Culture and the Importance of “Wow” Withinin Your Company

Many companies are beginning to realize the power and benefit of developing a “wow” campaign within the culture of the organization. These campaigns are designed to inspire teams, develop a positive culture within (and outside of) the organization, and create an unforgettable experience for team members, clients (customers) and partners (vendors).

Lately, our executive team read The Value in Wowing Your Customers , in the Harvard Business Review. As a result of discussions around this article we decided it was time to elevate our commitment to developing our “wow” culture. I was asked to develop a brief overview of this phenomenon and here are two things I discovered.

Developing a “wow” moment for a customer can create a community of committed customers and ambassadors of your brand.

While putting together my research for our team I stumbled across a thread on Facebook (very timely) by a friend who’s husband was recently deployed to Iraq. He’s in the Navy and will serve a one-year term. Here’s what she posted:

A local company heard from one of my neighbors that [my husband] was deployed this year. Within a few hours, I had offers from them to do all of the lawn fertilization for the year, spring clean-up, mulching, and they also plan to mow the lawn until [he] gets back. They’ve done great work for us in the past, but this just goes above and beyond my wildest dreams.

Within a few hours she had several “likes” and then the comments began to emerge including:

– Their e-mails seriously brought tears to my eyes…what a relief to have those things off my master “to do” list during the upcoming months. They will have our support & business for years to come.

Walt got the chills when I just told him. He thinks that is so cool. He is gonna pass along their name to guys he plays hockey with that lives down that way.

The story was eventually covered by the local news, which happens to be a major market, and her post received a total of 77 “likes” and 16 comments. Not bad exposure for a local landscaping company that thought about their customer and inserted themselves as a solution to her challenge. My guess is that she will be a customer for life.

“Wow” moments also happen within the workplace and can transform the way staff feels about the company and its brand.

At the Holcomb Bus Company, one of the owners became concerned f his foreman when left a meeting to take a call from his mother. Upon returning to the meeting the team learned that the foreman’s mother needed to replace a portion of her sidewalk or face citation by the municipality. She received a quote from a local company but it exceeded her budget and she didn’t know what to do.

Immediately following the meeting the owner, who is also involved in the construction business, called his “concrete guy” and sent him to the house to fix the sidewalk. Needless to say the foreman and his mother were forever grateful for this act and I got the sense that the owner also felt pretty good about being able to help.

In both examples there was a financial investment on the part of each company. However, one can easily surmise that the investments have paid huge dividends for each company, and not necessarily to the bottom line.

The following presentation was delivered for the presentation noted above and touches on some of the topics discussed here.

Wow

View more PowerPoint from brianjohnriggs

The hope is that more and more companies will develop “wow” campaigns and that this movement becomes contagious because in the end everyone is happy and everyone wins. If consumers are talking about your brand over breakfast (or on Facebook) then your company will succeed, your staff will be happy and the world will be a better place.

Additional Resources:

From How to Wow – http://www.successwithcrm.com/blog/bid/53427/From-How-to-WOW-Create-a-Culture-of-Buzz

Creating a Wow Culture at Work – http://www.thehumanracehorses.com/2009/07/15/creating-a-wow-culture-at-work/

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Innovate & “Amplify Human Imagination”

This morning Vijay Govindarajan of the Harvard Business Review posted a fascinating blog on innovation entitled Reverse Innovation at Davos. The article examines how innovation in developing countries is contributing to unprecedented growth and what that means to their rich, developed counterparts. At the end of the piece  Govindarajan challenges “Western multinationals” to begin to shift their focus, resources and power to these emerging markets suggesting that a failure to do so will result in missed opportunities.

This article reminded me of seeing Gary Hamel deliver a keynote  at ASAE a few years back on “The Future of Management,”  which focuses on the need for organizations (nonprofit and for-profit alike) to think and act differently in order to succeed.  At the heart of his argument was the notion that organizations need to continually innovate and revisit their strategies through new and often very different lenses. This, he suggests, often means redesigning and challenging longstanding management models to accommodate for a new approach to doing business.

