How can the CEO of a major organization change the company culture in just five minutes a day? A few years ago, I found that I was asking myself the same question. I decided that, although I might not be able to change everything that was wrong with my company in five minutes, I could make things better for one person.
I committed myself to personally responding to one customer each day. At first, I expected that this simple act would help to make a single person’s day better, but I quickly realized that my new habit could have an instant and meaningful impact on the business.
Here’s the simple CEO hack that could make a big difference to your company’s culture.
First, find one unhappy customer. If you’re using a real-time NPS (Net Promoter Score) system to track customer loyalty and satisfaction, then finding customers who score poorly on these metrics shouldn’t be too difficult, as the system will automatically flag them up.
Once you’ve found your customer, take a minute to read through their communications so you fully understand the complaint. Now — this is the crucial part — write a personal message to the customer, letting them know that you personally care about the problems they have experienced with your company.
Explain what you will do to fix the problem, or, if an immediate fix isn’t possible, explain that you as the CEO will be speaking to the relevant team to make sure the problem is solved quickly.
Remember to follow through on any promises you made to the customer, whether that’s sending a personal message to the head of the relevant department or taking action yourself to resolve the issue.
Next, take a moment to reflect on any lessons that your organization can learn from the customer’s complaint.
What can you gain from taking a few minutes out of your day to personally respond to a customer? The answer is a lot more than you might think! Here are the key benefits that I’ve experienced from adopting the 5-minute CEO hack.
Getting personally involved in individual customer cases shows the front line of your organization that you are in touch with reality. Keeping it real in this way can win you greater respect from your front line. According to CEO Alex Malley, “If people feel as though you appreciate them, they will respect you more.”
Do you ever wonder whether the executive reports that reach your desk are a real indication of what’s actually going on in your organization? Communicating personally with just one customer a day can give you a snapshot of the real situation on the ground. Think of it as your daily dose of reality.
When you start reaching out and connecting with your front-line workers, you’ll see some great examples of employees going the extra mile to keep customers happy.
Take the opportunity to commend these people for their efforts. Praise that comes straight from the CEO of a large organization can give employee morale a big boost, causing them to try even harder to please your customers.
Unfortunately, you may also encounter some examples of things not going right in your organization. Don’t be discouraged by these examples of bad practice — now that you know about them, you can turn the situation around.
Arrange meetings with senior staff to discuss any systemic issues that come up during the first few weeks after you adopt the 5-minute CEO hack.
CEO storytelling is a powerful tool for motivating people in your organization, but do you ever feel like the stories you’re sharing are starting to get a little stale?
Connecting with customers on a daily basis supplies you with a constant stream of fresh examples to fuel your CEO storytelling sessions. You’ll never bore people again!
Even a quick email can surprise and impress a customer if it comes directly from the CEO of a company. For example, when Lowe’s CEO responded to feedback with just a quick one-line email, the customer was so impressed he shared it on his blog.
Similarly, the CEO of Farm Fresh defused a social media storm by taking the time to write a heartfelt email to the primary complainant. Sometimes, customers just want to see that you personally care about the service your company provides.
I get it. You’re busy. You have a hundred people making demands on your time, a dozen reports you need to read and a meeting tomorrow that you haven’t even begun preparing for. But here’s the thing — it’s just five minutes.
All you need to find is five minutes in which you can read about a customer’s problem and send an email in response. Can’t you do that?
If it helps, think of the five minutes you spend replying to the customer as a break from your regular duties. It’s a chance to let go of your responsibilities and focus on making life a little easier for just one person. After a while, you might even begin to find it relaxing — I certainly do.
If you can find just five minutes in your day to connect with an individual customer, I promise that you’ll find it rewarding. The 5-minute CEO hack is your opportunity to create a customer-inspired culture in your organization, starting with you as the CEO.
Once you start thinking of customers as real people with real problems, rather than simply numbers on your bottom line, you’ll begin to bring about real change in your company.