As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 31st2016
I have always wondered if Jeff Bezos shops at Amazon.com. Bezos is not only the CEO of Amazon.com but he is the founder. In addition, Bezos is ranked the best performing CEO in the world according to Harvard Business Review and Amazon is the rated as the leader in the customer experience. Possibly, he does; and if he does, is his experience shopping at amazon.com the same as mine or does he get preferential treatment because he is well known? Given that Amazon.com is an online store, I doubt he gets preferential treatment.
Closer home, has Bob Collymore ever tried using Mpesa services at a neighbourhood kiosk or called 100 for assistance? Does Dr. Julius Kipngetich go shopping at Uchumi Ngong Road? Does Richard Alden use Zuku services at his house? Did the former Nairobi Hospital CEO ever use the hospital’s outpatient services? Does Joshua Oigara use the KCB Mtaani services? If they do or if they did what would their experience be? Would their experience surprise them or would it be as per their expectation? How does Dr. Ben Chumo for instance react when the power goes off unexpectedly? Does he call the Kenya Power care centre?
The interesting thing about using the services of the companies where we work is that we do not really get to experience what a regular customer would. In most instances, the CEO gets preferential treatment because he is well known. I recall when I worked at KQ the staff in ground services and inflight seemed always aware when the CEO was travelling. The staff would never be caught off guard. Do C.E.Os. need not have a true feel of what a regular customer goes through?
As a CEO, having a true feel of your services does not necessary mean using your services or going undercover like the Home-Depot CEO Frank Blake did. However, smart C.E.Os. need to be deeply involved in the customer experience by getting regular feedback. They need to be aware about their key customers’ feedback. They need to know what the majority of customers are happy about and what makes them unhappy. They need to know if their overall customer experience is improving or deteriorating.
The worst that a CEO can do is to wait for a crisis for them to get involved with the customer side of business. The best time to get involved is at the start of their career with a new organization. Better still, if one is the founder, getting involved with the customers has to start at the onset. I believe this is exactly what happened at Amazon.com. At the onset, Bezos was keen on a building a brand that customers would trust. Two year after inception, Barnes and Noble then a fully brick and mortal bookstore sued Amazon.com alleging that its claim to be “the world’s largest bookstore” was false. Today, the company is the world largest retailer by market capitalization and its focus on the customer is unmatched. It is argued that the business of business is the customer; therefore, if the CEO does not have a true feel of what the customers are experiencing then, there is a gap. Customer service will remain the lifeblood of smart companies. We are living in the age of the customer and only the C.E.Os. who have a true feel of their customer service will live on.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy