in these kinds of organizations. And very quickly it became a buzzword that we were hearing and were to use in our day to day interactions and conversations. This all stems from an article from Tthe E Harvard Business Review back in January and February of 1993 which I encourage you to purchase. It’s eight bucks or so It’s called Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines by Michael Tracey and Fred worse Emma. And they conducted a lot of studies over a three year period of 40 companies and found that companies that have taken the lead in their industries, at least in that decade and it’s been a while since then had typically narrowed their business focused. They didn’t broaden it, they narrowed it consistently, and they wanted to offer, you know, the superior customer value, but they would do it through X selling in one particular value. Discipline and the three value disciplines are operational excellence, customer intimacy or product leadership. And they strive to meet an industry standard in two of those areas and to excel in one of them. And our organization decided that they wanted to excel in customer intimacy. Now that’s really interesting, because I was part of business operations for the learning management system. So operational excellence would be something that we would probably think of first, because that’s our main role in the organization. But we would layer on top of this customer intimacy, So it’s really interesting when you were in the actual operational part of the business and asked to make customer intimacy your primary value discipline because, of course, once you choose one of these disciplines, it drives all your business processes. It drives what systems use and how you use them, and it matters. And so this is a very interesting value to decide in a government organization that is focused on the defense of the United States and very awkward for many people. Write product leadership. People understand. Let’s try to make these really great products and operational excellent. Let’s be lean and mean machine like FedEx or UPS, one of those that you know that they’re there to get it done as fast as they can as efficient as they can, like Wal Mart and these air very different companies than those that focus on customer intimacy. Now, part of what makes these values important are that when companies choose thes to focus on their redefining the value for the customers in a certain market, they need to be able to back it up with their business systems and all of the day to day activities that need to take place to meet customer needs. And as they do this, they end up raising the customer expectations beyond what their competitors are doing, and so it raises that expectation across the board, and when you redefine value for customers, it kind of jostles the entire market. If you think back to the iPod when it came out right, you know when you’re going around with your cassette player or your Discman or your Walkman to play your music, which was a great step right? The Walkman was a great step from carrying around a huge cassette recorder, but then tow have this new kind of device that not only allows you to carry in your pocket, but then it It’s kind of opened up distribution toe a whole new level, so songs that aren’t in the top 40 or that you couldn’t find anywhere suddenly are accessible to you. And you can really get into some niches that you needn’t that you didn’t know existed but that you loved and so apples of prime example of creating a new kind of value for customers. And now they expect it, and everybody else is scrambling to catch up to meet that. And so having values is not new to organizations. But choosing one of these three driving disciplines seemed to be a new concept a few years ago, and a lot of people had a difficult time understanding how customer intimacy played out in day to day life. Because one of the approaches in implementing customer intimacy requires that you are able to tailor products and service is that fit each customer better. And that means you could only do so much assembly line at that part, right, because you have to be able to have boots on the ground to find out exactly needs of certain customers and fine tune it to their needs. And it can be more expensive than regular day to day operations. When we learned about this, an organization, a lot of people thought that this meant you just go and do whatever the customer wants. Well, first of all, customers don’t really know what they want. Sometimes they just know they have some problems, and they need some help resolving them. Sometimes they do know what they want, but as they explain what they want, you realize they’re not even aware of something else that could help them, And if you’re aware of it, then it would be your opportunity to share that with them and make them even more informed. So they could make even better decisions and have even better wants or needs to be met that we could propel them into better worker, more happiness or whatever it is that the customer is seeking. And this kind of ties into what I talked about in the episode about negotiation frameworks and what I loved about Ernst and Young back in the day because they were not into win win transactions with their customers. They wanted to have anchor relationships, so they were never looking at one transaction one and done. It was more of How do I make this transaction so good that they want to come back and find more information from me or have me offer them a service or hire us to do this work or come get more widgets from us? And so it was signing up for a long term relationship. So you’re always thinking beyond the transaction. And so if you look at one of the examples provided in the articles Home Depot, they don’t care if you are looking for a 59 cent bolt or a $59 drill, they’re going to help you and talk to you and get information from you as much as they can toward building this customer relationship with you, and they know it will feel like it costs more in the short run. But it provides a stronger base of customer satisfaction in the long run. What I found interesting about learning more about customer intimacy is realizing that there has to be very strong