There is just one goal for a business owner, and one goal alone: create a culture that will enable your staff to excel.
Everything else is a secondary concern.
What about sales you say? That is underpinned by the quality of market position and communications. What about operations you say? That is underpinned by the passion of staff in your business. Market analysis, completing administrative work, working on the finances and countless other tasks that will demand your time have no direct output to how you support your staff.
This may sound ridiculous, but look at it another way. If every employee in your business was amazing and you had a remarkable administration team along with a exceptional sales team, how stressful would it be to run your business? Not stressful at all and performance would go through the roof.
You will face external pressures, changing conditions and countless demands on your time and energy. Organisations that have leaders who understand that these challenges can only be overcome together, collectively with their staff, are those that excel. These leaders are the Richard Branson’s, Steve Job’s and Elon Musk’s of the world. Here are 3 strategies you can implement in your own organisation to start you on this journey.
1. Have employees focused on the important things
An employee’s job is to deliver an exceptional experience to customers. Reduce the demands of admin and paperwork on them so that they can focus on this.
Zappos, an American online shoe retailer (now owned by Amazon) understood this better than most because convincing people to buy shoes online instead of trying them on in a store is a big ask. Nick Swinmurn, Zappos founder, did everything in his power to enable employees to better support customers. Instead of spending big sums on marketing which would have resulted in more sales, Swinmurn invested it into telephone customer service centres instead so that he had more staff to support the customers they had. This was against the perceived wisdom in the online retailing industry, but Swinmurn knew that if he could give customers an exceptional experience from buying from them they would become a repeat customer and before long tell friends and family about the company.
Zappos are famous for their customer service, with customers posting stories of receiving fresh flowers out of the blue and having company employees turn up late after hours to hand deliver replacement shoes appearing online. It’s worked perfectly for Zappos who today employ 1,800 people.
Leading organisations everywhere know that delivering a great experience is critical to their success. What can you remove from your employees job that will enable them to better do this?
2. Build a tribe
A team is a collection of people. A tribe is a collection of people unified to achieve a goal. Stop trying to build teamwork and start building a tribe. All great companies are tribes. Apple, Tesla and Virgin are just a few examples. The people who work for these companies can be infuriatingly passionate about telling you so. Did you ever meet anyone who works for Apple and doesn’t love their products? Anyone who works for Virgin and isn’t empowered by their mission to bringing great fantastic experiences to their customers? Anyone who works for Tesla and doesn’t believe electric cars are the future?
Giving employees time and space to focus on providing customers with exceptional experiences are just the first steps. You can’t fake passion, so to provide exceptional experiences for all of your customers you must unite your employees behind a purpose. When you do this they become a tribe, and that tribe will overcome whatever comes its way to look after customers.
To find your own company’s purpose contrast market leaders with their followers. What is different about Apple and Samsung? How do Tesla differ from Nissan? What do Virgin stand for that Delta Airlines don’t? What does Nike communicate to you that Reebok doesn’t? In these examples you’ll find the leading company’s purpose is actually nothing to do with the product it sells. The product is just a manifestation of its purpose. What is the real purpose behind what you’re selling?
3. Give employees the authority to amaze your customers
There are few companies more revered for their customer service than Apple. When I worked there, the number one directive was that our customers where our family, and we did everything in our power to ensure we made their experience of interacting with an Apple product amazing. The whole sales process is built around connection, and there’s no hard sell at Apple. They were way ahead of the game in this thinking, and eventually all the major rivals began copying it. Yet no one could do it as well as Apple and it was for one very simple reason: every Apple employee is given the authority to completely blow a customer away.
I can’t say whether this still exists as I left years ago but when I was at Apple, retail store floor staff had the authority to give a customer a brand new device no questions asked. Although this was never a documented policy, it was an unofficial ethos that ran through the company that if a customer came in distressed about their device, regardless whether it was in warranty or covered, they could replace it if needed. In terms of marketing this is genius, because replacing someone’s broken iPad or iPhone will generate a much bigger impact than spending the same money in ads. Not only do they become a customer for life but they tell all their friends about it. It even happened to me while I still worked for the company when I had an Airport Express (wireless access point) that died just out of its warranty. I worked in Apple Corporate, which is a different division from Apple Retail and I bought things in the Apple store like any other member of the public (mainly because I liked to secretly mystery shop them). Broken device in hand and fumbling in my bag for my employee badge the guy serving me who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old just said “Yep, that’s cool, let me go grab you a replacement one.” I walked out the store with my new Airport Express beaming, and I already knew about the ‘no questions asked exchange’ policy. Imagine how surprised and delighted a regular customer would be if that happened to them!
What can you empower employees to do to amaze your customers?
I’d love to hear what you think. Is what I say resonating with you or have I missed something critical? Either way, let me know in the comments below!