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1. FIVE POWERFUL WORDS

"They serve like we lead."
- Sir John Sainsbury, founder of the supermarket chain.

I love it when truth is reduced to its absolute essence so we can all understand it. In those five words, Sir John Sainsbury had already distilled what it later took a number of big brains at Harvard years to toil over and define as 'The Harvard Service Profit Chain', sometimes called the 'People, Service, Profit' chain.

Basically, the way you lead and manage people determines how they treat customers, which determines how happy the customer will be, which determines how much profit you will get from them coming back.

Treat people well and with respect and they'll treat customers the same way. Treat them brusquely, as if they are unimportant and you don't have time for them because you have important things to do and…you work it out.

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2. STARBUCKS' ORGANIZATION CHART

There's an original organization chart at Starbucks that you still find in desk draws and on walls at their head office. It looks like this:

CUSTOMERS à EVERY EMPLOYEE

That's it.

Mind you, now that they have grown so HUGE, they also have one of those over-complicated organization charts that everyone else has.

But, symbolically, this one, above, appears now and again to remind them what the real structure is.

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3. THE BANK THAT LIKES TO SAY UMPQUA

Talking of Starbucks (see item 2), The New York Times calls Umpqua Bank "Starbucks with tellers."

It's not often I come across a bank that is great at customer service, so I'm sharing this one with you.

Jerry Fritz of Madison-Wisconsin University, and a past speaker at our conferences, told me several years back that he'd discovered a cool new bank, then called South Umpqua Bank, that had re-designed itself from the ground up.

The CEO Ray Davis (no, not THAT Ray Davis), set out to lead what he calls a 'banking revolution' in re-designing Umpqua's processes and its external as well as internal brand. He's written a book on it, which I'm currently reading on your behalf, called Leading for Growth.

From the book jacket: "When Ray Davis took over the local 40-person South Umpqua Bank in 1994, many people in the industry poked fun at his insistence that employees answer the phone with a cheery "World's Greatest Bank."

Eleven years, $7 billion in assets, and 128 branches (or " bank stores" in Umpqua lingo) later, the moniker seems quite apt. Other banks scratched their heads when Davis sent his tellers to Ritz-Carlton to learn customer service and were intrigued when he hired a cutting-edge design firm to completely re-think retail layout.

Now…Umpqua has become the darling of the entrepreneurial press and a growth powerhouse."

I thought about this as I was sitting in a revolving chair in the middle of the re-designed local branch of my bank with my son over half-term, looking around at eight nice little newly-designed customer cubicles, all empty, waiting to open a bank account for him. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting…"Sorry," said the greeter who had asked us to sit and wait. "There'll be some staff around soon." We didn't wait. Umpqua bank operates in the Pacific Northwest. Shame it's not a bit closer.

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4. WHAT CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT

Andy Bounds, in his book The Jelly Effect, (yes, I'm reading this one for you, too) coins the term 'afters' to describe what customers really want from you. I don't actually like the word, but he has a point. It's an extension of the old 'products' versus 'benefits' shift in language. But, Bounds argues that customers all know when a salesperson starts talking 'benefits' it's just because he or she has been trained to do so.

By contrast, Bounds recommends focussing hard on what the customer will be left with after you have gone. This is all that interests customers, he says. And he calls it 'afters'. Here's his explanation:

"Customers don't care what you do; they only care what they're left with AFTER you've don't it.

So, how does it work? Well, think about any product…

Bought a lamp? You wanted light. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.

A pair of glasses? Better vision.

Contact lenses? Better vision without anyone knowing you're short-sighted.

And do you know the weirdest thing? You could have sworn you wanted to buy a…lamp, some toothpaste, a pair of glasses, or contact lenses.

As US business school professor Theodore Levitt famously said, 'People don't want 1⁄4 inch drills. They want 1⁄4 inch holes. "

'Afters' rather than 'benefits' forces you to think about the future good of the client or customer, says Bounds.

Source: The Jelly Effect: How to make your communication stick, by Andy Bounds.

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5. HOW CUSTOMERS THINK

Despite the time and money spent on market research, 60% to 80% of new offerings fail. Why do consumers often say one thing to marketers--yet act differently in the market? Industry innovator Gerald Zaltman argues that the answer lies in how the mind works. When it comes to buying, 95% of our decision making takes place in the subconscious mind, yet traditional marketing methods and customer research barely scratch the surface of this information gold mine.

He's coming to help sharpen our thinking on this at European Customer Management World 2008 in London in May. So, this is a book recommendation to get ready for that: How Customers Think, by Gerald Zaltman.

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6. AND HOW YOU THINK: TIME FOR A WHOLE NEW MIND

"There are two kinds of people in the world, an old joke goes: those who believe that everything can be divided into two categories - and the rest of us. Human beings somehow seem naturally inclined to see life in contrasting pairs. East versus West. Mars versus Venus. Logic versus emotions. Left versus right.

Yet in most realms we usually don't have to pick sides - and it's often dangerous if we do. For instance, logic without emotion is a chilly, Spock-like existence. Emotion without logic is a weepy, hysterical world where the clocks are never right and the buses always late. In the end, yin always needs yang."

SOURCE: Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. Pink says we've spent too long thinking we are Left brain or Right brain people and that there are six steps to reconciling the two so that you can manage and lead in the 'conceptual economy'. He's coming to ECMW 2008 to explain. I'll warm you up with a Fast Guide posted to http://www.ecmw.co.uk on his six steps, and write a bit more on it in the next Start The Month newsletter.

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AND, FINALLY…THE TEN SECOND FUNNY

Servant-leadership, originally defined by Robert Greenleaf, is supposed to be the perfect form of leadership for customer-centred organizations, as it puts the customer at the heart of the business, the people who serve the customer around them, their managers serve THEM, providing the resources and support they need to serve customers better, and the top leaders, in turn, serve them. So, it's the equivalent of the upside down pyramid that Ken Blanchard and others keep telling us to implement.

Anyway, here's ten seconds from W. H. Auden on the concept of serving others:

"We are here on earth to do good for others.

What the others are here for, I do not know."

- W. H. Auden

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