operational excellence supporting this effort to be more intimate in understanding our customers needs and wants and problems, because if not, you’re gonna have everyone scurrying around getting worn out. And pretty soon they won’t be happy offering help to customers and that you have a different problem. There’s a very strong set of operations in place and product expectations put in place behind the scenes in order to make those decisions when it comes to offering up exact tailored things for customers. And one example I like to use for my personal life out the gate is something that I got to experience very young and that is having a paper out. I’ve shared this before, but these episodes aren’t in chronological content sequences or anything, so I’ll share briefly again. I wanted a paper out when I was really young when we moved to Michigan. There is this prime opportunity where they needed someone. They didn’t have anyone the right age. I was willing. I was nine years old. I was way under the age. But I was tall, and my parents were willing to let me do this. And it was right in the vicinity of my home. And so I became a paper girl in the fourth grade. And when you were a paper girl or boy, you have a little map that you get and you find out who takes the paper and who doesn’t. And on my route, I found out where each person wanted the paper. And so Mr North wanted it in the milk box that you accessed on the left side of the garage. So you put the paper in it, he’d access it from the other side. And sometimes I was trying to fit the newspaper in with a bowl of soup that his wife put out there for him. He’s working in the yard. Other houses I had to go in a screen door, walk through a walkway, put it on the step for a man that was 90 years old. Another person. I had to put it in the screen door, another place I had to walk up a very long wind e driveway and throw the newspaper in a back door way. That was very dark and creepy to me. The house looked like a castle. I should find a picture of it in front of their looked like a castle. And the back door way is like this arch. And there’s a few feet between the actual arch and the door. And I never saw excise like whipping that paper in and getting out of there because the house next to it had scary dogs that would jump a CZ high as the seven foot fence. And I always felt like they were gonna come over it to me because it just didn’t seem high enough to provide safety. And every single place on the paper out had a specific place that I needed to put the paper. And yet daily I had a routine of what process I was gonna follow to deliver those papers so I would go down a trail by our home delivered to a court up one side of one street. Go to these stray houses that were the castle on the crazy dogs go deliver other papers on a main road. Come wrap around, go up another side of ST back, and then come and do the court that we lived on. I had this process for it, so that process was in place, no matter what most of the time. But what happened on the day that I did not get enough papers to deliver to everyone that it paid Get the papers that day? Well, the first thing that we did was we didn’t get the paper at our house. If there was one less paper we for goad, we would forego receiving our copy of the paper to make sure the customers were happy. Us giving up our paper did not change our route at all when it rained and someone would call and say, um, you left the paper in a spot where it rained. Often. We would take our paper to replace it like, Hey, Dad, look at our paper really quick. We gotta go give it to someone else. If we had already given up our paper or if we didn’t happen to be paying for it at the time, I would go get the paper in the rain, bring it home and iron the paper, but notice I still kept the route the same. I did not let this interfere with any other customers. And for me, this was an example of the importance of having operations in place while you apply customer intimacy. So customers wanted a newspaper and it is my job to get it to them. And so they did not see the operational approach that I took to go around the neighborhoods, and I was always changing up to make sure I had it the most efficient that I possibly could. But what they did see is where I applied the overarching value of customer intimacy, which was to put it at your home in a place that you found was best accessible for you to remove that friction on how you got your paper. And so it was honoring the operational aspect but making it appear to customers like it’s no problem. Thio Taylor. This to your particular need. It’s no problem for me to come pick up the wet paper and iron it or trade it out for our family paper, and sometimes I was lucky in the Daily News would get me the extra papers I needed, and I would take the hit if there is error on my part to how much profit I made in that process. But overall they could see that you are trying to meet their needs. And so that’s something I wanted to talk about today was how you can apply customer intimacy in your day to day work. And I think a lot of people that Aaron sales and marketing know this where you have different customers and different areas that you need to treat in different ways. So sometimes you’ll be sending out special promotions or special offerings to a very specific niche of customers or niche. If you don’t like house pronounced, I go back and forth on that one, and you know that sometimes you’re going to be giving this deal to someone in Indiana, but you’re not gonna be giving it to the person in Hawaii, or maybe you’re going to give it to customers who buy a certain type of service from you because you have another offering that’s closely aligned and you know how to break that up. But in our day to day operations of our work, sometimes it can be a little bit difficult to figure out. How do we apply this? And I know this is a constant process of figuring out, and I also know that if you’re in a very rapid, fast paced environment or have lots of projects, it’s very difficult to keep this kind of customer intimacy thinking hat on as you go through your day. But I know that recently I had an experience with my boss where someone had sent me slides I had asked for. They’d