Listening Very Hard: The Voice of Your Customer

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As a Consulting Company that has a Customer Intimate Generic Strategy (i.e. we understand what our clients want and we work closely to deliver it the customised way they need it delivered) we survey the Business Leaders we work with every 6 months. It is important that we get better and better at Strategy, Executive Leader Coaching and most importantly our core business which is ensuring the plan gets executed. We need to know our clients well, support their CEO’s to lead change and to develop and grow their people. It is a high trust relationship because we get to see the best and the worst of what goes on inside their organisation. Referrals are the absolute lifeblood of our business and where most of our new business comes from.

The survey we use (and we recommend our clients use)  is the Net Promotor Score survey. You can google this and find a huge amount of information about this globally recognised best practice survey which measures client loyalty. Two simple anonymous questions asked by an independent party gives a massive amount of valuable information.

Question 1: On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being never and 10 being always) how likely would you be to recommend xyz business to family or close friends. This gives a number.

Question 2: If the answer is 9 or 10: What is your reason for giving this number? This information is taken down as it is said (i.e. word for word) and gives all the things the business does well and in fact are the reasons they are loyal and will refer business.

Question 2: If the answer is 1 – 8: How could company xyz move your score closer to a 9 or 10? These answers will give all the information about what things need to improve before they will refer others. They are the development areas.

Using the numbers you then ignore all the 7 & 8 Scores (these are deemed as satisfied clients i.e. just as likely to refer as not). You calculate the % of 9 & 10’s (the promotors) and subtract the % of 1 – 6’s (the detractors). This gives a number between -100 and + 100. That is your Net Promotor Score. You can access benchmarking data to look at industry norms if you wish.

As a professional services Company working in a high trust position you would expect that the NPS score would be well into the positive numbers. Our NPS score had moved from + 56 to + 75 over a six month period. More significantly we had no detractors (rating 1 – 6) something we had never achieved before. So what did the survey tell us?

1. It gives me as CEO a lot of confidence that we deliver upon and exceed our client expectations.

2. It tells us that we are getting better at what we do.

3. It tells us that we have a stable and loyal client base that will refer and that we add massive value to their businesses.

4. It gives us confidence to tell our story and know that it is backed by our clients & based on good data.

5. We know exactly what it is that clients value most about our services and exactly what problems we solve for them.

6. It tells us what we need to work on over the next 6 months as a team (training and new skills/expertise) in order to take things to the next level.

7. It gives us valuable information and confidence around how we price our services.

Most of our clients introduce this survey over time and it is very valuable information. The businesses brave enough to own the “Voice of their Customer” will significantly out perform others in their industry because they know what they need to improve and innovate in order to grow client loyalty. It does take courage to do it. If you have detractors surveying 1 – 6 you can actually put a dollar amount on the revenue your business has at risk i.e. if you don’t do something to address those things they seek then you will eventually lose them as a client.

We owe a massive thanks to all our clients for taking part in this survey……..Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Have you surveyed your client loyalty? What did you learn?

Read more about owning the Voice of the Customer

Case study: Voice of the Customer Workshop (link here)

Own the Voice of the Customer…….just Own it!! (Link Here)

Making The Jump: Strategy

As one of the biggest Business Strategy Companies in NZ it is always an interesting time when we review our own. Over the next two days our team will all be together in Auckland as we train, celebrate success, reconnect as a tribe (after all that is what Company culture is!), have fun, review and reset our Strategic moves and action priorities.

Going into the conference we know exactly what all of our clients think of us, how they rate our people, our services and how we can improve it even further. We have researched and worked on who our target markets should be, we are in the process of reviewing our brand story and marketing tools. We are in a good space and have confidence in our data which in turn will allow us to discuss, debate and align to the key decisions we need to make. In 2012 & 2013 we were lucky enough to have John Spence facilitate our Strategy. One of our Core Values is “Live what we teach” and so we too incorporate our own framework and tools as we run and grow our own business. We have the same challenges.

