By Martin Zwilling
After working in business at all levels, and consulting to entrepreneurs for years, I’m still surprised to see so many situations where things that should be easy are painful to customers, and lead to customers hating your business. How could any rational employee or executive fail to do his or her job, not realize there is a problem, or not care enough to even try to do the right thing?
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For example, I recently picked up my phone to call a well-advertised local company for a TV repair. After several iterations of not answering their phone, forgetting a promised callback, to admitting they couldn’t help me, I had no interest in trying them ever again. They don’t realize that their image of incompetence will likely get shared with twenty or more other potential customers.
Of course, every business owner I know will loudly proclaim that could never happen on their watch, but secretly they are not so sure, and would like to know how to prevent it. If you are in that category, you should take a hard look at a new book, “Nincompoopery: Why Your Customers Hate You–and How to Fix It” by John R Brandt, who has some real insight on this problem.
He defines “nincompoopery” as the ill-planned, outdated, or ludicrous organizational structures that turn even the most eager employee into a nincompoop, or at least force him or her to seem like one. He outlines six key macro-trends in business today which makes that make this an ever-growing challenge for leaders, and offers some real guidance on how to mitigate the impact:
Leaders still reeling from competition and recession. Accelerating worldwide competition and financial upheavals are undermining established market positions. You can’t wait, look the other way, and hope things return to normal. Every business leader needs to focus on continuous learning, adapting, and being the role model for the team.
For example, it’s time to regain your optimism, based on new global opportunities now open, healthcare changes, and the power of new technologies, including the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Get out and meet your customers to learn what turns them on these days.
Data-fueled automation requires big skill changes. Connectivity and the ability to mine insights from a data-rich environment can be a huge boon to productivity and profits, or a barrier that will drag you and your team into nincompoopery. Start now looking for and providing advanced training and tools for all team members.
Workforce demographics quickly changing. Remaining baby boomers are making the entire workforce older, while the percentage of women and the mix of ethnic diversity is increasing. Leaders who want the best results must rethink and change now how they find, train, compensate, and retain the best talent – regardless of age, color, or gender.
Different employee work balance expectations. The new generation of workers expects to work more flexible hours and to connect from anywhere. They demand to be empowered to make life tradeoffs, such as vacation scheduling and benefit options, as well as business decisions. Employee engagement is keyed to these expectations.
Economic/social trends demand new employee contract. We now live in a gig economy, where both employers and employees want additional flexibility. The days of working hard and expecting lifetime employment with a retirement plan are gone. You must become the employer of choice, based on incentive and employee-perceived ROI.
Worldwide government regulations complicate process. Customers are demanding more from their public governing units, as well as the businesses that serve them. For example, they want environmental sustainability, safe labor practices, and social responsibility. You need to set these priorities high in your strategic planning focus today.
Ignoring them until later leads to nincompoopery, and recovery is much more difficult than getting it right the first time. Start today in modeling the activities of recognized leaders in this area, including Whole Foods, Toms Shoes, Warby Parker, and Patagonia.
Don’t wait until your current customers hate you, to start reacting to these trends, and trying to build new processes, a smarter team, and more innovative solutions to fend off the curses of nincompoopery.
These real requirements for business success haven’t changed in a long time. Don’t let the challenges we all face today distract you from delivering a positive and memorable experience to all your customers.