Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #159

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CCI Serving Those in Need...Again

Members of the Customer Centricity team and the First Baptist Church of Hudson, NH are again headed to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi during the week of March 1, 2010, to build and/or refurbish homes, with Habitat for Humanity.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, destroying property and killing hundreds. Less than a month later, on September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita also made landfall on the Gulf Coast, extending the devastation even further. All told, more than half a million homes were damaged or destroyed.

Four years later Habitat for Humanity still engages coastal Mississippi families struggling with run down temporary shelter and poor housing conditions.

If you are interested in supporting the cause or would like to learn more, visit www.firstgiving.com/firstbaptisthudson. We, and the people in need, thank you in advance for your support.

Executive Sponsorship for Strategic Accounts
By
Craig Bailey

This week we take a break from our case study example outlining strategies and techniques that one of our clients has put in place to effectively manage the customer experience. This article will cover a best practice which firms have either not (yet) implemented or attempted to implement with mixed results. We'll cover how to "do it right."

If your company is like many, your plan of attack for 2010 is now in effect to support achieving this year's goals. To get to this point, numbers were crunched and investment opportunities were considered (i.e., enhance, launch or sunset this or that product, upgrade or implement this or that system, acquire or unload this or that facility, etc.). All of these steps were taken with an eye towards increasing revenue and/or decreasing cost.

With that said, did you stop to consider your single source of revenue - the customer? More specifically, did you decide on approaches to solidify key customer relationships, obtain direct and ongoing input from their decision makers and ensure that the customers' feedback is infused into your go-forward strategic and tactical planning? If not, your planning was "inside-out" and you need to balance that with an "outside-in" perspective.

There are a number of methods to accomplish the above. An approach that offers a HUGE "bang for the buck" is that of directly connecting your executives to customers and building a partner relationship.

While you may not be able to assign an executive to every customer, you could at least start with those customers that are the most strategic. With this in place, there are a number of activities you can perform to generate direct benefits to your top and bottom-line. Following is a step-by-step approach to implement an Executive Sponsorship process.

  1. Determine how many executives (VP and above) will be expected and/or are "qualified" to participate in the program.

  2. Define the appropriate criteria (strategic, etc.) for a customer to be included within the program. As you decide the criteria you will want to consider the number of accounts each executive will be assigned (on average) to avoid overloading anyone and thus rendering the program ineffective. A suggested target is 5.

  3. Define the ground rules that need to be adopted by the participating executives (from your firm and the customer's). Key ground rules include:

    • The executive doesn't become (or perform as) the customer's help-desk or immediate escalation point.

    • The customer, in order to get this level of attention, must reciprocate by assigning an equivalent level executive sponsor from its organization.

    • All must agree to a reasonably mutual exchange of information and ideas.

  4. Communicate the program with the executives and account managers expected to participate and obtain their buy-in/commitment.

  5. Assign each customer (based on specific criteria) to an executive. When doing so consider the personality, profile, geography of and any pre-existing relationships between the customer, your account manager and the executive. This is certainly not an exact science, but it is important to line up the best possible matches.

  6. Each executive meets with the account manager to obtain a complete customer profile and history with the firm including:

    • Products, services and/or contract / licensing status (are they up-to-date?)

    • Accounts Receivable status

    • Key players (decision makers, influencers, etc.), their needs and issues

    • Business benefit or ROI that the customer expects and/or is realizing from their relationship with your firm

    • Key wins

    • Key issues (past, present and anticipated)

    • Current initiatives (projects/implementations) underway and milestones

    • Account plan

  7. Account Manager and/or Executive Sponsor reach out to the client to establish the "Executive Partnership." It is suggested that, if at all possible, the initial meeting be face-to-face. The agenda for this initial meeting would be to cover the customer's profile (outlined above). It is also appropriate to ask the client what he/she would like to cover at this meeting.

  8. Conduct the meeting. Participants should include:

    • From the customer's organization: decision maker / executive and key influencers.

    • From your organization: executive sponsor, account manager and other resources (i.e., technical account manager, project manager, etc.) who have customer-specific insight germane to the relationship.

  9. Commit to a recurring schedule which may include:

    • Monthly calls (more frequent if significant issues are present)

    • Quarterly, twice annual or annual meetings (face-to-face)

  10. Account Manager and Executive Sponsor summarize meeting minutes for:

    • Confirmation with the customer that you "got it"

    • Internal consumption to drive necessary change to address any account-specific or other issues impacting customers in general

  11. Repeat steps 6 and 8 through 11 indefinitely.

Putting in place a program such as this creates open and active executive-level dialog between your firm and the customer's which will allow you to reap many rewards including:

  • Evolving the relationship to a strategic / partnership level (vs. remaining a mere vendor)
  • Ensuring executives from across your organization obtain direct insight from the customer and are able to and accountable for "doing something about it."
  • Elevating awareness of the fact that improving the customer experience does NOT simply mean "fix" the customer service department. It goes WAY beyond that.

If you'd like to learn more about implementing an Executive Sponsorship program, or tuning your existing program for better results, contact us via email or call 603-491-7948.

Stay tuned for subsequent editions of our newsletter in which we'll complete our coverage of the case study example on Managing the Customer Experience.

 

Contents

+ CCI Serving Those in Need...Again

+Executive Sponsorship for Strategic Accounts


 


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

We contacted Customer Centricity to help us increase business and launch our newly expanded building and property management services. I was very impressed from the start as they had us take a step back and provided an objective perspective and approach to meet our challenge. From our "kick-off" meeting through completion, they walked us through a step by step approach, always being very responsive and available for consultation. We looked at our customer base in a manner we hadn't before which helped us understand how our customer base could be harvested from within as well as approaches to effectively acquire new customers. The implementation of their approach was very successful and we couldn't be more pleased. I highly recommend Customer Centricity.

Peter M. Ciaraldi
Owner/Founder
Professional Building Services

 


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