“Our rewards will be in exact proportion to the value we contribute and the level of our unique contribution.”
This quote highlights what customers expect from us: value. So how do you provide the most value to your customers in a way that helps you stand out from the crowd? How can you advance your customers to advance your team and your business?
These questions are front of mind for many organisations. Indeed, much of the conversation and investment in today’s market is intended to “put customers at the heart” of the organization/process/operating model. This is mirrored in our work with clients to develop leaders’ ability to lead “customer” change programs.
Advancing Customer Module
In this module we will explore:
- The three core challenges for people putting customers at the centre
- A simple and practical framework to help you progress towards being a Trusted Advisor both internally and externally
- How you will know when you are a Trusted Advisor Advancing your Customers
Advancing Customers is designed for all people who serve customers – externally or internally – no matter what your role. Our hope and ambition is that you develop more intent and confidence to add more value; to find more ways to contribute so you can grow your customers, yourself, your team, and your business.
Putting Customers at the centre
Putting customers at the centre requires us to overcome three core challenges:
- A subordinate relationship between the seller and buyer or internal functional expert and internal customer. This is borne out of a perceived power dynamic and manifests in a transactional relationship. They (the customer) use you for things they need to get done. As a result, there is a low level of respect which makes it difficult for you to engage in the way you would like or achieve the outcomes you desire.
- A distant relationship between you and the customer or end consumer, which makes it difficult for you to have genuine empathy and connection to the customer needs. Inevitably this results in decisions and actions that are good for your function, but do not represent a bigger picture company perspective or what’s best for the customer.
- The KPI’s and reward structures we have in place often reward the functional or business unit and do not sufficiently encourage collaboration across the value chain or across the variety of services in your company. This often means you fail to leverage the best of your business to deliver the best for the customer. We need more enterprise thinking and action – with the whole company in mind. This perspective which requires a commercial understanding of the “bigger picture.
So how can we foster a customer orientation to advance our customers? This simple framework demonstrates a laddered approach to building Trusted Advisor status with your customers both internally and externally.
Personal Engagement – GOALS
- Goal – What are the personal goals of your target customer? We often know the business goals, but do you know what their personal goals are? What do they want more of?
- Obstacles -Do you know what the obstacles are for your customer? What are their personal challenges and difficulties? What keeps them up at night?
- Actions – What actions can you see your customer needs to take to make progress? How can you encourage them to take steps?
- Legacy – What legacy are they wanting to leave in their role, in their business, in their community? What does success look like for them?
- Social context -Do you know what is important to them? Their lifestyle, family, friends. What drives them to achieve and will motivate them towards the next level?
We know from the research that “people like what they like in themselves”, so your ability to connect with how they see the world creates closer personal engagement. Add to this the principle of reciprocity, “you get what you give”. If you can take actions to improve the personal lives of your customers, it will form a higher level of trust in your relationship.
Value Levers – Strategy and Culture
If you have a business customer, their growth agenda is contained in their strategic ambition and business unit plan. The language of your customer’s business is connected to how they want to grow, where and how they want to win, and who they are/ how they work. These are essentially your customer’s Strategy and Values. You should know their blueprint and connect all your recommendations and activities to the key planks of this plan. This will make you seem part of their business and enable you to talk the language of your customer, which will open you up to more strategic conversatio
Enabling Business Success – Internal and External
When measuring someone’s ability to Advance Customers, we look at three things.
- Technical or functional competence. This is your knowledge and ability in your chosen area: HR, risk, sales, operations, etc. We see functional ability as a given – your entry ticket.
- Ability to help customers succeed internally. This means you need to understand the critical internal stakeholders for your target customers and how you can help them engage and influence these people to achieve positive outcomes. You must be able to work through people.
- External Acumen. This is your understanding of the industry drivers and helping your customer position themselves and their business (unit) to achieve the best possible outcome against their competitors. This is a desire to not just deliver outputs but to generate business outcomes, genuine value from your service or product.
It is the combination of your Personal Engagement, drawing on the Value Levers, and your ability to Enable Business Success that will distinguish you as a Trusted Advisor.
How will others see you?
What will others see and notice when you or your colleagues achieve this rare position? Will they see that you;
- understand the bigger picture. CEO’s highly value this and describe it as commercial acumen. They see it in your communication and your decisions. You understand the whole business and think and act from this perspective, rather than from just your business or functional unit. You will be a great collaborator.
- speak the language of the business. You demonstrate understanding of your customer’s core business drivers, connecting to their strategic objectives and values.
- deliver business value. The combination of your personal engagement, your understanding of their business and your ability to enable success for them internally and externally all translate to unique value. It can’t be copied because it’s delivered with a genuine commitment to add value and generate significant outcomes.
- are invited to a seat at the table. When you are in conversations that go well beyond your technical competence, when your opinions are sought and actively encouraged on broader business challenges you know are a Trusted Advisor.
It starts with your mindset to put your customers both first and last in everything you do. This will be translated in your behaviour. You seek to truly understand the individual and business and demonstrate commercial acumen via communication that conveys relevance and value. Your absolute commitment to achieving great outcomes will advance your customers, yourself and your business.
At Lighthouse we want to accelerate your success. We provide practical tools, systems and process to help you navigate from where you are now to where you want to be. Please contact us if we can help you better advance your customers.