Key Messages

Why read another business book?

Lead With Your Customer is worth your time because it will show you in a very practical way of how to start with your customer and focus the right effort on the right things to achieve world-class results. This book reveals the proven way to achieve excellent bottom-line results. Every day, some organizations achieve the best results in their particular industry–and not by accident. They work hard at following and refining proven strategies and tactics that simply get better results than their competition.

This book is the result of years of operational experience with numerous large, midsize, and small organizations all around the world. We’ve had an opportunity to study, showcase, and even be “in the trench” with organizations as diverse as the Walt Disney Company, GE, Nordstrom, Harley-Davidson, and the Mayo Clinic. The hundreds of real-life examples, interviews, and citations throughout the book showcase several key insights we want to share with you:

1. Drop the Flavor of the Month

A chronic problem in business is what is commonly referred to as “the program/flavor of the month” phenomena.  Typically, an improvement initiative starts off with great fanfare and high hopes, but after 6-12 months, the operational performance dips back down to “business as usual”.  The seeds of this book were born in an effort to understand how world-class companies break free from this and consistently improve every day.

This book embraces a motto we’ve become known for while working to make a difference with our clients: “If it doesn’t work in the real world, you’re wasting my time.” Long-term, real-world excellence is the result of tangible, pragmatic business practices. The book’s primary purpose is to explain these real, proven practices that can be found in world-class organizations. When we say world-class, we’re not just talking upscale, luxury types of products and services. We’re talking about those companies that are successful in their market because they are creating consistent, sustainable practices. Those practices occur over time because of what we refer to as the Chain Reaction of Excellence:

2. Work Both Sides of the Coin

The above model brings us to our second point. In order for leaders to successfully attain long-term loyalty and success, they must work what is essentially two sides of the same coin. You can cut costs for the short term, but world-class companies prove that the only path to long-term sustainability is to focus on that gap of your external and internal customers.

There is a gap between you and the results you want. You can’t do anything about your results other than influence your customers, both externally and internally. Yes! You should treat your employees like they were internal customers. Unless you accept your role of nurturing/leading those human resources, you will fail. And we’re not just talking about your HR department. Every employee is in the HR business, because your external customers are human resources as well.

How do you go about understanding those customers? Gathering quantitative data is important. Knowing demographic data like gender, age, geographic location, is an important foundation for knowing your customer. The problem is that it alone does not provide a competitive edge, because your competitors probably know this information as well.

World-class organizations go beyond knowing about their customers to really understanding them. That kind of qualitative data allows you to create a legitimately differentiated relationship. As seen in our model, it becomes a sort of compass that will point you toward what is most important to your customers.

3. Focus on the Plate

Speaking of the model, not only does it reference to the idea of a compass, it also provides another analogy as well. When we work with clients big and small, many of them say “my plate is full”, and that they don’t know how to add more work to what they are already undertaking. Attempting to launch a change initiative while everyone’s plate is already full creates a situation where the natural consequence is that their new responsibilities act like pasta falling off of the plate.

World-class companies approach this very differently. They make the initiative “the plate”. What goes on the plate (economic fluctuations, social shifts, technology breakthroughs, competition, etc.) will always change, but the plate (Values, Vision, Leadership, Culture, Brand, etc) never go out of style. Therefore, focus on the plate.

4. Center on the Core

And at the center of the plate, we find the core. One’s Values and Vision can not be some exercise and plaque in a boardroom. The Values and Vision must be in the hearts and minds of your employees day in and day out. It must be the center of the conversation. Teaching these principles, rather than waxing cold in policies and procedures, will help everyone to be pointed in the same direction. And being pointed in the same direction is what is at the heart of a strong, consistent, customer experience.

5. Build Nets

External and internal customers often feel like they are walking a tightrope. Doing business on both sides of that coin can be a risky endeavor. The best support is to provide a net to ease their concerns–and ensure a better experience even if something doesn’t go according to the original plan.

When studying our model, you see that it’s woven by not only an organization’s values, but by Six P’s. Those P’s reflect the vital aspects of any customer experience–internal or external.

6. Point the Way

The leader is like the magnetic end of the compass. It is naturally attracted to the pull of True North. In that role, it leads others to move in the same direction. Customers navigate business every day, and are depending on leaders throughout the entire experience to maintain progress toward the expected outcomes of the journey.

Conclusion

The very best companies follow the same path to success–regardless of the industry. The great news is that most everyone has access to the same resources–time, money, people, etc. The difference is how you choose to invest these resources.

The proven, real-life business tools presented in this book will enable you to achieve the same breakthrough results as so many other professionals have done–even in the most difficult of situations. We encourage you to read this book, implement the solutions that work best for you, and begin realizing your fullest potential today!

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