Here’s a pop quiz for you, do you think it is easier to be innovative if:
- you consistently aim for excellence
- you pursue excellence only after there is a crisis
If your answer is #2, pay attention because this post is for you…
I’m proud to say that the people and companies that I’ve worked with have always complimented me on, sadly something that isn’t common, my follow through.
Why? I have a sense of mission to get things done. As a result, I have issues with people with poor follow through.
Especially today when it has never been easier, and harder to hide (we can see what you are doing), to communicate. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, communication channels between people are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Your smartphone doesn’t just receive calls, but also emails, and sends and receives messages from social networks. Oh, and most let you know if and when the receiver saw your message…
Before communication was as ubiquitous as it is today, I would get annoyed at people with poor follow through. Today, I get really pissed off. Frankly, it is something that I can’t stand.
So when I see a colleague, who I have pending work to get done with, publishing stuff on his social networks and not acknowledging my messages; you know what I’m thinking.
Merely satisfying customers is no longer enough, we have to exceed their expectations
Inside organizations, this type of behavior gets amplified because customers are not going to be waiting around for companies to acknowledge them on social channels. The stakes have been raised…
A few weeks ago I was pissed off at my internet provider because my internet connection was slow, again, so I sent them an angry tweet. A few minutes later I got a reply with a link to a chat window. To make a long story short, my internet was really slow and I wanted to know how I could upgrade. They told me I could get 6 additional MB, at no cost.
Knowing that I had been contacting them more than 8 times in the last 3 months about the same issue, why didn’t they upgrade me automatically? Why didn’t they send me a message with a BIG “Hurray! You’ve been automatically upgraded to higher speeds!”? Why did they have to wait for me to get more annoyed to the point where I sent them an angry tweet, for them to let me in on the secret?
Ridiculous isn’t it? But not surprising. This is exactly the type of Golden Opportunity you can use to alter anyone’s expectations!
Of course, no company is perfect. This is the excuse most make. But we should try to raise the bar constantly, not lower it by completely ignoring what customers will remember about us in the end: our attitude.
Our attitude can be reflected in the smallest things, like replying back to a message that is urgent. Especially, like stated above, if you are working in a team and need to move forward or simply get clarity around an issue. When people don’t acknowledge, in my opinion, it shows a lack of respect for people’s time.
How does this connect with innovation?
Simple: when you talk about innovation, which may result in the bar being raised, it will be far easier for a company that takes even the smallest actions to heart to transition towards driving innovation inside the organization.
How do I know? Because being innovative is a habit.
Adopt a wide angle view of customer expectations
I’ll tell you about one habit that may be conducive to innovation, but hides a sad truth: benchmarking.
Numbers have a way of turning supposedly smart people into simpletons. For example, I’ve been in meetings with executives where they make numbers comparison, strategize that they should copy so and so company because that would make them better. But, what they don’t see (and fail to connect the dots) is that you also have to copy the attitude. Not just the tactics.
Fast food joints like Carl’s Jr. and Jack In the Box could easily maintain their efficiency if they exchanged employees for a week, simply because they use the same mechanisms to deliver the food to the customer. The only thing that could change is the language, the color of the uniforms and the menu items.
How is one different from the other? Exactly!
As you know, I’m a Disney Fanatic. I got to spend New Year’s Eve at Disneyland, and every time I’m I always pick something up…
Everything Speaks! is Disney’s motto for their people. And everyone understands what it means, it communicates expectations in a very simple and actionable way. More importantly, we guests, experience it viscerally.
Critically important for me is how they maintain apparent consistency within the chaos of so many people. They truly understand that every detail of the service experience is saying something about their organization. Everything the customer sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches impacts the experience. Anything that is out of alignment causes a disconnect in the mind of the customer. Everything Speaks! They may not consciously notice every detail, but subconsciously clues to your culture are being communicated.
What is your service environment saying about your organization?
The Customer Expectations Triangle, created by Gallup, shows the different levels of customer expectations:
- Accuracy. Are you providing with all the information that I need?
- Partnership. Are you with me?
- Availability. Are you there when I need and expect you?
- Accuracy. Are you consistent?
Take this lens and apply it to your own organization and ask yourself: are we consistently raising our customers expectations?
The point I want to make to you, is that we compete with any organization that has the ability to raise customer expectations. Just because you sell paint and another company sells burgers, doesn’t mean you don’t compete with each other. Specifically, you don’t compete on functional attributes; but on how you behave.
For example, why is it that when I check my luggage with an airline, I have great trepidation that it will show up in the same place I do. Yet, I’ll drop a valuable package into a FedEx box in a remote location, confident that it will arrive at my selected destination the next day. Both organizations fly airplanes, so what’s the difference? I now demand my airline be as effective as FedEx.
Take this another step forward to how he shop. Amazon recently announced an initiative where it will anticipate and ship what you will buy before you even order it. They call it “anticipatory shipping“. The outcome, which is what the customer cares about, is that shipments should arrive faster to your door. If done well, this should further raise people’s expectations of what shopping online is about.
Not only is Amazon pushing it in ecommerce, but might end up pushing other industries forward simply because their latest offering will change people’s expectations.
Bottom line: Expectations matter on so many levels I could keep writing a longer blog post. And one of the issues with understanding expectations, and therefore exceeding them, is that most “expectation raising” conversation is about new technologies, products and services. But I assure you, what people will ultimately remember you by is the experience they had with you.
Furthermore, the goal companies should set for themselves is to fulfill an outcome where the customer goes somewhere else and feels less tolerant of the way they do business with other non-competing providers. Basically, you want them to go back to you and say something like, “man, ever since I’ve done business with you I’ve become less tolerant of other providers who have nothing to do with your offering. I wish they could be just like you!”