Customer experience management has become one of the hottest topics in recent years. More specifically the topic of how customer experience can differentiate an organization in the marketplace and give an unfair advantage over its competitors has become a central theme in modern business.
What makes branded customer experience special from other varieties of CX? The answer to this question lies in the outcomes it provides an organization. When we read about CX we often come across how companies have improved their customers’ experiences by doing A, B, or C. We often read about CX in terms of single initiatives or changes in a department. We also tend to read about CX in terms of metrics such as Net Promotor Score (NPS), Voice of the Customer (VoC) and other systems for capturing and measuring how customers rate the level of services delivered. While it’s great to read the stories of companies improving their customer experiences there is a fundamental flaw in their strategy. When you take a closer look at these organizations you find their initiatives are primarily tactical in nature. Even worse, when you take a closer look at their financials you cannot correlate their efforts with any measurable or sustainable positive difference in their bottom-line. In many cases the expenditure made in CX programs doesn’t lead to any positive Return on Investment (ROI). The difference with branded CX is that, if executed properly, it will lead to long-term profits and increased customer loyalty. The only problem with branded CX is that it’s not easy to implement. Until now!
I have spent the past 18 years as CEO growing business services companies using CX strategies. At the time of doing this CX was not a hot topic as it is today. However, I recently began reviewing my strategies and specifically the ones that led to bottom-line profits. These strategies led me to write a book on the subject: Experience My Brand: How Successful Companies Develop Loyal Customers and Increase Profits. I wrote this book to give business readers a CEO’s perspective into branded customer experience by providing a staged process for creating a branded customer experience with a particular focus around having a solid financial case to ensure your CEO can champion the program.
The book is not only based on my experiences as CEO but also on research of major companies and how they have used it to strategically position themselves ahead of the competition and have achieved sustainable growing profits and increased customer loyalty.
The book is comprehensive and provides over 300 pages of strategies and insights on how to achieve a branded CX. The book will be released in the US and online through Amazon in early 2017. To register your interest please visit www.experiencemybrand.com .
I recently attended the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ (AICD) briefing on the essential Directors’ Up-date. During this 3 hour briefing, members were given the heads-up on current issues facing company Directors. A good proportion of time was spent discussing the James Hardie case. The judgment against the Directors makes this a landmark case and one that is likely to be referenced for some time. For those unaware, the Directors of James Hardie that were embroiled in the 2001 Board meetings linked to a media release were both personally fined and excluded from becoming company Directors for varying lengths of time. The James Hardie case has drawn significant attention to director’s personal liability and the risks that Directors are carrying. The judge found the Directors had contravened numerous sections of the Corporations Act 2001, including key areas such as:
- Breach of duty of care and diligence by director or officer (sec 180(1)).
- Breach of the duty to act in good faith (sec. 181 (1))
- Failure to keep accurate minutes in a timely manner (sec 251A (1) (6))
There are numerous lessons learnt from the James Hardie case. The ones that stand out are:
- The directors’ duty of care cannot be delegated to co-directors, management or expert advice.
- Directors cannot rely on management’s advice in place of their own consideration of an issue which is within the board’s responsibilities.
- Directors should formally object if the issued board minutes do not reflect what accurately took place in the board meeting.
- Directors should not vote to pass a resolution unless they have properly reviewed and understood the terms of the resolution.
One of the clear themes that came from the briefing was how vulnerable company directors have become. The James Hardie case serves only as a warning to practicing company directors. The issue is that there are more than 600 state and territory laws in Australia imposing personal liability in individual directors and officers for corporate misconduct. Gabrielle Upton, Legal Counsel at AICD, highlighted key findings from a survey of 600 directors from ASX-200 listed companies. The results of the survey showed that 78% of respondents considered there was a medium to high risk of being personally liable for decisions they or their boards made in good faith. Similarly, 78% believed that the risk of personal liability had caused them, or their board on which they sat, to occasionally or frequently take an overly cautious approach to business decision-making. The survey also highlighted the negative impact of personal liability on board retention and recruitment:
- 71% of respondents had declined the offer of a company directorship because of the risk of personal liability
- 75% knew of other people who had resigned from a company directorship because of the risk of personal liability.
These responses come from experienced board directors of public listed companies. What hope does the small business company director have a private company? The Corporations Act 2001 does not make special allowances for the size of the company. Small business owners are often poorly informed about the extent of personal liability imposed as company directors. Many of these companies are comprised of a small number of directors and are often governed more as a partnership than under a formal company board. Their legal structure, often advised by the tax accountant, is a corporation. The company constitutions are often never tailored to reflect the true decision-making processes of the partners. The tax accountant is likely to purchase a template from a legal ‘vending’ machine instead of customising the constitution. Where does this leave the small business director?
