Annual planning is the Achilles heel of driving a united customer culture. Every silo or department determines how much money they have to spend, then each creates their individual plans and correlating score cards. Activities frequently focus only on the money – not on the behavior of the organization and what they want to stand for and show up as in the marketplace – based on their decisions and actions.
As you begin your annual planning cycle, here are 10 actions that business leaders and their organizations should focus on first – before the financial planning cycle – to increase customer loyalty and drive profitable business growth.
1. Believe in the integrity of your customers. The majority of business policies and rules are created to protect business from the minority of customers. Be bold, like Connecticut Griffin Hospital, which began sharing hospital records with patients and saw claims against the hospital drop by more than 43 percent. Take a leap of faith and believe that trust is reciprocated by customers when they feel that you trust them.
2. Invest in employee trust. Show your employees that you believe in them. Beloved company Wegmans invests in its employees by training them in the skills that remove rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that pen employees in. This enables Wegmans to throw away the rule book and live by this one edict: “No customer goes away unhappy.” As a result, its margins are higher and profitability more steady because the grocer’s turnover is only 7 percent of employees versus the 19 percent average in its industry.
3. Practice democratic decision making. Give good ideas a chance to prosper no matter where they come from in your organizational chart. Innovation and marketplace differentiation come when employees are respected as part of achieving a mission greater than their set of tasks. W.L. Gore has become a $2.7 billion dollar company, and earned a place on Fortune magazine’s best companies to work for list since its inception, because of how the company unleashes its employees’ spirit and ideas.