Getting Aligned With Customers

Last month, we started discussing how to drive changes within your company that will impact loyalty. The first topic of discussion was why change is hard and the management breakdowns that can limit an organization’s ability to become truly customer focused.

This month, we will discuss how companies are often out of alignment with their customers and suggest some steps to help front-line staff become more aligned with the customer priorities that impact loyalty.

Without data to inform its strategy and direction, a company easily can get out of synch with customer priorities. Unfortunately most companies have only a vague idea of what is important to customers, and they don’t quantify how customer experience impacts loyalty and share of business. Like playing golf on the darkest night of summer, it doesn’t appeal to me.

To help front-line staff become better aligned with customer priorities, managers must provide a clear marker of where the company is today. Second, management must show staff how the company performs against key customer expectations. Sales staff and customer service representatives generally want to do well by customers, so this type of information is typically well received by them.

The graph shows data from AgKnow­logy’s Customer Experience Monitor. Customer rankings of priorities (and what drives loyalty) are compared to one of our client’s perceptions. Our client is a leading Midwest retailer. The 18 customer priorities we looked at are shown across the bottom of the chart. To protect our client’s proprietary information, I have left out the names of each customer priority.

From the “customer” point of view, our client’s performance on q9n was the most important in terms of impacting loyalty. This is shown in the red bar at the far left of the chart. Moving left to right on the X axis, you can see how growers ranked each experience in terms of impacting loyalty. We compared customer perceptions of what drives loyalty to what the employees of our client believed drove loyalty.

Look at q9o, (second experience from the left). This is the second most important experience for the customers of this retailer in terms of impacting loyalty. Our analysis showed that the management and sales staff of our client believed q9o was the 12th most important experience (out of 18) in terms of impacting loyalty. That’s quite a difference.

Typical Results

I use this as an example, but the result is typical of what we find in the Customer Experience Monitor. If companies don’t know the priorities of their customers, how can they focus correctly to deliver a superior customer experience? Each time we interact with customers, we bring a set of assumptions on what customers need to the table. Sometimes these assumptions are correct and sometimes they are not. Looking at the chart again, you can see our client incorrectly assumed some customer experiences were very important (i.e., the retailer thought they were more important than the customer). In other cases, the retailer thought some experiences were not very important, but customers thought they were vital.

I hear retailers frequently mention that they are customer focused. But what does this really mean? As usual, I will let data and analysis provide my answer. In most cases, this means a company is focused on what they think is important. They actually don’t know what customers value most.

Let’s get back to the challenge of getting employees aligned with customer priorities. Here are four suggestions:

•  Measure. You knew I would say this. You wouldn’t make a fertilizer recommendation without matching a yield target with current soil nutrient levels. Why not measure what your customers really value and need from you and link your performance on these priorities to your sales results? A large amount of evidence shows that when companies truly understand their customer priorities and measure how they perform against these priorities, they tend to outperform their competitors.

•  Inform And Educate. Measuring is only part of the success equation. When front-line staff knows what matters most to customers and then are trained to focus on these priorities, you will begin to achieve the customer alignment that is a precursor to loyalty.

•  Refine. This is the pay-off. Once you know what drives loyalty, you can refine how front-line staff delivers each customer experience. As customers react to this improved experience you will create more Promoters and less Detractors within your customer base. Your Promoters are a revenue-generating machine that works for you every day of the year.

•  Link To Compensation. Once your Net Promoter program is entrenched within your company, consider linking customer ratings of your performance to front-line compensation. This clearly communicates that front-line staff makes a difference in customer loyalty, and this has a financial reward.

Alignment is a powerful concept. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines alignment as “the adjustment of an object in relation with other objects.” If you’ve never done it, think about taking your business in for a tune-up that identifies what drives customer loyalty and share of business in your area.

And oh yeah, ask the technician to check where the rubber hits the road, and ask for an evaluation of how well you meet customer expectations on the key drivers of loyalty and share.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Corp. CEO interview
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future Of Agriculture
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Trending Articles
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Issues Statement On The U.S. Elections
November 10, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn has issued the following statement on the results of the 2016 elections: “TFI Read More
Latest News
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research has announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls …
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
FertilizerNutrient Management, Conservation Among Topics Covered …
November 23, 2016
Certified crop advisers, consultants, farmers, agribusiness professionals and students will learn more about nutrient management, soil and water conservation, pest Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsa…
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Arysta LifeScience
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Forms Alliance With Beem Biologics
November 21, 2016
As part of its recently announced strategy to become a leader in high-value, high-growth specialty market segments in the crop Read More
DuPont sign
Crop InputsDuPont To End Pension Contribution For Active Employees
November 18, 2016
DuPont will no longer contribute to active employees’ pension plans, a move that will affect the retirement of 13,000 workers, Read More