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Remember Blockbuster Video? The darlings of Wall Street in 2000… bankrupt in 2010.

Or how about Blackberry? Still have one? Probably not, and if you do—welcome to Jurassic Park!

Remember the book Good to Great and how Circuit City was highlighted as one of the great companies? They were also highlighted in a later book by Jim Collins entitled How the Mighty Fail.

So, what is my point?

All three companies failed for the same basic reason. Oh, you will read articles saying things like:

  • Blockbuster failed because they wanted to hold onto their late fees

  • Blackberry failed because they wanted to preserve their proprietary operating system

  • Circuit City failed because it stopped paying commissions to its sales force and fired 3,400 of their most experienced people

Unfortunately, these are just the symptoms. It is important we get to the root cause of failure. Sadly, these failures all had the same root cause...

They all lost the voice of the customer—the only voice that matters.

All three companies failed because they forgot what business they were in.

  1. Blockbuster thought they were in the video business.

  2. Blackberry thought they were in the mobile device business.

  3. Circuit City thought they were in electronics business.

What business is your company in? You may be in for a rough ride if you didn’t answer, "the customer business."

Why is building a strategy and a culture around being in the customer business so important? Well, let’s start with answering the following questions correctly:

Q: What business are you in?

A: You should be in the customer business, first and foremost.

Q: Whether a CEO or a front-line employee, what is your paycheck made up of?

A: Your paycheck is made up of customer money. It is not the employer who pays the wages, the employer only handles the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.

Q: What types of employees do you employ at your company?

A: There should be only TWO TYPES of employees that are employed at your company. Those WHO SERVE THE CUSTOMERS and those WHO SERVE THOSE WHO SERVE THE CUSTOMERS.

Get the picture?

All three companies lost their way because they forgot about their most important asset: their customers. If you work for a staffing company, remember; you have two sets of customers: client and talent.

Inevitably, customer needs and wants change over time and as an organization, this requires your company to “pivot,”, and pivot correctly. How do you know how to pivot correctly?

It starts with a better understanding of your customer through a Voice of the Customer (VOC) Survey. Companies should be doing a full-blown survey at a minimum, every two years with their top customers and prospects in each segment. These surveys should be very detailed; 20-30 well thought out questions administered by an experienced outside firm to determine customer needs and wants relative to:

  1. Meeting customer needs and wants today and in the future

  2. Understanding the strategic direction of your customer and how you impact their customers

  3. How they see your company advantages/disadvantages relative to the competition

  4. The threat of substitution (DVD replacing VHS or cable replacing video rental)

  5. The threat of new entrants (Uber replacing the Taxi)

The VOC should be supported by a quarterly Net Promoter Score Survey (NPS) to ensure your organization is in constant two-way communication with your customers enabling for a closed-loop system to be acted upon. Why quarterly? Speed is the currency of today and 90 days is a web-year. Add to this the fact that upwards of 80% of customers that left their previous supplier described themselves as satisfied should be enough to create a sense of urgency.

Remember: it is not what you know that hurts you, it’s what you don’t know.

At Butler Street, we specialize in VOC and NPS Surveys. Our experienced executives personally administer VOC interviews and have a unique way of interacting with your customers to maximize the information exchange and provide you with a detailed set of actionable insights. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you ensure that you are listening to the only voice that matters.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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