Passionate About Customers

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What are the primary steps in transforming your passion for customers into tangible value, and how is that effort faring?

Creating and tracking customer value is number one. We know we can, and will continue to, improve our customer Net Promoter Score by improving our customer experience, period. Next, we look at business value, which is about top-line growth: How are we creating and keeping more customers? Then we look at both business and shareholder value: Are we creating and keeping customers in a profitable way? These are the three value drivers that matter: customer satisfaction, top-line growth, and bottom-line growth. On that count, we've done well in the past year. Our share price has increased from $2.50 to $9.50. Now it comes down to sustained execution, which is always the most difficult part.

What leadership levers have you pulled to transform your passion into this type of value?

Lead by example; do as you say; and recognize, reward, and promote customer champions. But you have to do so in a consistent way. You shouldn't jump on every new fad, whether it's Big Data or social media. Any approach you consider needs to enable the marketing function and the company to create and keep customers. If any process, technology, or idea doesn't achieve that, we should question why we're considering investing in it.

What is one formidable customer-centricity challenge you encountered that might surprise many people?

Language. We realized that we needed to change the organizational mind-set from inside-out thinking to outside-in thinking—the latter approach being the way we look at the world through our customers' eyes. We realized that our everyday vocabulary played a pivotal role in making this mind-set shift work. When communicating with customers, we learned that we needed to stop using words like “us,” “ours,” and “we,” and to start using words such as “you,” “yours,” and “enable.” A word like “leader”—as in, “we are a market leader”—also means nothing to customers who are understandably more concerned with their own market position and challenges than our company and our products.

How does this passion for customer centricity play to your strengths, and play into your weaknesses?

I love simplicity in all its forms. And how much simpler can the purpose of business be defined apart from “creating and keeping customers?” I constantly pursue the attainment of this type of simplicity in everything I do, although I know I have a long way to go. I try to think like a customer and use this as a gauge, or compass, with my teams. However, sometimes a singular, resolute vision can introduce blind spots. For example, in my singular pursuit of our customer during the past year I at times overlooked the importance of our channel partners. Although customers should always come first, the channel is critical to us and I'm doing a better job of trying to maintain a healthy balance. I credit many people on my team serving as my conscience by constantly reminding me of the importance of our channel.

Did you discover any other surprising success secrets along your customer-centricity journey so far?

We quickly discovered that we needed to make sure the customer is at the heart of our key performance indicators. We also discovered that it was valuable to change the structure of our monthly Mitel leadership meetings. Rather than starting those sessions by discussing internal issues and initiatives, we now invest the first hour of those meetings—or however long it takes—discussing customers' hot-button issues. We discuss a problem, its root cause, and what counter-measures we have in place to resolve the problem. Also, the appointment of a vice president of customer quality has helped put the customer at the center of our business by ensuring that our customer-problem list is the shortest it's been in living memory.


4 Customer-Centricity Enablers

1. Enhance the customer experience through initiatives that improve the ease of purchasing from Mitel and provide the opportunity for customers to collaborate in such areas as product development

2. Measuring the progress and success of those customer experience initiatives, as well as customer satisfaction in terms of products and service, via Net Promoter Score

3. Creating business value via top-line growth by profitably creating and keeping more customers

4. Measuring business-value creation via customer satisfaction, and top- and bottom-line growth

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