From my own research it leaves the company directors of a small business terribly exposed and ill-informed. I would like to see a survey undertaken of small business company directors to test their knowledge regarding key aspects of the Corporations Act 2001 and see the results. It would not be a surprise to many of us if a large number would fail this basic knowledge test. The courts have demonstrated that ignorance, feigned or otherwise, is no defence in a legal case. Small business directors are often confronted with different issues to those of directors of public listed companies. These issues are often related to the lack of preparedness in governing the company under a proper board of directors. For instance I know of a number of company directors in small businesses who have been entangled in expensive oppression litigation under sections 232 and 233 of the Corporations Act. Oppression cases are more common than most people realise and are almost always related to shareholder and director disputes of private companies.
The James Hardie case serves as a timely reminder for directors of private and public companies that as a director you are personally exposed. Pleading ignorance on the issues will not absolve you of any wrongdoing. The message is clear: if you are a director, then ensure you know the Law well; ensure you know what processes you need to follow if you are asked to make a decision at board level; and ensure you take total ownership for your decision-making.
The question of this title blog can be answered in so many different ways. There are no right or wrong answers to this question. However, given the current state of the economy and world affairs I feel it is a question we should all be asking. Why, you ask? Well, given the way the world is at the moment I figure there are a lot of people out there currently hurting as a direct result of poor leadership. A primary outcome of poor leadership is the declining effectiveness of companies and strategies in numerous industries. Many of the underlying reasons as to why companies fail to produce good results are because their people are not caring enough or are not encouraged to do so. People stop excelling at their work, innovating and taking risks, when they are uninspired, unmotivated, not given direction and feel cheated by their employer. Complacency and greed have become the basis of so many of our current ills.
So what makes a leader truly great? Is it meeting shareholder financial targets? Is it meeting trade deficit targets? Is it increasing staff bonuses? My short answer is that it is none of those things. A leader can not be identified as being “great” for simply meeting the requirements of the job description. The financial compensation of CEOs more than justifies the proposed baseline outcomes we would expect from anyone in the top job. In government we see many leaders who have failed the basics: balancing budgets, providing basic health to all, providing employment opportunities, and protecting citizens and property from physical harm. What we should be looking for in a leader are the ‘qualities of greatness’. Once we look for those qualities, we will better off collectively. So what are those qualities of greatness? Before I attempt to give you what I think they are, I will begin by stating what qualities result in poor leadership. They are: empire-builder, greedy, self-interested, egotistical, unimaginative, cowardly, un-motivating and impersonal.
If we look at many of our leaders today, a large number of them have been hired on their abilities to be “good engineers” of the business or a country. Unfortunately entrepreneurial leaders are often overlooked in favour of the “engineer”. I submit that the entrepreneurial trait in a leader can lead to greatness. The entrepreneur is the architect and visionary. The engineers implement the architect’s vision.
A great leader is someone who can inspire, motivate and courageously make decisions that lead to greatness for all. A great leader has to be in touch with the people he/she is leading. He/she needs to know their plight, their fears and frustrations. He/she needs to know how to inspire their people and deliver the hope of something greater than what they are experiencing. We are fortunate, after many years, to finally see a leader like Barack Obama display the hallmarks of a great leader. Obama has given the people hope, he has inspired them to change and strive towards something better. Moving a nation of people towards a greater good is the ultimate test of a great leader. History confirms that any leader that can unite their people to a single common cause will succeed. As long as Obama can maintain unity for a “better America” then he and the people will ultimately triumph.
From my perspective, a great leader is someone who can unite people and make them work towards a higher purpose. A great leader is able to convince the people with sincerity and factual evidence, that if they triumph, their labour efforts will far exceed their current state of being. Therefore, a great leader is an expert at understanding change and transforming an organisation or a nation. A great leader is someone who is able to act on their convictions, and (regardless of how difficult or risky the road ahead may look) is able to take the necessary steps forward. A key trait is courage. A great leader is someone who is courageous. Over the years we appear to have undervalued and lost the importance of traits such as chivalry, courage and honour. We simply no longer speak of our leaders in that manner unless you live in a monarchy. People have been let down by so many leaders that they no longer respect leaders or admire their role. We no longer measure courage or honour in job interviews for the top job. It is no wonder so many companies and nations have been underperforming and there are so many disenfranchised people. The first step in attaining more great leaders is to recognise the traits that make great leaders. Once there is an acceptance that these traits are paramount we need to begin measuring them when we hire great leaders. Lastly as a society we need to foster and teach these values to future generations to ensure we breed future great leaders. The alternative of having more average leaders means many more people will live lives of struggle and will continue to battle for the basics: food, employment, health and housing.