The sales team is having a hissy fit. They proclaim we’re 11% ahead of goal and we’re in the slow season!  Why are you making life more difficult for the sales team? This change project is unrealistic! None of our competitors do better than us!  It’s not broken, why fix it?

There’s a disturbance in The Force.

Ten seconds into our call I hear that Chuck, our client who owns a thriving $28 million business, is shaken up. We’ve been working together for almost three years. It’s not the first time we’ve met resistance to what the organization calls The Customer Rules Initiative.

In almost three years we’ve rolled out eleven important changes and dozens of small improvements. The Customer Rules Initiative has helped our client grow beyond their expectations.

Chuck is second guessing his twelfth change. The pushback on this change project is almost as hard as the first project where we decided to put all the information a customer needed on the website. The sales team was in open rebellion. They couldn’t imagine why anyone would call if we answered all their questions online. They were wrong then, they’re wrong now. Being wrong is human, acknowledging it and pushing beyond it is hard.

How Do You Stay On Track?

My job is to remind Chuck why the Customer Rules Initiative matters. First I listen. I listen for about half an hour. This has the desired calming effect.

I remind him of his favorite quote: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton

Chuck is listening, that’s good. The problem is real. We have to fix it.

Chuck is committed to what we teach as The Four Pillars of Amazon’s Success:

  1. Customer Centricity
  2. Continuous Optimization
  3. Culture of Innovation
  4. Corporate Agility

If you’re a growing company it’s hard to argue with any of them. Intuitively every business owner knows they need all four pillars, they are unifying principles.

Funny thing is that Chuck was the first client we drew the flywheel for. We published that flywheel in Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It

Chuck’s the guy that pointed out that The Force that propels this flywheel is Customer Centricity. The gap between customer expectations and customer reality is what needs to inform change.

The Force = Customer Centricity = Caring about the customer’s perspective

What Caused The Disturbance In The Force?

After almost three years of continuous improvements, why don’t they just trust us? If it were only that simple.

We came up with the twelfth change the first month we engaged. We’ve been putting off taking action on it since then.

A few months ago while visiting with Chuck and his senior executives at an offsite retreat we needed to print out several documents. The hotel couldn’t accommodate us. Bryan, my business partner, ordered a printer using Amazon’s Prime Now. Less than an hour later we were printing.

Bryan decided to point at the elephant in the room. We can get a printer here in an under an hour, why exactly can’t the sales team always respond to an inquiry within two business days? What do your customers expect?

Sales Team Response Time

In our first draft of our Buyer Legend, the narrative originally read that the customer was delighted because sales team responded in four minutes. That draft was abandoned. Two business days was substituted. They didn’t know their actual response time but anecdotally we estimated it averaged 2-4 days. We didn’t win this battle but we did insist on compliance with updating Salesforce. We now know that they respond to 87% of leads within two days. Of course, there are automated emails that are intended to follow up.

Yet, customers are human. Humans want what they want now. Not later, not even in five minutes. We want it now!

A New Goal –  5 Minute Response Time

After a long discussion, we agreed to tackle the twelfth change. We agreed that customer expectations could be unrealistic but we could meet that challenge. It helped that this time we had internal data to back us up. Leads that were reached by phone the same day closed a little over 3x the leads that took more than a day to respond to. Leads are expensive! We also reminded them of The Lead Response Management Study by Professor Oldroyd, a Faculty Fellow at MIT.

The new buyer legend says: “John (the prospective customer) is delighted because the inquiry was responded to immediately. John says “if they respond that quickly to an inquiry I bet they do that for customers too.”

Let’s examine why this change makes sense based on the unifying principles of Amazon’s Four Pillars Of Success:

  1. Customer Centricity – immediate response is what the customer wants and expects
  2. Continuous Optimization – be better today than yesterday is always the way towards our new goal
  3. Culture of Innovation – find solutions and embrace change to improve customer experience
  4. Corporate Agility – work to become more nimble and react to changing customer expectations

The Sales Team Rebels

This change is what the sales team was up in arms about. They missed the part where the sales coordinator, a new position, made the call answered a few questions, asked a few questions to qualify the prospective customer and scheduled a follow up with a sales person.

What we had was a failure to communicate. Chuck assumed the sales team reread the Buyer Legend carefully. The did not. Crisis averted.

Publishing a new Buyer Legend means employees scan quickly for changes. There are always minor changes highlighted but major ones are deliberately not. That is supposed to encourage careful reading.

Disturbance In The Force A Post Mortem

There are four forces that pull against the unifying principles of Amazon’s Four Pillars of Success:

  1. Organizational Focus
  2. Maintaining Status Quo
  3. Competitor Focus
  4. Misplaced Accountability

We could call them disunifying principles.

Let’s examine how they almost derailed the twelfth change:

  1. Organizational Focus – the sales team metrics were focused on their own team’s “performance”, not the customer
  2. Maintaining Status Quo – the sales team didn’t perceive their process as broken
  3. Competitor Focus – the sales team saw themselves relative to competitors but not relative to the  gap in customer expectations
  4. Misplaced Accountability – the sales team was exceeding sales goals, an internal benchmark, but that data didn’t reflect the customer’s reality

Happily Ever After?

The sales team was asked to reread the Buyer Legend and some minor edits were made and agreed upon. The twelfth change is underway and initial results are positive. We’re nowhere near the 5-minute goal but our motto is #BeBetterToday. Nearly every lead is having a conversation within the same day as their inquiry. The hero of a Buyer Legend is always the customer. Chuck is unshaken in his faith that when he takes the customer’s perspective things work out well in the long term.

Do you have faith in The Force?

Jeffrey Eisenberg (32 Posts)

Jeffrey Eisenberg, is the CEO of BuyerLegends.com, a company that teaches business people how to create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

 

Together with brother and partner Bryan Eisenberg , co-authored “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and “Call To Action” both Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling books. Since 1998 they have trained and advised companies like like HP, Google, GE Healthcare, Overstock, NBC Universal, Orvis and Edmunds to implement accountable digital marketing strategies emphasizing optimization of revenue conversion rates for engagements, leads, subscriptions, and sales.

 

Jeffrey is also a thought provoking marketing speaker who also speaks Spanish with native fluency.


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