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Giving Up Control

How empowered customers and employees make your business stronger

by Kate Pavao

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Division of labor may be the best model for manufacturing, but leaders at customer-facing organizations should consider a different approach. “The system that was designed to be efficient actually becomes extremely inefficient when delivering services,” says Dave Gray, senior vice president of strategy at Dachis Group, a social marketing optimization solutions firm, and author of The Connected Company. Here, Gray talks to Profit about why organizations that thrive in today’s volatile marketplace will be the ones that listen, learn, and evolve.

On control: If you think about customers as targets or pawns in a chess game—or anything other than the people that you serve—you’re going to lose. Customers know when they’re being abused or mistreated, and they’re able to share the information more than they ever could before. If you look at your company and the inside story doesn’t match the story that you’re telling out in the marketplace, you’d better start fixing that. If you want to win, you’ve got to be perceived as a good guy. And if you want to be perceived as a good guy, you can’t lie anymore.

If employees are going to learn, then leaders have to be OK with them making mistakes. . . . a connected company is a learning organization, and employees can’t be perfect and learn.

On being connected: When demand is highly variable and you’re providing more than a single, mass-produced product, the judgment of your people on the front line becomes much more critical. You need people using good judgment, making good decisions, and owning the customer experience instead of the task.

What is it like to call into a call center of a connected company? When you call the Vanguard Group, a mutual fund company, you are routed to a real human being, not a voice-messaging system. That person has been authorized to represent the entire company and solve your problem. They can basically handle anything, instead of telling you, “I only handle fraud,” or “I only handle billing issues.” If they don’t have the information or expertise to solve your problem, they will dial in someone else to help, but they will stay on the call with you.

On challenges: The good news is that a lot more people are going to enjoy their jobs. It’s going to be a lot more fun to work in a world where you’re expected to be creative and show ingenuity, experiment, and learn. The work is going to be challenging. The bad news is that many people in global organizations have had creativity trained out of them. They are going to need a lot of training and support.

18 million
number of jobs expected to be added to the service sector between 2010 and 2020 (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

On leadership: The first thing leaders can do is to start closely examining their own behavior and their tolerance for risk and mistakes. If employees are going to learn, then leaders have to be OK with them making mistakes. It can’t be about toeing the line and everything being right every time. A connected company is a learning organization, and employees can’t be perfect and learn.

Kate Pavao

 
 
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