Start From the Inside

At GAPWORX, we work primarily with small companies led by entrepreneurs—the captains of their own boats. There is an understandable reluctance on their part to take things outside. Self-reliance can be a good thing … if there is a strong organizational culture and requisite resources of talent and time. There is a lot of useful outside expertise available for companies, but often it is perceived as “you’re telling me what to do,” instead of “helping me make my company better.”

It could be helpful to think—that instead of “outside in,” it could be “inside out.” Meaning, if you want a strong business culture, employee engagement, and customer engagement—the organization must have accurate information, meaningful communication, and effective systems. All individuals within an organization must possess personal motivation, ownership, and accountability—and then act that way.

Think of it as the intrapersonal drives the interpersonal. Intrapersonal attributes are individual self-awareness, critical thinking, effective mental habits, and emotional intelligence. Interpersonal effectiveness is when self-aware, self-motivated, and capable individuals work together within the organization to accomplish collective and shared goals. Conversational intelligence among employees, which relate company stories, positive customer experiences, and problem-solving—all build shared meaning, beliefs, and the “esprit de corps” needed to keep the company moving forward. This exemplifies the socially intelligent organization.

We encourage businesses to look beyond packaged “one size fits all” programs for organizational change. There are no silver bullet or bolt on solutions that work for every business. For any change process to work it must capture the “hearts and minds” of the people who do the everyday work. For organizations that are small or closely held—the more important it is to get everyone’s input, to analyze weaknesses and problems, implement solutions, and build systems.

Intellectual honesty—as Jim Collins calls “confronting the brutal facts,” can identify the rational elements that need attention. Employee emotions must be accounted for, as well. Organizations with clear vision and mission can build intrapersonal strength with leadership, mentoring, and coaching. Strong individuals can make for interpersonally effective teams.

Outside expertise and consultation that incorporates objectivity, feedback, and facilitation can yield tremendous results. No individual, or no organization, is completely self-aware. Even though it is a cliché—you can’t work on, or change what you don’t know.

Training is Learning … to Succeed

Humans evolved by adapting and adjusting to change. We learned by experience to manage threats.

Businesses operate within competitive environments, but it is not just a Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” By understanding market demand, businesses can respond to customer needs … and if they innovate, improve, and differentiate themselves—they can become financially successful.

It’s the people within each company that recognize opportunities, solve problems, and provide solutions. Management guru Peter Drucker recommended that companies invest 5-15% of revenues on training and development. He was really saying that if a company’s greatest resources are its people, then they should be treated as assets to be developed. Employee knowledge and capabilities are the tools a company uses—to build its customer base.

Many professions require continuing education, but too often companies view training as “overhead” costs to be minimized, rather than as investments in people—and in the future of the business. Consequences of this short-sided thinking are mistakes, unsolved problems, negative customer experiences, lost time, and revenue.

Autumn is traditionally “back to school.” Because the marketplace is always changing—businesses are never out of school. To manage change, businesses should embrace continuous learning.

  1. The purpose for training should be clearly communicated to employees, and why improving specific job capabilities is good for the company.
  2. Training should have direct application to each employee’s job, whether it is to expand knowledge, build skills, or improve collaboration within teams.
  3. All company leaders should fully commit to training.
  4. Company leaders, managers, and supervisors should become coaches, use constructive feedback, work with employees to improve specific behaviors, and monitor everyone’s progress.

Job specific learning is crucial for employee development. Engaged employees are better at providing quality products and services to their company’s customers.

Success is when all company leaders and employees do the right things at the right time. Whether training is applying job specific information, or about building a positive company culture … there is no substitute for learning.

High Tech and High Touch

We live in a demand world. Technology has enabled businesses to push unlimited messages out to the consuming public. Emails with special offers pummel our inboxes daily. “Like us on Facebook today, and get a free doodad!” “Take our survey and get 20% off your next order!” We may tolerate the bombardment, but I’ll bet that most of us still don’t like it.

The more that “high tech” marketing and sales tools provoke negative reactions, the more crucial it is to differentiate your company—with positive “high touch” CUSTOMER BUILDING practices.

The thing is… human beings have real and specific needs. Have you noticed how you feel when you realize that a company really gets you? It is almost as if you don’t mind giving them your money—because they are providing you with what you really want.

It is not a mystery—we just want companies to understand us. That realization should be front and center for a business. Zero in on what people want, and then deliver it with good quality, and at a fair price. We call it the “FAIR EXCHANGE,” and we teach fair customer development and service practices at GAPWORX.

