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
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesGenetic Literacy Project: There’s No Such Thing A…
April 17, 2015
Read the latest “analysis” on GMOs from Consumer Reports and you’ll “learn” that glyphosate, the chemical developed by Monsanto (its Read More
HerbicidesNew Resistance To 2,4-D Discovered In Australia
April 17, 2015
In a world-first case of herbicide resistance, researchers have confirmed that sowthistle weed in the south east of South Australia Read More
ManagementNews From RTP Company Visits and Growers Buying Older S…
April 16, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips to the Research Triangle Park area and market seed sales trends. Read More
soybean field
StewardshipNew ASABE Standard Establishes Framework For Sustainabl…
April 16, 2015
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has initiated a project to develop a new standard to establish Read More
MicronutrientsSouthern States: An Inside Look At Our Tissue Sampling …
April 15, 2015
Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? The nutritional diagram recommends the proper amount of nutrients you need on Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds New U.S. Fungicides Marketing Manager
April 15, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently hired Deneen Sebastian as its Marketing Manager for U.S. Row Crops, Fungicides. Most recently, Sebastian Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Launches Phosphite-Based Cereal Fungicide
April 14, 2015
A new, phosphite-based fungicide designed for improved suppression of deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat and barley infected by Fusarium head blight Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesSURVEY: Close To 90% Of Growers Battle Weed Resistance
April 14, 2015
Herbicide resistance management continues to be a priority for corn and soybean growers, and they’re working together more effectively to Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
StewardshipFMC Corp. Joins Sustainable Agriculture Alliance
April 14, 2015
FMC Corp. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a multi-stakeholder initiative working to define, measure and Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds Two To Goëmar Sales Team
April 14, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced two new additions to the Goëmar sales team: Steve Kelly, Technical Service Manager – Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgVariable Rate Irrigation Gains Followers
April 14, 2015
Irrigation systems have had the ability to apply different amounts of water throughout a field for decades, using timers that Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Gr…
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsThree Ag Co-ops Poised For Possible Merger
April 13, 2015
Following months of study and preparations, the Board of Directors for United Farmers Coop (UFC), Farmers Elevator Cooperative (FEC) and Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture Braces For More Belt-Tightening
April 13, 2015
Spring is in full bloom across the U.S. and ag retailers and their grower-customers are busily getting into high gear. Read More
ManagementPollinator Health and Washington, DC
April 9, 2015
CropLife America’s Kellie Bray speaks with CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj regarding bee health and proposed Beltway regulations. Read More
InsecticidesValent Takes On MGK Insecticide Portfolio
April 9, 2015
As of April 1, Valent U.S.A. Corp. became the exclusive provider of the MGK crop protection line of insect control Read More