New Practice Issues in Customer Intimacy

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We work with many new practices that include people from our clients' legacy businesses, consultants with vertical expertise that are recent hires, and other new hires that might sell solutions.  While they each have been successful in their own careers and think they know how to build customer intimacy, in practice it is often a challenge to get the group to work together effectively.

This can be especially challenging for management consultants hired into the practices - they have done billable work before, sold consulting deals, and managed clients and they don't readily see the difference between selling services and customer intimacy.

The effort of getting everyone performing in a fast-growth, repeatable, Customer Intimacy Engine - that pulls through products as its primary goal - can be very frustrating for our clients and they often find this part of the journey the most surprising.

I wanted to walk through the steps we believe are best practices and what effect they have during this part of the journey.  Please keep in mind that each time you move to a new practice area you will experience many of the same issues, so the ability to get this right and do it again and again becomes a key skill in taking you company into and being successful on the journey.

Complete Integrated Training Program
This seems to be an area that most major companies have trouble adapting as necessary.  You need to know you are building an entire business model that works differently.  You must know what skills and competencies are needed for each job category, and you must be able to deliver the skills transformation and be able to hold your people accountable. (We'll take up this topic in detail in a future entry.)

I will say that we have been doing this for 17 years and the amount of IP and transformational education materials required are immense.

On-boarding begins During the Interview
From the first time an internal or external person is introduced to the business - they should begin the education on the business model and how the role they are considering fits in - some use extensive materials even video vignettes.  This opens a question I often here - sharing methods - I am asked why we openly share on our blog and elsewhere how to make the journey.  I like to use the Toyota story - Toyota has always opened their miracle of manufacturing for inspection by other car companies. They are asked why they do that - my understanding of their answer is - it is not knowing what can be done but having the discipline, fortitude and guidance to do it.  That is the way we feel - we want companies to make the journey and if sharing helps them get going great - but we know that it requires more than a cursory knowledge to make it through the journey.  Anyway, every discussion with a candidate should reinforce and question their understanding of the model and role.  This also helps determine who should join the business.

The First Six Months
We think of this as the time members of the business go through a personal understanding and skills transformation.  It includes a great deal of training and role playing - only by doing do they begin to see the differences. Also as the business grows you can have your own clients come in and play their roles in this effort.  Further, each newbie gets a coach that rates their adaptation to the new skills - intellectual, emotional, and demonstrable - this can go directly into their review.  Further, they need to do fail-first learning (harsh, perhaps, but effective) they must be pushed into client situations - this will begin to dispel the false idea that "I can do this my own way."

On-Going Learning
Usually the members of the organization are now hungry for the continued learning aspect of the roles and the roles they aspire to.  They embrace the training/role playing activities they will experience over the coming years.  Please remember this is like the army: the action is on the ground not at headquarters - people must know what to do in client situations and feel free to take action. They cannot take problems back to senior management or cut prices to make things work. 

Teams
The final support for the people is that everything works like a project and they are always on teams - although the teams are different.  On a close knit team, day-to-day coaching and feedback become the norm.  Think of a family - you don't wait till the end of a review period to tell your kid that they did something wrong or great.
 
I hope this entry helps you get an introduction to the breadth of the issues and some best practices to drive the change using the Customer Intimacy Engine.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dean McMann published on May 5, 2010 12:04 PM.

Evaluating Ideas: Criteria to Foster Customer Intimacy was the previous entry in this blog.

Customer Intimacy Assessment: A Diagnostic is the next entry in this blog.

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