Does your company “know what is best for its clients”? In a world where the words “customer focus” and “customer centric” have become so widespread in mission statements as to become cliché, you might think this conversation is obsolete.

“What do you mean? Of course we don’t pretend to know what’s best for our clients!”

Recently I was leading an executive retreat in what could be considered the ideal setting for such an event: perched on a hill-side with amazing views on the city below and the mountains in the background, small enough to be almost exclusive, and still provide the team with an environment that could favor productive work.

Yet, it turned out to be one of the worst customer experiences for the 18 executives, who had travelled from North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe to spend valuable time together and me.

When the customer does not come first, what is at play?

  • Lack of flexibility in the supply chain: in this case, the venue refusing to set up a buffet instead of a sit down lunch…with 5 days notice. It may sound trivial, yet the experience of “leisure” vs. the constraint of a (too long) sit down lunch made a difference.
  • Silo organization between functions: there was uncoordinated communication between guest services and catering with the excuses, “they didn’t tell me…”
  • Uncommitted conversations: when I briefed the hotel on arrival with specific requests, their response for everything was, “yes of course, no problem.”  The result was not what was promised, with responses such as, “oh, well that’s not me, ask them.”

How is this relevant to you and your clients?

While this experience may seem unrelated to your industry or company, ask yourself the following question: “Where in your organization are you demonstrating this lack of openness, authentic listening, coordinated action, and committed conversations?”

Moments of magic and moments of misery

What if you asked your clients–not only the people who use your products, but also procurement, accounting, sourcing, to describe their latest experience interacting with your staff? Where would the moments of misery show up? And what are the moments of magic you may not see anymore but actually provide a unique experience and real value?

Marie-Caroline Chauvet is a Paris-based partner of Insigniam, an international management consulting firm. Connect with Marie through the Insigniam Executive Forum on LinkedIn.

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