Strategy isn’t that hard. As Jack Welch puts it “you pick a general direction and implement like hell!” The challenge is to execute the strategy in amongst all the noise of “Business as usual.” Thats what we do as core business for our clients and it is what we are good at as a company, accepting that you have to constantly work at it.

I’m really looking forward to hanging out with our team, to the fun, the discussions and to aligning as a tribe to the “Leap of Faith” we need to take in order to move our strategy forward.

How is your strategy? Is it simple? Do your people know what it is? Do they know their role in it? Are you on track?

The gap....between who we are and who we want to be.
The gap….between who we are and who we want to be.

All in a Weeks Work

Change is definitely a process. Change is one of life’s constants and yet people hate it. How do you lead change? How do you lead in constant change? How do you lead?

I am lucky enough to lead a talented team that works with some really amazing leaders working across many different industries. We get to share their successes, understand their challenges and to roll up our sleeves and help them execute their plans and to lead change. Without doubt cutting through complexity is a major part of our role at The Results Group. The tempo of modern business is fast, full of uncertainty and always changing and evolving. There are industries and great companies out there who, whilst seeking structure, systems and processes to consolidate change (or growth) never get the chance to do so. The next change is upon them whether that be market conditions, industry disruption, technology impacts or access to funds. How do you lead in constant change? How do you lead a team of very smart people in times of uncertainty? How do you attract and retain top talent?

Change is a Process

Often there is a perception that change is an event but the reality is it is a process. There is a wealth of information about the 8 steps of change (Kotter) and it is very applicable and important to understand each step. My experience is that the “people stuff” presents the biggest challenge.  By this I mean the part where a leader has to support the team with whatever the change or the challenge is. The softer skills of getting that right mix of being assertive enough to push change through yet empathetic enough to understand the needs of those within the business. Who the champions of change are vs the resistors.

Recently John Spence (link here to watch the short video) recorded a video to help me to support a CEO going through a large growth strategy of acquiring other businesses. This meant some of his Senior Team had a lot of change to their roles and in some cases did not have the skills to move forward to the new entity. There was a need to support them because they in turn needed to support others across the company. It is a process, a journey and for some it will be exciting and for others it will be a hurdle they can’t negotiate and yet the change is needed in order to allow the Company to grow and move forward.

Over the past week there have been many leaders to support in change. This is a snap shot of a typical week;

1. The construction company needing structure and support to start the process of change. We found  the way ahead after spending several days in their business talking to key staff as they do their job and observing.

2. The tertiary training provider needing a GM in a part time capacity (20 hours a week) for several months as their funding is confirmed and to lead whilst a full time GM is recruited.

3. The CEO and founder needing support to plan the succession into the business of his daughter. What role should she play and how does the transition occur over a number of years?

4. The accounting firm seeking KPI’s that drive high performance as they engage and develop their talent.

5. The CEO needing support to help a key member of his senior team through some professional and personal issues whilst protecting his role in the team and keeping his part of the business on track.

6. The Founding Director needing support as he steps back from his professional services company as he gets his head around succession.

7. The distribution company needing to change the way their sales team sell to totally change the way they do business.

8. The CEO of a large Australian Company seeking clarity on how to execute (operational planning) some aspects of their strategy.

9. The CEO looking to grow key leaders across his NZ & Australian Company.

10. The Board Chairman needing support to develop the CEO of the company.

11. The Company owner wanting to bring good independent Governance into his business to lift accountability, financial performance and to challenge his thinking.

12. Supporting the shareholders of a business to overcome conflict caused by differing expectations.

13. Working with a Senior leadership Team to develop Vision, Strategy and an execution plan. The important thing being to get alignment across the team.

Often solutions to these issues are simple however never easy to execute when a change in “people” is needed. Do we know all the answers? Often no, but facilitating the difficult conversation is often the way to get the answers on the table and agreed to. Any plan is better than no plan and once on the journey it can change and evolve. I hear my instructors from my days of Army Infantry training saying “Whats the plan Mr Langston? Make a plan, any plan, people will die, just make a plan and back yourself to change it as you execute it.” So too in business……..

It is all in a weeks work.

