Paul Warburg is President and CEO at xenon arcan innovative technology company that aims to revolutionize distribution in the chemical industry.
Difficult times can be a catalyst for positive change. When it comes to customer service, companies should take advantage of refocusing their operations and going back to basics by building holistic customer intimacy.
Customer relationships are even more important during high uncertainty caused by confusion, disruption and disruption of markets, something that all businesses have faced as a result of the pandemic, supply chain challenges, geopolitical issues, inflation and an impending recession.
At my company, we conduct an internal customer survey every quarter to measure customer sentiment in the chemical industry. Last quarter, 195 customers participated and we found that 43% of respondents hired secondary suppliers due to outages.
It is no longer a demand problem; it’s a delivery problem. And the end result remains the same: the need for holistic customer intimacy is even more important. What is the solution? Bridge the gap between executive-level mindshare perspectives and frontline market share perspectives.
The importance of mindshare
Mindshare is not new or new, but it can be difficult to prioritize when a company’s prevailing cultural mindset is to focus on profit and market share. It’s not wrong to focus on numbers, but in my experience, something funny happens when you prioritize relationships and awareness over numbers. Those numbers can improve organically.
This is because the market share mindset considers the short term – the financial, quantitative and measurable items in retrospect. In other words, this mindset is more focused on the bones of surgery. However, I consider a mindshare mindset to be more focused on the heart and soul of the company. It tackles problems in the present and prevents them from spreading, all with a holistic approach and longevity in mind.
Mindshare is all about finding innovative ways to interact with customers. This can therefore build authentic customer intimacy. Active engagement can increase credibility and increase market share and brand recognition. This means that everyone should have open business communications with customers, and frontline workers should be confident enough to have difficult conversations in times of uncertainty.
Suppliers of bad news
No one wants to be the messenger of bad news, and for frontline workers who have to face the music right away when they have to deliver that bad news to customers, the safest action often feels like doing nothing.
It’s not just that they don’t want to let the customers down, but also, when the culture supports a market share mentality, those employees feel the constant pressure to fail when sales stall and customers are dissatisfied. If quotas and return on investment drive an already stressed frontline, customer relationships will be neglected, ultimately hurting bottom line.
On top of that, with out-of-touch leadership that emphasizes the need for transparency, openness, and investment in customer relationships, it can become overwhelming and confusing for front-line workers to build customer relationships. The resulting gap in perspectives is ultimately destructive.
Closing the Gap
So, how do you close the gap between leadership expectations and customer-oriented workforce with regard to customer intimacy? Change has to start from the top – and it doesn’t happen overnight.
The corporate culture must be universally solution-oriented and leadership must implement and enforce culture change, goal setting and open communication.
Leaders must also ensure that team members fulfill roles that support personal and career success. The hiring process should be comprehensive and rigorous, not something that is simply meant to fill vacant positions with “warm bodies” and bet on success. It’s best to know candidates’ superpowers and how they fit with the company’s culture, mission, and goals. If building and maintaining customer intimacy is a leadership priority, make sure you hire people who have the confidence and personality to discuss mistakes and successfully negotiate difficult conversations.
At my organization, we also use a behavior-based reward method. This ensures that our culture embraces high-quality customer engagement versus sales and drives investment in customer relationships. Metaphorically, we focus on the fuel that goes into the engine, not the emissions produced. I believe this mindshare perspective – for leadership and the front lines – is vital to building and nurturing holistic customer experiences and relationships.
You can’t repay a customer’s wasted time and loss of trust
Customers have options and are determined to find a company they can trust. The competitive canals are filling up quickly, but losing customers can be prevented by focusing on mindshare over market share and providing holistic customer intimacy from the frontline to leadership.
Become the company that doesn’t need to win back customers when business recovers. Make a mindshare culture a priority for everyone and reap the benefits of a loyal customer base.