Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Up your organization

In the 1960s, Robert Townsend revived Avis from a basket case, establishing it on the clear path to becoming the #1 car rental agency in the world. When he finished up turning Avis around, he wrote a landmark book, “Up the Organization….How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits.” It is laid out alphabetically and starts with a bang: Advertising…”Fire the whole advertising department.” The book conatins so many gems that are still relevant today, as you easily work through the alphabet. It is an easy read, yet seems a difficult book for companies to implement.

One very useful nugget, that does not often seem to be practiced…under ‘C”, he suggests that senior executives “Call yourself up….try calling yourself up and see what indignities you have built into your own defences.”

In Air Canada’s case, I guess you would send yourself a fax instead (http://ckaics.blogspot.com/2011/08/if-you-have-problem-or-question-send.html).

Imagine how much you can learn about how your company treats its customers by simply being one. Brilliant!

Another idea that has always struck me as simple, but brilliant…have your senior executive talk to your customers. All of your senior executive, not just the ones whose job it is to do this. You will learn so much from finding out what your customer wants, needs and is frustrated by.

I came across an interesting website, by Bruce Temkin, called experiencematters.wordpress.com, which is about “building loyalty through Customer Experience”. This tidbit was posted:
There was an interesting article in the LA Times about Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph's view of service. It turns out that the 86 year-old Joseph (who’s net worth is more than $1 billion) receives eight or nine letters from customers each month and, in most cases, he calls the customer.
Here’s what Joseph says about his actions:
You used to be able to pick up a phone and talk to people. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there’s e-mail and automated switchboards. People want to talk to people. They want to talk to people who are knowledgeable and who can answer questions.
Bruce calls this activity of senior executives systematically talking with customers, ”continuous listening”. Powerful stuff, talking to the customers.

Another thing the senior executive should spend some time doing is navigating their company’s web site. Do it from home, sometime, as if you are just another customer. Can you find everything you want?

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