It’s been two years since I saw Hamel’s presentation but his message of  “strategic renewal” and a belief that every member of every organization can play a role in “continually generating hundreds of new strategic options” has always stuck with me.  With that in mind, and on the heels of a very enlightening piece from HBR, I found this presentation and thought I would share it for review.  Comments on favorite slides are listed below the presentation.

*This presentation was put together by Mark Sniukas.  His presentation can also be viewed here.

Slide 12 – Strategic Renewal  – Over the past few months I’ve been involved in several board meetings where the teams have reviewed their strategic plans through an innovative lens.  Meaning – they’re taking a look at the gaps in their plans to identify opportunities to develop new ideas, products, and processes.  This, I believe, is a product of strategic renewal.

Slide 13 – I’m not crazy over the repetitive use of the word “strategic” but I do like the idea of rebooting. In my opinion you can reboot just about everything.

Slide 14 – “Continually generating hundreds of NEW strategic options” – this is great.

Slide 28 – Continually reinforce the belief that innovation can come from anyone.

Slide 40 – Amplify human imagination.

In this day and age everyone is afforded the opportunity to innovate.  Leaders, teams and organizations alike should be taking full advantage of it.

Make Them Look Up

The Promise Land

Over the holidays I became a fan of Wegmans Food Markets, a growing supermarket chain that sat atop the 2005 Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work for List.”  If you’ve ever been to one then you know it has outstanding food at reasonable prices and the in-house market makes you think you’re somewhere other than heading for the baked goods aisle.

As if this weren’t enough the customer service is what some consider to be the best in the industry, and perhaps one of the best in the entire service industry.  Much has been written about the “employees first, customers second” philosophy Wegmans adopted, an approach shared by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, and Marriott, to name a few.  However, what struck me most wasn’t the free ham being doled out by the charismatic butcher (who happened to keep my daughter and I entertained for over 15 minutes), or the cheese guy with the cool accent who led me to the “brie” promise land. It was the train.

Above the heads and perhaps missed by some was a train that ran inconspicuously throughout a part of the store. I’m not even sure I would have seen it had it had not been spotted by my keen-eyed four year old. Yet when I saw it I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  Each aisle I turned down I checked to see where it was, whether or not it was still moving, and how far it had progressed since the last spotting.  It was pleasant, fun, memorable, and brought me to another time and place although I could never pinpoint when. It was a perfect compliment to an enjoyable experience during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. So why is this the train so important and why should an organization, a non-profit entity or a for-profit company care?

The Train by Jennifer Nicholson

The train represents a pleasant escape for the customer, the unexpected and added element to whatever experience an organization is trying to deliver.  It is the intangible little thing that may not make immediate sense, or speak directly to a mission or vision, but it manages to breathe a little life into an engagement and perhaps makes an incredible difference in an experience.

For Non-Profits
During last month’s ASAE Technology Conference there was a session on how organizations should consider using online games to increase membership for their organizations.  Generally I agree with this and think perhaps there’s a real opportunity for games (or other things) to change the experience for members. It certainly can’t hurt for organizations to continue to think differently. However, what can’t be missed by nonprofits and for-profits alike are the other elements that also make Wegmans great: its commitment to its employees, to its customers, to quality product and to reasonable prices.  I also think there’s an opportunity here for organizations to over analyze and ultimate kill the idea of using games to engage (not necessarily recruit) members, especially if they think too much about the outcome and not enough about the value of  what I call temporary escape.

For Companies
It’s time for every company to continue to add elements to the experience it delivers to its customer base.  Consumers are faced with so many choices and options that it may just be the companies that concentrate most on providing an escape to their own experience that outlast the rest. By fine tuning the fundamentals (mentioned above) and figuring out how to make them look up, the experience will become unforgettable.

