by Brian Turner

How Are Your Customers Feeling About Your Company These Days?

At Point B, we ask ourselves this question every day. We ask our clients through periodic surveys. And every year, we look to our Net Promoter Score (NPS) research for an independent reality check on how we're doing. We like the fact that NPS measures customer satisfaction based on their likelihood to recommend Point B, as well as several key dimensions of satisfaction, including responsiveness, value and results. Year after year, Point B's high NPS ranks us among the top companies in the country, across all industries, for customer satisfaction.

We know we're only part of the equation. It takes clients who value what we bring to the table and the relationship we create together. In the process, we have honed five practices that help us exceed their expectations.

We live and breathe these practices. Your organization can, too. It doesn't take a new org chart or a strategic plan to put them into action. You can begin making, and seeing, an impact right away.

Offer Actionable Insight

It may seem elementary, but nothing impresses customers more than your ability to show them you know them. At a time of disruptive change, companies are looking for partners they can rely on for insight and action. When you understand their business and industry better than anyone else, you'll win the trust to help them solve problems and act on opportunities.

At Point B, we go to the nth degree to learn a client's business, organization and culture. Our leadership team takes time to connect the dots across a client's organizations and understand cause and effect. Deep and wide insight informs actions that achieve our client's goals—whether we're developing a more efficient RX delivery system across a regional healthcare network or streamlining a supply chain for a global retailer.

Create a Cadence

Establish a rhythm in your relationships that shows customers they can count on you. Expect your leaders to be in the market and connect with customers regularly. Set a cadence that helps you be proactive, with a consistency that saves a customer from ever having to wonder "what's going on."

Establish a pace, too. How quickly can your customers count on you to respond and take action when needed? At Point B, we're able to ramp up rapidly because we're in touch with our clients and their marketplace all along. Staying up to speed accelerates our ability to align teams and take a set of actions to get things done.

Be Curious

Curiosity is vital to understanding your customer's organization and how it works. It drives fresh insight and innovation.

Leading with heart begins with curiosity and empathy—both professional and personal. I might ask a client how a project is going, and get a positive response. The conversation could end there. But digging a little deeper, I might ask," Where could we have been of more help?"

Be curious. Stay curious. Ask questions that show you care. Then listen. You may discover treasure in the answers—even start a deeper conversation.

Lead with Empathy

Do your people put others first? Do they seek to understand where another person is coming from?

In my opinion, empathy may be the greatest leadership power of all in an age of rapid disruption—the crown jewel of diversity, adaptability, and inspiration. The ability to see the world through someone else's eyes is foundational to understanding what your customers need. It drives alignment within and across your teams on what you need to accomplish. It accelerates talent development, too. 

To build empathy into your company, build it into your recruiting efforts. Hire people who have empathy hardwired into the way they see the world. In the words of the late Steven Covey, look for people who “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

Be Authentic

Authentic companies build relationships of trust by staying true to themselves and their customers. This may mean delivering a hard truth in order to solve a problem, or taking a pass on work that's not a good fit.

When we qualify a project with a client, the cultural connection between our organizations has to be tight. If we don't see an optimal match, we don't pursue the work. If we know a better service provider for the job, we'll not only make the referral; we'll often make the introduction. We stick to our knitting and only do work we can excel at. This way, we begin every relationship with a good chance to exceed expectations.

Change the Relationship, Change the Experience

You may have noticed that these five practices build on each other. When you're empathetic and curious, you gain insight and understanding, which enables you to see emerging problems, identify the best solutions, and respond more quickly to a customer's needs.

At Point B, these practices are key to changing our client experience as we move from a seller/buyer relationship to more of a networked model.

For example, in working with the MS Society and supporting its annual Bike MS fundraiser, we have built an extended family of clients who not only want to do business with Point B, but want to hang out with us. The feeling is mutual. We value them as human beings. Across our markets, we help clients find talent. We help client executives grow their careers. Through our Seattle Speaker series, we bring our clients together with outside experts on issues that are top of mind. And for a global sports client, we've brought in experts to share nutrition and technology advances that keep them on top of their industry.

In the end, exceeding your customers' expectations in this age of disruptive change is all about building relationships of trust. Putting these five practices into action across your organization is a powerful way to begin.