“Be central, be selfless” were the words stated by one client in recent weeks when discussing how to build an effective client experience for C-level executives. The four words – be central, be selfless – are very powerful when considered together. These four words forced us to reconsider everything, because at their core they mandated a completely different model that was going to be difficult to enable for two reasons:
- The client must be at your center. For you to be central to your client’s needs they have to be central to yours and that is tough for any organization to deliver. Organizationally it is just difficult to do because it requires companies to completely reorganize their structures, values, incentives to reward something beyond product sales.
- Selflessness and selling don’t coexist well. At the end of the day all companies are trying to make money. While at a macro level we can say that being selfless will be rewarded by a deeper relationship, which will be rewarded by sales… most businesses operate on a 90 day cycle and selling has to come through to achieve financial goals.
Yet being central and selfless remains a very aspirational goal. Given that many organizations are trying to achieve this goal here are three simple steps that we used to get our client started:
- Start at the top. Changing how your organization thinks about clients and client experience requires CEO buy in. We’ve tried it with other levels of the company and it will eventually fail. This must be a commitment from the top, because putting the client at the center will impact your organizational structure, incentive structures, even product and solution packaging. Success will be limited if the CEO is not only bought in, but championing this effort.
- Listen to and share stories. A lot of businesses that put their clients at the center have developed a culture that rewards listening to and retelling client stories. Over time these businesses become a part of the shared value in their clients’ stories.
- Incent for client success. Incentives that align to silo’d sales do not reward a client-centric behavior. Shift the incentives to reward placing the client at the center and creating success for that client.