Peter Drucker once said that the best managers and leaders were those who knew how to ask the right question, not those that were always trying to give the right answer.
I am a big believer in organizations using their staff to create change, build new policy, and envision what might be possible. I am going to suggest exercises (we like exercise after all!) that I hope will build up our strength and stamina for seeing what is possible and finding new ways to get things right for your customer.
If you actually do these exercises, it will require that you select who will do them with you. I always like to have key leaders but it is a great idea to have some of your frontline participate as well. As long as you have a culture where speaking up is a safe activity.
Exercise #1 – Differentiate
Purpose of the exercise – Discovery of the most impactful areas to boost your customers’ love for your company and their loyalty to it.
Get with your team and start the meeting with the statement – “Next Monday we are going to switch every contract we have to month-to-month and we will do it automatically. We will also begin selling only month-to-month memberships and we will offer a 100% unconditional money-back guarantee in the first 30 days.”
If you don’t do this already and if the people you assembled are the right folks – this should scare them. Think hard about who should be a part of this exercise.
Okay, now that you have them scared and all talking at once, let’s ask the right questions:
- Why do you think people would leave us if we did this? You will get a few different answers here. To each answer keep asking “why” until you find the root cause. Get feedback from everyone. This could be a long conversation. You should facilitate and capture the essence of what people are saying on a white board.
- What would our organization have to look like for all of us to be absolutely fearless about going to month-to-month with a guarantee? Try to capture the essence of what people are describing.
The exercise should bring out areas where you can innovate around customer needs. The essence of this exercise is that people don’t buy memberships. They buy solutions just like in every other purchase in life.
The gap between the fear of going to month-to-month memberships with a guarantee, and the security and readiness to do so, is a proxy for the degree to which you sell memberships as opposed to solutions. After all, a membership is only a solution for the most dedicated and advanced exerciser.
Exercise #2 – Organize
Now it is time to organize your data. Use your team to measure the urgency and the impact of each idea that was captured for the second question. Some of the information will have to do with plant and equipment and some will identify processes and services. I suggest you separate these and then rank each category. First rate each item in both categories for urgency. You can simply give each a 1-10 rating with 10 being “most urgent.” When measuring for urgency you will usually discover stuff that is already “on fire.” Next, give each item a similar rating for impact. When measuring for impact you are looking for what would affect the greatest number of customers.
New innovations usually fall under mid to low urgency but high impact. For example, suppose one of the ideas you captured is an end-to-end process to guide members that need help. Since it doesn’t exist yet, it isn’t directly causing issues. So it has less urgency. But maybe it is such a good idea that it would be a game-changer for your business. That has a lot of impact. By comparison, a glaring hole in service and hospitality training usually falls under high urgency and high impact.
Exercise #3 – Take Action
Okay, now it is time to take action. If there is something that is very high impact but low urgency, create an initiative to build it out. Choose the items with the highest urgency and the highest impact to start addressing now. Create action plans with hard dates and crystal clear commitments.
Lastly, this was a spectacular exercise for us when we did it years ago. I have taken other groups through this same exercise and it is always an eye-opener. Mostly people get excited about the possibilities. When your team starts to ask “What if…?” – that is when you really start to get traction. This is not for the faint-hearted and is only for those who wish to focus on differentiation through the evolution of their business model. I believe innovation in our industry will come from many of us having these types of discussions. As it stands today, we lean on innovation coming mostly from equipment companies. Our industry is long overdue for innovation around the design of solutions that solve real problems.
Whether you actually intend to go to go to month-to-month with a guarantee is not relevant. Being able to do it without fear is. Take control of your customer experience.