Why executives need to meet their customers

If you’re an executive, it’s time to face facts. Fact is, if you never come face-to-face with your customers, you risk making the wrong choices about how best to serve them. Want to reduce that risk? Sit down with your customers and let them serve you up some real-life insights into what’s working for them and what’s not. 

Australian companies are growing at a rapid rate. Along with this expansion comes new layers of management that widen the gap between executives and their customers. This gulf is problematic at best — catastrophic at worst. With layers of management comes the potential for layers of interpretation, aggregation and miscommunication. Consequently, feedback from front-line staff has the potential to be lost or diluted as it travels through a myriad of channels. To counter the problem, I recommend an explicit program of activity in which executives engage directly with their customers — ideally, once every six weeks[1].


How and where to meet

In-situ observations of customers interacting with products and services can be beneficial. However, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation between an executive and a customer.

As human beings, we are social animals so getting information firsthand is critical. Instead of a line item in a spreadsheet, or a data point in a report, these dialogues deliver a full immersive experience of a customer’s feelings and frustrations — in all their glory!

Be prepared for a challenging chat

I appreciate it can be difficult for executives to hear misgivings from customers who may be ill-informed or misinformed about the frameworks that influence an organisation’s decision-making processes. Whilst an experienced facilitator will help smooth the way for a constructive discussion, executives must be mindful to not take a reactive position.

In this setting, your role is not to justify or defend yourself or your company. Instead, your role is simply to listen. To prevent prejudicing the discussion, it’s best executives introduce themselves as simply representing the company — rather than directly identifying a specific department or remit.

Benefits of real-life customer connections

Executives are charged with driving the strategic direction of large-scale, complex organisations — via the decisions they make each and every day. Better decisions can be made when these executives are better informed about the customers whose lives they’re impacting.  Good decisions have a flow-on effect across all aspects of an organisation. The benefits include increased sales, increased customer and staff retention, reduced waste and reduced risk.

Research highlights how companies that directly engage with their customers are outperforming their competitors by more than 200%.[2] It’s a staggering statistic and one that’s hard to ignore.

No time is no excuse

For time-poor executives, it can be both challenging and stressful to juggle their own workloads along with the demands of their direct reports. However, the value of prioritising time with customers cannot be overstated.

I have a simple response for executives who argue they have no time to meet with their customers. I simply ask, ‘do you have time to make mistakes’?

Looking for more ways to bridge the gap between executives and customers? Give me a call on 0417 061 292.

[1] https://articles.uie.com/user_exposure_hours/

[2] https://www.dmi.org/page/2015DVIandOTW

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