Managing intangible assets such as branding, people, knowledge, or operations can raise or lower corporate valuations and customer satisfaction. Well-managed intangibles set apart the excellent corporate leader from the acceptable managers and unwelcome bosses.
Customer delight and its ensuing loyalty impels customers to return often and spend more on products or services. This is the principle behind all subscription-based marketing strategies. Delight rests squarely on top of every customer touchpoint from product quality through customer service to product retirement or replacement. There are many metrics for these touchpoints, but not all can measure the intangible value added by caring and knowledgeable staff working together in a corporate culture that values delighted customers.
Corporate culture needs to give far more than lip service to the core values of respect, compassion, patience, courtesy, and hospitality that form the foundations of excellent customer service. The excellent leader must demonstrate these core values at all times and develop staff practices that do the same.
For example, a practice that demonstrates these values is smiling while interacting with customers. The outward behavior of smiling makes customers react well when attended by sales or other staff. Smiles say the customer’s needs are given the highest priority. Smiling customer service shows understanding, attention to detail, attentive listening, a willing spirit, and resourcefulness. A smile can actually be “heard” in the tone of a voice on the phone or the text of an email. Smiles say that service providers are willing to go above and beyond their job description to ensure total customer delight.
The exceptional leader instills the practice of smiling in his group by setting the expectation, providing opportunities to learn and practice, observing and coaching it’s performance across the group, and rewarding those who attain a high performance level. Also, allied practices for effective listening, attention to detail, etc. are promoted and together achieve a synergy around delivery of delightful customer service. These become a core part of the corporate culture and values.
Each leader has their part in establishing a corporate culture that achieves envisioned business goals. The exceptional leader goes out of their way to hire people who will fit into and advance that culture. The leader then looks for opportunities for those people to acquire the cultural skills and values desired. When successful, these human resources will be happy to come to work and to help customers. The excellent leader creates delighted staff who in turn create delighted customers.
Corporate culture also reflects other intangibles, for example:
- Knowledge gathered within a company
- Unique product management capabilities
- Innovation based on existing knowledge or assets.
The excellent leader takes steps to support each of these intangibles. A good start can be made using knowledge management systems to collect, maintain, and disseminate the institutional knowledge derived from daily operations, strategic initiatives, or industry research. These systems or processes should help unearth best practices, promote knowledge sharing, and provide a repository making the knowledge useful for all leaders and team members. The exceptional leader again sets the expectations for use, develops and coaches staff in proper use, and rewards staff who make significant contributions to or draw important insights from the knowledge management system.
Product management aptitudes, processes, procedures, and systems intangibles can be used to create present value for delighted customers under the guiding hand of the exceptional leader. Examples can be found in systems that deliver products or services more quickly, such as excellent supply-chain logistics, order-entry systems, fulfillment systems, and customer service operations. The excellent leader keeps a keen eye on the processes and procedures of production while encouraging their brilliant execution.
The exceptional leader fosters a culture of innovation where risks can be taken without harsh penalties for failure. Enormous revenue can be derived from already-discovered materials or developed processes applied in a new way or to a different circumstance. 3M had one such success with Post-It notes. Excellent leaders reward innovation, even when it doesn’t quite succeed. They also make time and other resources available for innovative attempts by their staff.
A delighted customer is often the direct result of actions taken by an exceptional leader to manage one or many of these intangible aspects of a corporate culture. However, without exception, a customer is lost through the failure to adequately manage one of these areas. It’s not easy to be an exceptional leader, but it is essential to the growth in a company’s revenue and other valuations.