One of our topics during a recent company meeting was the idea of “connecting.” At a time when many people in business don’t think there’s anything they can do to improve their situation, we decided to challenge ourselves.
We wanted to evaluate how we, as a company, connect with our customers through our product and services, and how we, as a team, connect with each other. The discussion was productive and beneficial as we identified areas where our organization was doing well and where we needed to improve. From top to bottom, everyone was held accountable because the responsibility of connecting is shared by all. By the end of the meeting, we were all reminded of that most basic and fundamental truth: Business is all about connecting. The better we connect with our team, the better our team will perform. The better we connect with our customers, the more of them we’ll have.
Here are some of my notes from the meeting:
• From the receptionist answering calls and the salesperson on the street to the team on the assembly line and the CEO, as part of a team we are all connected to one another by the decisions we make and the actions we take. That’s a very empowering thought if we think about the positive effect that we can have on our organization and in the lives of our customers. Every task, every responsibility, every seemingly mundane operation turns into an opportunity to contribute even greater value — to connect.
• Beware of hitting a comfort zone. Shoshana Zuboff, a professor at Harvard’s Business School and co-author of The Support Economy: Wh y Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, cites a recent Gallup Poll which shows that 71 percent of U.S. workers consider themselves “disengaged clock-watchers.” Most workers fail to see the tremendous opportunities right in front of them for creating value and really making a difference. When challenged to create more value at work, most workers simply think there is nothing they can do. But there is: Embrace your team’s purpose and start connecting.
• Connect with the team. No matter how difficult things may seem, and regardless of your position in the company, you can be the one to lift the team. How? By taking on the right attitude and looking for ways to connect. By taking the right action — right where you are. By being an example.
• Connect with your customers. The buck stops here, so let’s start improving our connecting skills and then create fresh, new ways to connect. How? By placing the needs of our customers first. In his book, The Pursuit Of Wow, Tom Peters writes about his experience of drinking an Odwalla fresh fruit drink. As he was drinking his juice he noticed the expiration date read “Enjoy by March 12.” Peters writes, “Why fuss over ‘Enjoy by’ instead of the normal ‘Expires on’? Simple. It’s the very essence of humanness, of connecting with the customer — and a strong indicator of superior service and quality.” Peters has identified a link between connecting with our customers at a deeper, more personal level, and the appreciation of superior quality and service.
In the same book, Peters draws from an analysis performed by the Forum Corp. where it studied fourteen major manufacturing and service companies to determine why they lost commercial customers. The study showed that 15 percent of customers were lost because they found a better product somewhere else. Another 15 percent were lost because they found a cheaper product somewhere else. About 20 percent were lost because of lack of contact with the previous supplier and 50 percent were lost because of poor contact with the previous supplier. In other words 70 percent of the customers were lost because of the human-factor — because they failed to simply “connect.”
Question: Still don’t think there’s anything you can do?
Manny García-Tuñón is a columnist for El Nuevo Herald and President of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami. www.mgtunon.com