What do you believe? No seriously, what do you really believe? When you step through the doors to your office in the morning are you anticipating a day of meetings and shuffling paper or are you preparing yourself to live the dreams of your organisation. Are you there for the salary or for the journey, do you want to make life easy for yourself or make it happen for your customers, are you looking to take or to give that bit extra?
You see slogans are all very well but unless you really believe in them and absorb them into your every action and decision then a slogan is just a few clever words dreamed up by an advertising guru and ridiculed by the public. It’s so easy to say you believe and so meaningless when you don’t take action. I can say I believe in Father Christmas, I can talk about how the tooth fairy leaves money under pillows but unless I act then my daughter will grow up learning nothing but the harsh lesson of disappointment.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that “to believe in something and not to live it is dishonest.” How much worse is it to pretend to believe in something and to boast about it through advertising and yet to do nothing to turn the words into reality? And the raw truth is that increasingly it is the words and the actions which matter far more than the product ever did. In a world in which every business accesses the same technology, in which every product looks increasingly like every other one, the only differentiator is in how a business conducts itself and interacts with its customers.
In the banking and financial services sector if my money transfers electronically in and out of my bank and I can draw cash from virtually every hole in the wall then why should I choose one bank over another? If I need to buy a car then which finance provider will I choose? The answer is that I and millions of other customers will choose based on relationships and service; based on the reputation of the provider to really care about adding that extra something which will benefit me. And whilst slogans may go some way towards spotlighting the organisational vision, unless they are backed up with actions then they can be a double edged sword.
So looking after customers, taking actions with the customer in mind should be at the heart of every bank and every financial services organisation. The FCA sums this up in their TCF guidelines which state that “Treating customers fairly (TCF) remains central to our expectations of firms’ conduct, that firms put the well-being of customers at the heart of how they run their businesses.” And this isn’t just a matter of coming up with a new slogan, for many institutions it will require a fundamental change of culture.
In effect organisations looking to truly treat customers fairly and gain 21st Century competitive advantage through the way they conduct themselves need to embrace a culture of innovation. And this means really getting to grips with building a deep understanding of a customer’s problems, issues, tensions and desires so that you can build a product and a brand which truly meets their needs.
Putting the customer at the heart of the business means throwing aside marketing speak and mapping out a set of values and behaviours which will drive exceptional customer experiences. This means setting innovation and empowerment at the heart of every business process and decision. And whilst the direct customer experience will be with the front line staff, without innovation permeating throughout the organisation they will be powerless to act.
Providing an exceptional customer experience is not just a matter of front line employees telling clients to have a nice day, it is not even about the middle managers acting as the gatekeepers to culture change and encouraging initiative and true customer care, it is the responsibility of every single person within the organisation. And for the CEO and the management team this means defining the values and behaviours as well as acting as leaders and key influencers to create an innovative environment within the organisation.
Understanding the customer, treating the customer fairly means innovating, looking to provide an exceptional service, which is designed and delivered with the customer in mind. And it means taking steps to ensure that when the vision is translated into a catchy slogan every employee at every level is engaged with translating that slogan into everyday exceptional reality. Not just a catch-phrase, not just mouthing the words because they sound good but living them every day. When you get to that level then not only you but your customers can truly believe.
Differentiated Innovation, Differentiated Leadership & Differentiated Culture for Next Generation Organisations.