There was an interesting full-page ad in the Sunday, June 7, Philadelphia Inquirer.
It was a letter to General Motors customers from Frederick A. Henderson, president and chief executive officer of GM.
After apologizing for closing dealerships that may include the ones most local to the reader, Henderson urges prospects to shop for their next new car at GM.
Additionally, he writes:
“Over the coming days, months and years, we will prove ourselves by being more transparent, more accountable and, above all, more focused on you, our customer.”
The problems of leadership that GM has had made me reflect on the key principles of business success outlined in Jason Jennings’ outstanding book Think Big, Act Small, which I regularly recommend to everyone I know in a leadership position.
Henderson’s letter is not specific about what GM will do to go way beyond just satisfying its customers. He stresses putting customers first, but, ironically (or perhaps tragically) he mentions that last.
GM customers will find it difficult to balance in their own minds the closing of their nearby dealership with the pledge by GM to take care of them in the future. After all, one example of GM taking care of them would be by keeping dealerships open.
As much as leadership is about doing the right things, many great books on leadership focus inward on leading the people who work for the company, not outward on how to create a phenomenal connection with the company’s customers. And without customers, there wouldn’t be a company to lead.
Jennings points out something very interesting in his presentations (you can download his PowerPoint presentations if you join his site at http://www.jason-jennings.com): Research suggests that many customers who leave one company for another indicate that they were “satisfied” with the company they stopped buying from.
Because “satisfaction” is not enough.
It’s a low standard.
It’s the minimum that customers expect. Satisfied is okay. But okay doesn’t keep people buying from you.
If you’re aiming just to satisfy your customers, you will not have formed enough of a psychological connection with them to keep them.
Complete satisfaction is required to form long-term loyalty with customers.
And that requires a kind of leadership that focuses not just within on building a great staff with clear goals and the right people doing the right jobs, but a huge emphasis (and rightly so) on your customers.
Don’t just walk around your company to see how things are going, walk outside the company to meet and really get to know the customers you have right now.
Ask yourself if they are the right customers for your business.
If they are, how can you deliver even better products or services to them and others like them?
If they are not the right customers for your business, who are the right ones, and how can you attract, convert and delight them?
The task of leading a company as large as GM is almost incomprehensible. But fundamentally it’s about doing much more than an average job at delivering value to prospects and customers.
That is what each one of us has to do, no matter what the size of the company we lead.