The Cookietime story: 30 Plus Years of “Smiles”

Last night the The GM of Canterbury based Company Cookietime Ltd spoke to over 40 of our clients at a networking function. He told the fantastic and entrepreneurial story of over 30 years of history. (Link here so see some of the images: Cookietime Presentation). You can hit their website to find out more about their culture, Vision and philosophy of being part of the community. (Link here to their website

CTLLincoln Booth has been leading the company for eight years and it has been a fun, challenging and successful period as the privately held Company has grown and evolved. In 2013 Cookietime was voted as one of the top three of New Zealands most trusted brands. In itself a major achievement.

I have been lucky enough to work with Cookietime over the past three years as they plan, execute and achieve fantastic results. The culture is one of fun (work hard and play hard), opportunity is found in every situation and they seek to execute relentlessly. A recent retail opportunity in Japan has brought a new era, new challenges and new successes as the brand starts to push well beyond the borders of New Zealand. Their annual, 100 day and team framework really makes them a high performance team and high performance company. Clever people at the top of their game.

The Cookietime story is an awesome one to be a part of and I am looking forward to the next chapter being published.

Feeling the Burn

Myself and my Company Sergeant Major Andrew Bain of 2/4 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, Saturday 19 July 2014

Last weekend was the annual “Twin Peaks Battle Tab”, a New Zealand Army endurance race sponsored by our unit 2/4 Battalion. Held over the hills to the North of Dunedin city this race saw 17 teams (from units right across the Army) and 34 individuals compete. This is the second year I have competed and my Company (A Company, 2/4 RNZIR) had 3 teams and a number of individuals competing.

The weather was wet and cold, we carry 20kg of gear and it makes for a full on day of navigation, endurance and focus. Over 26 km we climb across two peaks a number of times. Ironically we trained more for the event this year and it seemed to hurt more! But you have to challenge yourself and get in amongst it and as a Company Commander it is important to be doing the same things that your soldiers are doing even if a few more years make you a bit slower.

Nailing it is very satisfying and makes the beer taste good.

“The task of a …

“The task of a leader is to take their people from where they are, to where they have never been.”

Henry Kissenger

It can be a tough place leading a team or organisation especially during change. Change is a constant and really it is only the pace and amount of change that varies in business today, reality is it is always there.

How do you lead in constant change? How do you bring your people with you on the journey to a place the organisation has never been? Culture plays a big part in this and a culture whereby there is high trust allows tough discussions to be held, ideas and views to be challenged and for teams to buy in to what needs to be done.

The big question always asked is “How do I build a High Performance Team Culture?”

Here are some articles about culture which you can link to here;

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast (Link here)

High Performance Team Cultures: What I learnt From Todd Blackadder (Link Here)

High Perfromance Team Leadership: The Foundations (Link Here)

Culture: How To Build a High Performance Culture: A Video From John Spence (Link Here)

The 7 Big Leadership Lessons of 2013 (Link Here)

Leadership Lessons From Dr John Penno: CEO of Synlait Milk (Link Here)

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Building a great company culture is a significant Strategic Advantage. Competitors can steal your ideas, technology and copy systems or the way you do business but they cannot steal your culture. Further if you have culture that your people love then your competitors cannot steal your people either.

I am often asked “How do we build a culture?’. There is no easy answer except to say it is a conscious decision, it is a process that is continually worked on, it is planned, it involves heavily the desires & input of those in your team. Leaders plan for and enable the culture by making it a priority and something they protect and actively encourage and grow. Your people are the culture so they have to buy in and be part of it.

I am lucky enough to work with clients who are iconic NZ brands, clients who are in the top 10 places to work in the country (year in year out) and many who have workplaces full of committed, highly engaged people.

What do they all have in common? Culture is a big part of their Strategy, they commit time and resources to it and they live and breathe it. They have fun, they work hard and they have very high levels of accountability. Their team helps deal with those who don’t fit or don’t perform.

Culture brings a common language and set of beliefs (values and purpose) to a group of people.

Click on this photo to link & hear John Spence talk about the “Elements of a Winning Culture”.

Culture absolutely eats strategy for breakfast. It is a strategy!