Customer Obsession 2.0: the Platinum Rule
Robert Reid, CEO, Intacct
When it comes to outstanding customer service, I say live by the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would want to be done unto.” Treat customers the way they want to be treated, not the way you would want to be treated. This requires you to understand their perspective and what is important to them. Many times organizations get caught up in what they would want, and then disappoint the customer. This is the only way to achieve enough empathy and perspective to keep customers coming back for more.
I learned from the some of the best. For example, back in 2010, a departing Southwest airlines flight was put on weather hold and ordered back to the gate; passengers had to remain on board until the skies cleared. The pilot was aware it could be hours before the next window, so to defuse what was already a tense situation, he went into the terminal and bought pizza for the entire manifest – with his own money.
Southwest and its passengers hailed this as a major success, because they have a culture that loves its customers. The pilot knew Southwest had his back, whether it came in the form of direct reimbursement or not. The culture was that strong. When I heard about this, I knew I had to create an environment in our business that would empower employees to do whatever it took to keep customers happy. If we didn’t, another company would.
When a CEO’s normal mode of operation is to pursue and continuously pay attention to the evolving needs of their customers, others in the organization naturally follow suit. When leaders demonstrate willingness to exceed customer’s expectations, to go beyond the status quo every time, even if the status quo is what made the company successful to begin with, others take note. I hold myself accountable and try to lead by example, always trying to do better today than yesterday for our customers.
As for reliably pleasing customers once the team is in place, organizations must identify a target market from the very beginning and pursue it with laser focus. Starting narrowly as opposed to broadly is always a better bet, because this allows an organization to firmly grasp a group’s ideals – as well as their issues and challenges. From software to ice cream, understanding the customer means sitting down with procurement teams or running focus groups to truly understand needs and expectations. Even then, solving needs and meeting expectations is only the beginning.
The real work is in the follow-on question: Is there anything else? At this point the client may say there’s something that nobody else has been able to solve and that they’re not really asking for it, but if they could have it, it would transform their business. You have to ask customers about what would be ideal for them, even if they don’t think it is possible. The brainstorming really creates the imaginative breakthrough for sustained added value and incredible products and services.
If you receive multiple customers in your focus area telling you the same impactful ideal solution, then make it your top priority if it is different or unique.
Before I got married, my mother told me I was entering the most important relationship in my life and that it would always have to be a 50/50 partnership. Then she said the way to achieve this would be to always put in 90 percent and expect only 10 percent in return. You will find you have a great 50/50 relationship with that equation. If a company tries to provide more value than others, the payback doesn’t always come back immediately but will come over time, because your customers will rave about you, and will send you other customers.
Other values my mother instilled included always exploring the impossible and that humility wasn’t about thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less. This is what the Platinum Rule means to me. From a business perspective, it’s impossible for growth of your company, your relationships, or delighting your customers to reach the stratosphere without teams being proactive, ambitious, selfless, and willing to reinvest to be better every day back in the office.
About the Author
For over 30 years, Rob has driven explosive growth at innovative companies, and has demonstrated a deep expertise in bringing cloud computing to the world of business applications. At Intacct, Rob leads overall company direction, helping the cloud ERP provider deliver consistent annual growth of more than 40% during his tenure.
Previously Rob served as president and CEO of LucidEra, an on-demand business intelligence provider. Prior to that, he was group vice president of Siebel CRM On Demand for Oracle Corporation. As president and CEO of on-demand CRM innovator UpShot, Rob grew the company tenfold before it was acquired by Siebel. He has also held executive management positions with Concur Commerce Network, Seeker Software, Documentum, and several other industry leaders.