Reference Point
June 2016                                                                   Gray

Executive suites at many of my clients are increasingly looking to use data to glean valuable customer insights--an important trend! But when I ask how often the CEO is actually talking to customers, there's often a long pause.

Your C-suite needs to get information from customers about--as well as build relationships with them. And that includes regular personal interaction--over the phone at the very least. Here's a process I've developed for executives to have high-impact conversations with 100 or more key customers every 12 months. And it takes no more than 20 hours per year.

Save the date.

The 2017 Summit on Customer Engagement is set for next March 7-8. We'll open early registration soon.

Advanced Practices are coming on September 1
Stay tuned for our highly anticipated Report, "Advanced Practices in Customer Advocacy and Engagement." C-suites increasingly recognize the critical importance of customer advocacy and engagement. Now they want to know, "How do we do this?" And they want proven best practices.This report will give provide them. It will be based on in-depth qualitative interviews with leaders--including several Chief Marketing Officers--at top programs around the world. Participating firms include Misys, Citrix, LinkedIn, IBM, Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, BMC, Intel, Rackspace, FireEye, EMC, Kronos and several others.


Feel free to share this with your C-suite. Or contact me--I do a powerful workshop on this process for clients. One exercise I do is to invite a volunteer executive to come up to the front of the room and tell us what the company's value proposition is. To be frank, it's generally not very exciting.

Then I ask the volunteer to think of a client he knows well, and to place himself in her shoes. How would she respond to the five questions below?  Almost every time, the executive--playing the "role" of the customer--will come alive and tell a far more powerful, even emotional story of the value she gains from working with the firm. It's a huge "aha" moment for executives in the room--especially the volunteer!

So I urge you to provide the following process to your C-suite, including your CEO. It will help all of them dramatically up their game by knowing, firsthand, critical customer sentiments regarding your firm--in ways that can never really be captured by data analytics.

Here's a suggested "memo" you can adapt and send to your CEO and other members of your C-suite.

____Memo to Your CEO: 5 Powerful Questions to Ask Customers Regularly___

Per our recent meeting, here's a process suggested by customer engagement expert Bill Lee for keeping in touch with 100 or more of our best customers every year--and it takes just 20 hours per year of your time.

Here's how it works. Once a quarter, block off 30 to 60 minutes per day for a week to have the following brief conversations with customers. (Note that there's no script or talking points here--it's all questions.)

For each call, ask for no more than 10 minutes of the customer's time. At the level of customer you'll be talking to, you won't have a problem with customers dragging out the calls by going off on tangents.

Ask the following questions. Then listen without sharing your own views. Interrupt only to ask the customer to clarify something unclear.

1. "What do you like best about working with us?"

2. "What is the most important impact our product/service/solution is having on your business?"

3. "Is that impact quantifiable?" [If so, ask for the numbers.]

4. "How does working with us and using our solution make you feel?"

5. "In what ways would you like to see our relationship with you evolve?"

Bill guarantees the following results from every week that you do this:

- You'll gain input from customers that will completely surprise you. Some comments will dismay you. A lot more will delight you.

- You're also likely to find that customers are using our offerings--and benefiting from them--in unexpected ways. That's highly valuable information that our product developers may or may not already know.

- You will come away far more confident in your understanding of our customers, and far better equipped to provide valuable contributions in any internal discussions about them.

- You're likely to find that our customers value the relationship much more than your own people realize. And the language they use to describe us will often blow you away. Customers often use far more powerful language than anything our copywriters or agencies come up with. So at the end of the conversation, say "Pat, it's really great to hear such positive things about our work with you. Would you be OK with us using these in our marketing communications?" This will provide superb content that needs to find its way into your marketing and sales communications.


Note: The questions don't include, "What are we doing that we need to improve?" You can include that if you want, but in my experience these conversations are best if they're about what you're doing right and how you can do more of it.

That's it. Two and a half to five hours per quarter, 10 to 20 hours per year, connecting with dozens of your most valuable customers and gleaning indispensable information about your most important relationships for your business.

Is there a better way to spend 20 hours in the coming year?

All the best,

Bill Lee

Center for Customer Engagement (C4CE) | +1 214.907.5600 | bill@c4ce.com | http://www.c4ce.com/
3225 Turtle Creek Blvd
Suite 1801
Dallas, TX 75219