In my last article, I talked about company culture and how it can make or break client satisfaction. Now I would like to discuss how to create a common language for everyone in your company, so that everyone can understand what "raving fans" are, and how important they are to your business.
Several years back, I had the good fortune of getting an inside view of an amazing commercial construction company in Boston. The folks there opened their doors to my peer group and shared a concept that literally up-ended my belief about client satisfaction and provided me with a new tool to convey our client satisfaction goals to our people.
They asked the question, "On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate a project that was on time, on budget and the client was satisfied?" Well, to everyone in our group, that sounded like what we all aspire to — just about everyone gave scores from 8 to 10. So it really turned my head when that same project, for this company, would have rated a 5 or 6. And for this company, that project was, effectively, a failure. Their goal is only 9s and 10s. Nothing else will do.
Moreover, we learned a 9 or a 10 meant something much more than a satisfied client. It meant an apostle, a raving fan, a promoter at every turn. If the team did a project for a client and had not left the client with the burning desire to tell everyone they knew that the company was incredible and to use any other company would be insane, they had failed.
We also learned that for them, failure (or failing to produce a 9/10 client) is not an option, and their refusal to accept failure is central to their identity and their culture. They believe that if they consistently blow their clients away by being committed to exceeding their client's expectations, then everyday they are securing that company's future. They make bold promises, like aggressive schedules under challenging work environments, and then do whatever it takes to make those promises a reality. Their belief in their ability to produce 9s and 10s has rewarded them with an incredibly loyal client base that has allowed them to consistently grow. It has also earned margins that are two to three times that of the competition!
To consistently earn 9s and 10s, they need all their employees on the same page. One of the ways this is accomplished is to create a common language out of the number rating system. During our visit, we could randomly ask any employee to define a 5 or 6, or a 9 or 10. Each and every employee, from production, estimating, accounting and IT got it. And moreover, everyone knew that doing their job well with a laser-like focus supported the mission of the company.
Like the commercial world of construction, our market is filled with well-intended companies that consistently underperform and disappoint their clients. Such low performance leaves you with an ample opportunity to create raving fans.
After you've committed to the concept of "raving fans," you must create that common language for your employees. Clearly 9s and 10s are not the only way to communicate that level of client nirvana, so please call it whatever you want. Create your own terms and language within your company as long as everyone can get their arms around it. Once people begin to get it, keep going and weave it into the fabric of your company.
Not wanting to reinvent the wheel (and admittedly, sometimes I lack creativity), we have adopted the 9s and 10s language. We have "910" embroidered on our sportswear. We use it in weekly meetings when we rate the client satisfaction of every project under construction. We talk about it in our monthly company-wide meetings to highlight examples of employees going above and beyond to secure the client's delight. I hear it talked about in the hallways of our company. It has become part of our DNA. Like learning any new language, it takes time, but when you master it a whole new world opens up to you.
Next time I will provide you with some tangible examples of a variety of things that can be done to exceed your client's expectations within the project's and the company's budget.
|Dave Bryan is the president and CEO of Blackdog design/build/remodel in Salem, N.H. He is also a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage. Contact Dave at email@example.com.|