Embrace Fear, Accept Failure, Be Patient

If you are contemplating a place on the social stage then you will have to embrace fear, accept failure, and be very, very patient.

Embracing Fear: What keeps most people from engaging online? Fear. Plain and simple. Fear that the words won’t come out right; Fear of being judged on every post; Fear that what you have to say isn’t as important or as smart as you think it is. It’s fear that keeps us from moving forward and it’s fear that will keep you from engaging if you let it.  My advice – embrace fear by letting it drive your curiosity. Use it to first motivate thought and then action. Fear is a powerful emotion and when channeled appropriately can be a great motivator. And the good news is it eventually  goes away.

Image: iStock

 

Accepting Failure: Just past fear lies failure, and it will happen.  The hard part is accepting it and learning from it. In most cases we’ve been told that failure isn’t good but when it comes to social engagement it’s necessary. Once you’ve accepted failure as a part of the process then I recommend reading How to Teach Yourself to Trust Yourself, by Peter Bregman. It’s a quick read and one that I recommend revisiting every month or two. It will change the way you feel about your online presence and your “voice.”

Be Patient: Building an online presence (beyond Facebook) will take time so it’s important to be patient and not get frustrated. It simply takes time to get into the rhythm of online engagement. However, you will get better with practice, learn some really important stuff along the way, and create a community that you will come to appreciate.

Wrap Up
A few weeks ago I was part of a team that reviewed Open Community, a new book by Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer that examines how associations build community online. These three concepts (Fear, Failure and Patience) were interwoven throughout the book and was the inspiration for this post. It’s a terrific book and a worthwhile read whether you’re involved in a professional society or an association, or simply have an interest in online engagement. Click here to see our video review of Open Community.

Three Tips to Transforming the Vendor Relationship

Last week I traveled from Philadelphia to Maryland to spend an afternoon with the team at ACGI, a a software developer for the association management community. The company I work for,  Association Headquarters, recently invested in one of their products and it was my job to meet with the ACGI team to learn more about the system and what it had to offer.  This experience got me thinking about the roles customers and vendors play and how today’s marketplace affords us an opportunity to re-examine, if not redefine, the ‘norms’ often associated with institutionalized and/or traditional business relationships.

 

Vendors at the Floating Market - Thailand

 

Whether you work for a nonprofit organization or a for-profit company there’s a good chance that you deal with vendors on a regular basis.  From purchasing goods or services to negotiating items of interest on behalf of your company, vendor engagement is what we do, and frequently. But how many times have we stopped to thank our vendors for being…well, our supporters? How many times have we taken the time to view the relationship from their perspective? Or, how often do we think about what we, as customers, can do to make their lives easier or provide them with additional business opportunities.

Here are three simple steps to creating “friendors” out of vendors and possibly changing the way you do business, drive business, and redefine business within your community.

1. Send them a “Thank You” card.  The next time you engage your vendor in a significant project be sure to send them a Thank You — and not in an email.  Take the time to write a card and put it in the mail. They’ll love it, especially since they typically send them to their customers. And if you think of it be sure to make it personal.

2. At the conclusion of the next transaction (and once you’ve completed step one), ask your vendor how you can help them get more business AND how your unique relationship and individual expertise can lead to additional business opportunities for each of you. It may be as simple as reaching out to people within your immediate communities or simply spreading the word online.  More often than not, the vendor/customer partnership can lead to additional opportunity.

3. Finally, and depending on your situation, step 3 may be the most difficult step.  Schedule a time to meet with your vendor at their facility. There is no better way to tell a vendor how much you appreciate their business than visiting them at their office. In doing so, you will not only create a “friendor,” you’ll create an advocate for you and your company.

It’s no longer business as usual, so it’s important that we don’t continue to engage in business as usual. Reversing roles, extending interest, and developing unique and strategic relationships isn’t as difficult as it may seem and can be beneficial to our long-term success.