collected data, put it into charts, and I was gonna pass it over to my boss. And, of course, when you pass something over to your boss, a very appropriate use of the customer intimacy discipline would be to review whatever has been sent to you before sending it to your boss. So if there’s anything that’s a red flag or that can be worked on, you can send it back to him, whoever sent it to you and make sure that you work on it. So when you give it to your boss, they have what they need. And this time around I looked over it. And in my mind, I was like, Wait a second. What about this? What about this data? Did we ask this question? But it ran in my mind, but it didn’t translate into me going back to ask the questions. And so otherwise the presentation look good. So I forwarded it to my boss. And what did he dio? He came back to me and said, This is great But I have a few questions. And of course, what questions did he ask me? He asked me the same questions I had in my head when I forded the document. And in that moment I realized I had not demonstrated that discipline of customer intimacy because this doesn’t just apply to external facing customers. This applies to all of our work. If I’m paid well and I’m to add my expertise or understanding and experiences to my role in my organization, this is a perfect opportunity to prove that and to help my boss. I could have found out the answers to those questions and had the discussion with those that worked on the presentation. Fine tune the presentation and even included there. Here’s some questions that we think will be asked, and here are the responses that we have for you and send it forward. And my boss would know that I wasn’t just trying to fulfill the assignment that is trying to anticipate what questions would be asked and had already thought through what the answers would be. And at my level of understanding and training, I should be able to offer that up on any given day with my work. Now, I did do that quite frequently, but I point out this example because it so blatantly came to my mind that OK, I was too much in a hurry, just trying to check off the to do list and didn’t think through how I could add more to this interchange and actually save time and energy for my boss. So I wanted to provide another example for bosses, and a lot of this seems like common sense. But on a data today, a lot of this seems like common sense. But when you are a boss, day to day, we get caught up in things and can forget that we’re dealing with individuals on our teams. And they are our customers in many ways because they are coming to us often to help solve problems Phil needs and their wants and some more so than others. So an example of customer intimacy with your employees would be to make sure that there’s very strong operational processes in place and that you follow all the organizational rules and you have high expectations for the products. And service is being offered right because you want to meet that baseline of the two other value disciplines of operational excellence and product leadership. But where the customer intimacy comes in is understanding what each person on the team actually needs and would benefit most from. And for some that means giving them a blank piece of paper and saying, OK, you go figure out, come talk to me about it and we will not If I this together for others, they need you to sit down and mentor them for a while and teach and then they can go do a task. Others need even more framework to the work, and they will go to everything on that list beautifully and come back and say, Okay, what next? What else can I? D’oh toe offer value. But each of those are different types of interactions, and within all of those you want to follow the operational procedures and expectations that are in place but adding the extra personal interactions that are needed for them to offer up and perform their best work within organizational guidelines You are, look and see. Does this person value tele work more? Do they value time off more? Are they going to be happy with a small bonus on the spot? What is what makes them tick? Some people don’t want any of that. They just want regular recognition and kudos to know that what they’re doing means something in the organization and that when you is the boss, share what’s happened with your division or your team that you shout out their name that, yes, this person worked on this or this person led this initiative because bosses sometimes make these mistakes is saying we did this. We did that, you know, I lead this well, you kind of did. But you kinda didn’t. There’s someone else that might have actually let it on the day to day on your team, and they need that to be known as a person and also professionally. So people know where the good works coming from, because, quite honestly, there’s people on your team. They’re going to do great work regardless of their boss. They might do amazing work with the right boss, but they might do great work with any boss, their self propelling, self motivated people. And so that’s a note to bosses. So see, talking about customer intimacy doesn’t need to be scary. It was fun to see generals and colonels and different people blush when the term was brought up, and it did make most of us stop and think as we said it. And even if that was embarrassing for some people, at least it made a stop for a minute and go, Oh, we’re talking about providing a closer relationship to customers, and this means something. And if anything, it allows us a moment to stop and think about what work are we really doing? What value are we really trying to offer up? And if we think about that for a minute and understand, we can make a disciplined effort to follow a process while also showing that we understand the specific person we’re interacting with. We can offer up our best work, and our organizations will benefit from that. Let me know your thoughts and have a great week. Thank you again for listening to the move your desk show. Take a minute and go to move your desk dot com and sign up for the weekly email. And remember, it’s not spam, but it may show up in that part of your inbox. I talk to you next Monday.

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