Your marketing messages should be understandable, and convey a clear value proposition to the prospect. Hire capable salespeople that can follow an effective and humane sales process. Teach them to ask probing questions, to uncover the prospect’s CORE interests and needs. Build capabilities in your sales team about product and service knowledge, so that they can answer any question about prospect FEARS, UNCERTAINTIES, and DOUBTS. A well-equipped sales person will be able to match real prospect needs, with your product and services.

The way your company sells… and the way your company serves, should be balanced to the same high level of performance.

Creating positive CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES should be a priority for every company employee who encounters a prospect or a customer. Just as with successful sales people, customer service employees should ask effective questions…to understand the customer’s problems, and their emotions about the problem.

You can’t fix what you don’t understand!

This does not happen automatically, but it can become the intention of a company’s CUSTOMER BUILDING strategy, tactics, and systems. It can work with knowledge, training, and perfect practice-practice-practice.

Build Customers That Advocate for You

If it seems that every company is talking about customer experience, it is because Customer Experience (CX) is one of the very hot issues in business management. As evidence of this – customers receive several requests each week to respond to surveys, and social media posts.

CX research has measured the “stickiness” of customer retention. Customers stick with companies, not only for the product and services, but for the emotional value of the relationship. The more the relationship goes beyond transactional, the more it becomes emotional. Obviously, companies want to minimize or even eliminate negative customer experiences. Neutral customer experiences do not build your competitive strength, or customer attachment. Your goal should be to design as many positive customer experiences as possible … ones that create customer advocacy.

For a customer to become an advocate for your company’s products and services, it requires passing the “warm and fuzzy” tests.  Advocacy requires trust and confidence. Advocacy happens when a customer feels good about exchanging their money for a fair deal. Advocacy happens when a customer feels understood, valued, and appreciated by you. Advocacy is built when you follow up, to understand how your customers experience your company, your products, and your services.

Twenty years ago, quality initiatives were all the rage, much like customer experience is now. We learned that evaluating processes, adjusting, and measuring outcomes were vital – every step of the way. Continuous measurement … and continuous improvement was the mantra.

It is the same with CX – evaluate every customer touchpoint. Examine how you sell, how you solve problems, and how you serve. Go beyond the simple feedback of surveys, and hold in depth customer conversations to peel back the layers of complexity. Use objective outside analysts to help you uncover problem areas. Positive customer experiences can reinforce your customer relationships, and help you build advocates for your company.

Want a Strong Business? Work on Your Gaps

A business culture is all the thinking, decision making, and actions within that business. Put simply – it is observable and measurable behavior that happens every day.

It is not a secret … strong business cultures are more successful than weak ones.

The short list of attributes of a strong business culture are:

  1. Clear vision, and achievable mission
  2. Leaders who inspire
  3. Supervisors who coach rather than manage
  4. Employees who work from talents and strengths
  5. An engaged workforce, aligned to the business purpose
  6. Job specific training
  7. Career paths
  8. Rewards and recognition
  9. Customers who become advocates

Almost every person has some awareness of what is not quite right, or what is missing from their lives. The striving to be better, to live better, and to have more of what we want stimulates the progress of individuals, companies, and even society.

In a competitive business environment, there is no place for complacency. Being GAPWORX … we want to have conversations with business leaders who are CURIOUS about how their business culture stacks up – their strengths and weaknesses. All businesses have gaps, and we think every business should work on them.

We help our clients work on cultural gaps, and that directly affects what we call Customer Building. Some employees have job-specific selling roles and responsibilities, others for serving. But generally, to fulfill the company brand … Everybody Sells and Everybody Serves.

I would be surprised to learn of any business that did not have to continuously create more customers. I would also be astounded to know of any business that did not have to continuously serve those customers well … to keep them.

Gap analysis is quantifying (measuring) the difference between what is, and what is desired. Qualifying (understanding) the rational and emotional discomfort about gaps, is why problem solvers and action takers succeed better in reducing their gaps. The awareness is … “I don’t like my results, I want something better, so I must do things differently.” That is simple psychology. Even though it is not complicated, it is still not easy.

The correlations are clear … strong business cultures create engaged workplaces. Engaged employees who are aligned to vision and mission, and who feel they have a place in the company – create stronger customer relationships.

If you want to sell more prospects and keep more customers … first understand your cultural gaps, and work on them.