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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published March 26, 2015

What Your Customers Wish You Knew 

This article is by Predictable Success Consultant Scott Propp. One of our primary areas of focus is what it’s like to lead (and be a part of) organizations that are making the journey from Early Struggle to Predictable Success. We also examine what happens when organizations take their systems and processes too far, winding up in Treadmill or worse. But did you know that the customers of an organization are also impacted by where it is in the Predictable Success lifecycle? The good news is, once you’ve identified where your organization stands, you can use this knowledge and take steps to ensure you’re the best possible partner to your client base. Let’s take a closer look at precisely how.   Early Struggle – The initial clients of an organization are usually risk-takers themselves and have an unmet need that a new and flexible entrant can address. While your firm is in Early Struggle – searching for a repeatable and sustainable market – your customers are balancing risk and reward based on your ability to solve their problem and do so in a sustainable way. Action Point: In addition to frequently talking about the solution you are providing, share your vision and actions for building a sustainable firm. You are new to meeting their needs, and you will have to use a careful balance of vision and follow through to convince the early adopter that you can backup your intentions with real performance. By being transparent with your early partners, you will draw them toward you. Fun – Customers are overserved in this phase. They become accustomed to asking for/receiving products and services that go above and beyond. You as an organization are in “Yes” mode, routinely snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Action Point: Be sure to maintain a relational link with the senior management of your customers and lay groundwork establishing that these are truly heroic actions. Encourage joint recognition for your hero and their corresponding partner at the customer firm. This “relationship capital” is like money in the bank for the next phase. Whitewater – Your customers will describe you as great one day, then bad the next. This phase is excruciating for you and the firm, and very hard on your customers. This is the first time when you will let a customer down in a serious way. Not only will you let them down, but you will be tempted to make a recovery promise that the organization cannot keep. Why? Your management systems simply cannot deal with the complexity that your organization is experiencing from fulfilling all the promises you made in Fun. Action Point: Get to work using the techniques we teach in our Acceleration Program and quickly put into place very specific customer retention plans to shield them from your dysfunction while you work through the Whitewater phase. Use your relational capital earned to date wisely to retain your best customers. Predictable SuccessIn this phase, customers are served very professionally by empowered leaders with great metrics and feedback. The organization is responsive, but in ways that are sustainable and repeatable. Action Point: To avoid the slide into Treadmill, be sure that the Visionaries in your organization are talking to the Visionaries at your customers’ firms. By taking action on this feedback, you will keep your offerings fresh and relationships robust. Treadmill – Like a tired restaurant, you can get what’s on the menu, but don’t ask for anything customized. Your firm doesn’t take risks and will not lead the customer to new or better solutions. Even worse, every time your customer turns around, there are just more forms/red tape galore. It’s not unusual for your organization to throw your customers lavish parties and tell them how important they are to you – then still not listen to them. Action Point: Red Alert! It’s a short journey from here to losing your customer completely. Take action to complete Treadmill recovery, and as a first step, aggressively build bridges between the thought leaders in both firms. Demonstrate good faith by executing on the information that you receive. The Big Rut – You have become a necessary but unpleasant reality. The customer view of your organization is that it is cantankerous and ornery; you get what you get and don’t throw a fit. Everything is as it was, and the process cost of doing business is increasing every year as your firm gets better and better at less and less relevant products and services. Action Point: This dysfunctional relationship between a firm and its customer can go on a very long time, and is painful for both. The usual terminus for this phase is action by an outside stakeholder to call for the breakup of your assets. If you are in one of these organizations and have the helm of leadership, put actions in place to guard both your customers and your stakeholders and accelerate the process to health. Ensure you’re making the most of your customer relationships. Find out which stage your organization is in by taking our free quiz at LifecycleQuiz.com and then put these tips into practice.

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