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Assess the Scene

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Over the past number of years I’ve taken my wife and three teenage children on extended backpacking trips. Well aware of the risk of injury in the wilderness, I attended a wilderness first aid course. One key principle was drilled into me over and over again: Assess the scene. Often, those first on the scene of an accident rush in to help, jeopardizing their own safety or worse, causing greater harm to any victims. Similarly, customer executives and especially chief customer officers need to “assess the scene” before pushing their agenda to create a customer-centric culture.

Although we as customer executives might be tempted to argue that creating a customer-centric culture should come first and foremost, in situations of high stress, it is inevitably shoved to the back burner. A physician can’t help you with your diet when you are in a diabetic coma any more than the fire department can teach safe driving habits while they are extricating you from a wrecked car. Just as the time for preventive measures is long before the accident, attention to culture must take place before the crisis.

However, when a crisis does arise, effective CCOs will choose their battles carefully, sometimes pausing the long game and helping to put out the fires. The first thing they will do is assess the scene to determine where in the company assistance is most needed and how best to provide it. Successful customer executives will:

  1. Identify the most dissatisfied customers at risk of churn through whatever means possible (engagement measures, account team reports, escalations, surveys, social media, etc.).
  2. Prioritize and connect with the highest priority customers to discover issues and needs, be they urgent or latent.
  3. Gather a cross-functional team to understand, assess, prioritize, and resolve issues. Most importantly, the team must close the loop with customers, either indicating that the issues will not be addressed or providing a time frame for their resolution and ultimately delivering on that promise.

As is said in political arenas, “Never waste a good crisis.” A crisis is hardly the time to focus on creating a customer-centric culture. However, by understanding and leveraging customers to weather a crisis, customer executives foster goodwill and lay the groundwork for an increased focus on customers after the crisis has passed. Once in the clear, CCOs are in a much stronger position to enlist the larger organization in preventing future crises.

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Categories: Customer Centricity | Customer Retention | Chief Customer Officer

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