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India Inc falls short in customer and employee satisfaction
CloudCherry | Featured | May 18, 2015
Customers, as much as employees, are a rather difficult set of people to deal with
Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey Shows that Growth Dominates Key Business Priorities in 2014 – Survey Indicates Rise in IT-Related Priorities as CEOs Look to Apply Technology for Growth. Likewise, says Challenges for CEOs in 2014 By John Burn-Murdoch, Steven Bernard and Andrew Hill (Conference Board).The business organisation’s annual CEO Challenge study cites executives’ top four priorities as human capital, customer relationships, innovation and operational excellence.
According to Bullish on digital: McKinsey Global Survey results (2013), “CEOs and other senior executives are increasingly engaged as their companies step up efforts to build digital enterprises. …As businesses continue to embrace digital tools and technologies — especially when engaging with customers.” Human capital and managing customer engagement leveraging technology appear among the top three priorities for CEOs worldwide as gleaned from studies conducted by different leading consulting/research firms, such as McKinsey/Gartner/Conference Board in the year 2014/15.
While these are logically and legitimately the right priorities given that we are in the knowledge economy and most part of knowledge resides in people (no matter how much we try and use technology to capture and keep knowledge) and that customers have plenty of choice today. Add to this the fact that there are also research studies that show strong positive correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
I am sure a similar survey in India too will highlight these two among the top priorities of CEOs.
However, the reality is far from this. Even organisations that are performing well and have a mature and enlightened management still fall short in terms of the satisfaction levels of their employees or customers. Very few actually make the grade. Why such a disconnect?
While CEOs will swear how important the employees are and how critical customer satisfaction is, just this knowledge and understanding doesn’t get automatically translated to what happens on the shop floor or market place.
Customers, as much as employees, are a rather difficult set of people to deal with. They can’t just be dealt with elegant left brain-oriented logical sequential thinking. CEOs are bred on left brain-oriented thinking to solve problems. That’s how they are selected, groomed and elevated.
That’s why strategising is more attractive than execution. Execution is not as elegant and doesn’t fit into a two-by-two matrix unfortunately. Execution involves the entire organization and is messy and has to be done over time. CEOs who are good strategists (which most of them are) struggle to put a framework or rigorous structure for implementation as easily. Keeping employees or customers happy is an implementation challenge. The result is that a lot of good words are used that heighten the expectation but soon turns into disappointment as execution doesn’t measure up.
In a world relatively more stable and predictable, which was the case till a couple of decades ago, CEOs and companies that excelled in spotting opportunities and were ready to leverage and exploit the opportunity by matching strategies, thrived. Even then execution was a challenge but one could get by without worrying too much on employees or customers as employees didn’t have alternatives and customers didn’t have much choice. Today we are in a world, which is highly competitive and product and services offered by competitors are hardly differentiated from each other’s.
CEOs by default end up spending time on what is easier done and hope that the complex and messy part will somehow take care of itself or that will not become a formidable challenge. CEOs are more comfortable spending time on the next big budget marketing/branding plan, the investment proposal to expand capacity and putting up new factories, negotiating acquisition of business or technology. Such deals give them the real kick.
Unfortunately, we are in a VUCA world today. Those who can deal with the messy world can only succeed with the result that customer remains the king only in promotional materials and management reports in annual reports and the employee is an asset only in press interviews.
What is needed is strong right brain thinking – Holistic, integrative and intuitive. What it takes is top management involvement and commitment to make this happen. Even Neutron Jack (Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of GE) is supposed to have spent 70 per cent of time on people issues and only 30 per cent on business issues (in a company that was in hundreds of different businesses and in 100-plus countries). Till then, these will continue to remain among the top two or top three priorities of CEOs.
This article was originally published in ‘BusinessLine on Campus’, which you can read here.
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