Growing is painful

Thursday, May 2, 2013

While we yearn to have every customer to be delighted with us, it is not always possible. If you are running a small establishment, you might know each of your customers personally. You would want to flourish the relationship by continuously finding ways to enrich their lives. 

Imagine you if are an insurance agent.  You would be regularly updating your customers with genuinely valuable information customized to each of them. It could be the performance of their current policies, the expected future performance, your own comments about the outlook, a simple birthday or an anniversary wish and anything to personally touch their lives and enrich them.

But what happens when your business grows? It is only natural when you treat your customers well by enriching their lives, they continue to stay with you and bring their friends and family into your business. With such growth, can you continue to update each one of them regularly? No, not that usual generic marketing messages, but customized updates by each of your unique customers. 

Many organizations fall into this trap. When they are small, they provide excellent service. But when they become bigger, customer sense the lack of such service. Companies end up with much less personalized interaction with their existing customers. Greed overtook companies’ values that brought and maintained their loyal customers.

Of course companies need to grow and prosper but that must not be at the expense of their core values. Companies that continue to deliver by manifesting their core values of enriching the customers’ lives will continue to grow, because these customers will want to stay with you and bring their friends to your business. It’s a simple truth but we often miss this truth our excitement to grow.

There are countless examples of companies that started small, grew up fast and vanished. What can companies do to achieve sustainable growth? What the owners and top management require to continue to enjoy that growth?

Again, it is simple. When you continue to delight customers so much that they want to stay with you and bring their friends, it is the key ingredient to sustainable and profitable growth. When you walk the talk by continuing to delight customers, customers will reward you with a sustainable relationship. 

Getting back to insurance agent, when you grow your insurance business, you will hire more agents to serve your existing customers and bring new customers. You want to train these new agents to delight customers the similar way you did. You internalize the values that you built in your agency that brought about that growth.

Similarly, larger companies would want to train and re-train their employees to instill the core values of that company and usually such values are of universally accepted good values in enriching the customers’ lives.

Companies that do well are those that put in place workable processes and systems to drive positive behaviours in delighting customers. Such companies genuinely demonstrate the need to live by the company’s core values by developing performance management and compensation policies that reward behaviours aligning to core values.

So, while companies’ need and want to grow, but for sustainable growth, companies must drive the core values in its whole organization. Failing this will result in companies not experiencing the growth for long. Interestingly, some companies do continue to stay longer and appear to be growing but such growth do happen by acquisition of smaller companies that have strong core values and growth, which will not last after all.

It is not easy to internalize company core values to its employees, let alone the new hires. Top management need to walk the talk by demonstrating these values in their daily actions and interactions with their employees, not just with the customers. Because it’s the employee’s face that the customer sees often, not yours.  

Satya Narayanan