Greetings. In keeping with a recent theme of casting a wider net in our efforts to innovate and deliver greater value to customers, I would like to encourage you to spend a bit more time discovering the real genius in other industries. The importance of this idea was made clear to me several years ago when I was invited to meet with the leadership team of a major regional bank. While the bank had a rich history of innovation and growth, it had somehow lost its focus on building and maintaining strong customer relationships. I arrived at the meeting with a few ideas, several questions, and (hopefully) an open mind.
After brief introductions, one of the executives handed me a copy of a study that they had commissioned on the customer service practices of the leading banks. Then the following conversation ensued…
"We've done some very important work in anticipation of meeting with you and other consultants," he began, sounding confident that they were well on their way to addressing the challenge.
"That's certainly interesting," I replied, quickly skimming the Table of Contents and the Executive Summary. And then I began to smile the kind of smile that has a way of turning into a laugh.
"You're laughing because this is good, right?" he asked.
"Actually, I'm laughing because this is funny," I suggested. (Realizing that my laughing in this type of meeting might be a "CLM" or "Career Limiting Move.")
"Well, the other consultants we talked with seemed impressed," he noted. "In what sense do you think that our (million dollar) study is funny?"
"At the risk of being viewed as inappropriate," I continued, "can I ask you a simple question?"
"Are banks renowned for providing the best customer service?" I asked.
"Probably not," he replied.
"Then you've just spent a lot of money learning things that probably don't matter to your ultimate success."
"That makes sense," he agreed. "But what should we have done?"
I then suggested that they take a "journey" to discover some companies in other industries that were renowned providers of world-class customer relationships. Companies like Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, L.L. Bean, and USAA. And, as luck would have it, they had a sense of humor…and invited me to be their guide in the effort to reinvent the way they served their customers.
We succeed in business by always looking for better ideas. And always believing that we might not be the only geniuses on the planet. Imagine combining what you know with the best practices of leading companies in a wide range of industries. You'd probably be very hard to beat.