Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #147

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Introduction

In the quest to maintain your customers' confidence in your firm, are you relying solely on regulatory mandates and controls? While they have their place, there is more to consider. In this article, Tim Althof shares valuable insight on how your company's core values must exude integrity and customer focus.

Integrity and the Customer Relationship
by Tim Althof


Since Sarbanes-Oxley got really rolling, the business world has been awash with compliance activities. Our daily language is filled with terminology like key controls, certifications, whistleblowers and material weaknesses. Our business practices are now subject to ongoing assessments. These compliance processes at a granular level have a legitimate place in most organizations, especially when they are based on an intelligent risk assessment and employ a streamlined, manageable design. But in the midst of all this compliance activity, I believe there can be an inherent danger in counting on them too much. The process of achieving true organizational ethics and integrity needs to go deeper and further.

A company's core values, which include attitudes about ethics, fair practices, and honesty, are exhibited one way or another in all the dealings of the organization. Importantly, they significantly define the company's relationship with customers. If integrity is authentic and central to the organization, it helps assure long-term relationships with customers and, therefore, a high lifetime value. Let me explain why I think this is true.

As an organization exhibits an identity, it reflects what you could characterize as a personality or character. That personality is perceived and experienced by the customer in everyday dealings, sometimes involving many parts of both organizations. For sure, customers expect the basics like the right product, good delivery, and competitive pricing. But the softer "personality" issues and your true face to the customer often define the quality of the connection and can literally build or destroy the relationship.

If you think back to your bad experiences with companies in the past where you have severed ties, what reaction hits you immediately? A lot can go wrong, but I think there is a high probability that your experiences will include a significant number of times where the key issue was a breach of trust. For whatever reason, you were left with a sense of unfairness, dishonesty, or misrepresentation. And as you know from your own experiences, when trust is lost the relationship is virtually non-repairable.

For your company's long-term viability, it is essential to continuously monitor whether your face to the customer depicts impeccable integrity and honesty or not. In this assessment process, consider whether your customers:

  • Have great experiences when dealing with your employees who passionately believe in the company.

  • Trust you to keep promises and deal fairly with them in all circumstances.

  • View the advertising and information they are given as accurate, reliable and consistent.

  • Get prompt and thorough corrective action when mistakes are made.

  • Perceive that pricing and terms are fair and equitable.

  • Are willing to talk to your prospective customers and consistently give positive referrals.

  • Know that they can count on your firm to maintain privacy and confidentiality.

And if you have doubts about how well you would fare in these, I would like to stress that any corrective actions can't be superficial. Integrity is not a training issue; it is a way of life in the organization that arises from a deeply understood and wholly believed set of core values. You become a company of integrity when these values are part of the way the company operates (at all levels, at all times, automatically).

I would suggest that there are a number of positive steps a company can take to grow an ethical organization over time:

  • When top executives talk to employees about results or anything else, make sure ethics and honest business dealings are always part of the discussion.

  • Make sure management walks the talk. Nothing undermines credibility like a management team whose behavior is at odds with the stated values.

  • Never cut corners, take short cuts or cheat even a little bit. One unethical act can permeate the entire organization.

  • Treat employees with respect and let them know they are valued.

  • Watch advertising and promotional offers to make sure they aren't misleading.

  • Give high-level attention to major decisions like price discounts so that deals are fair and consistent across your customer base.

  • Make the quality of product and service a priority, but when things go wrong deal with them. Proactively work hard to make the customer whole.

  • Support the idea of SOX-like controls and don't talk them down. Understand that checks and balances keep employees out of harm's way and give the organization credibility.

  • Cover integrity and control in all reporting and external communications. Customers and all other stakeholders continuously watch for a pattern of honesty and openness.

I will wrap up by saying that control systems are here and have their own purpose and value. But they are not an end in and of themselves. The core values of an organization will always dictate how the company operates in every encounter. Show a high-integrity face to your customers and they will keep coming back. Honest business is, in the final analysis, good business.

 

Contents

+ Introduction

+ Integrity and the Customer Relationship


 


If you have received this newsletter from a friend and would like to subscribe: Click here to subscribe


View previous newsletters

 

Some Words From Our  Customers
Check out what a customer had to say about his experience with Customer Centricity:

"Working with Customer Centricity has proven to be very rewarding for Centra. The level of professionalism, responsiveness, and follow-through has been outstanding."

John Walsh
Senior Vice President, Engineering & Operations
Centra Software, Inc.


About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.

In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

See What Our Customers Say

Quick Links

About Us

Contact Us

Testimonials

Previous Newsletters

Copyright 2009 Customer Centricity, Inc. All Rights Reserved

5 Old Coach Road Hudson, NH 03051 (603) 491-7948