A friend of mine recently sent me an article (Why everybody should think they are the Chief Customer Officer – reflections on building a customer focused business) from David Thodey, CEO & Executive Director, Telstra that he had found on LinkedIn.
Telstra is Australia’s largest telecoms and media company covering everything from building telecommunications networks to providing mobile telephony, internet access and pay TV services. In Australia, they serve just under 16 million mobile/cellphone customers, have nearly 8 million fixed line customers and provide fixed broadband services to just under 3 million consumers.
In the article, David was reflecting on the progress that Telstra have made ‘to put the customer at the centre of everything we do’ and the lessons that they have learned along the way.
David listed out his first lesson as ‘Leaders need to show a genuine commitment’. He goes on to explain that:
“Leaders need to be seen talking to and about customers, asking questions, listening to their stories, making a difference. Real change comes from real actions.”
Actions always speak louder than words and I think that most, if not all, people would probably agree with that.
However, thinking about this and taking it one step further, leaves me wondering how many leaders in firms are, actually, performing ‘real actions’? In other words, how many leaders are ‘walking the talk’?
How many are out talking to customers on a regular basis, listening to their problems, helping them, serving them and making a difference to them?
For example, when was the last time that you saw:
- A leader of an energy firm spending time at one, or a number, of their petrol or filling stations serving or just talking to their customers; or
- A train company leader checking tickets on the train or at a station; or
- A member of the leadership team at a big software company accompanying one of their sales reps on a regular sales meeting/call; or
- The CEO of a retail bank taking deposits, speaking to and helping customers in a local branch.
Aren’t these examples the sort of real actions that David is alluding to?
I believe they should be and these type of actions offer two clear benefits:
- They allow CEOs and leadership teams the opportunity to listen, learn and experience directly what their customers and their employees go through on a daily basis; and
- It will turn their words into real actions and demonstrate to their customers that they really care and do put them at the heart of everything they do. In turn, it’s likely to inspire and motivate their staff to do the same.
Now, whilst many CEOs and their leadership teams, regardless of the size of their businesses, may agree on the importance of these type of actions and acknowledge the benefits. In reality, many will complain that they don’t have the time to do these type of things.
But, does that not then beg the question: Are you not committed to putting the customer at the centre of what you do?
Actions speak louder than words and actions deliver real change.