By Russell Newman
Consider the Easy Button.
In 2005, Staples introduced the iconic round, red button with the aspirational four-letter word everyone wishes could make it so by simply pressing.
The Easy Button is even available for sale as a combination stress reliever and handy reminder when confronting or contemplating change.
Everyone knows when properly managed, change is constant and can be beneficial. But too often, there is not adequate focus on making change easy.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than with customers. Business teams work every day to convince customers to use a company’s products and services and to trust a vendor as they would their own staff. But if customers can’t do this easily or easily appreciate the value, they may not buy what the company is selling, no matter how much the benefit.
It’s Not Simple
Easy isn’t the same as simple. Here’s where the Easy Button comes into play for business – even if a new product involves advanced technology, a successful company has to make implementation easy.
Company employees who work at customer sites interact with almost every key decision-maker. Successful implementation and, ultimately, repeat business depend on these employees building trust. Creating strong relationships translates to better acceptance of change by the customer and provides early insight about future customer plans that lead to new business opportunities. However, if it’s cumbersome for employees to deliver a message or act on information, the company may never benefit from their relationships. If a company wants the face of its business to maximize the value of their unique access and to make change easy for customers, their communication with management has to be easy as well.
Their Weight in Gold
These employees are worth their weight in gold. Knowing firsthand what the customers are contemplating, what challenges they are confronting, what vision each is pursuing gives a company an opportunity to become a partner, not just a vendor.
That kind of relationship can be built upon a much appreciated differentiator: establishing a company as one that continually seeks to make things easier for the customer – and succeeds in doing so.
All of this means top executives need to have solid relationships and open communications with employees who work directly with customers. This goes well beyond a simple “open door” policy. The people who know customers best – know what customers think, know customers’ needs, know how products are performing – provide insight and bring back important information. They need to see that management is committed to helping them help their customers.
Investing in these employees by spending time with them, acknowledging them amongst their peers at town hall meetings, fostering external recognition via badges for their email signatures and rewarding them financially allows them to feel like, and be seen as, business leaders who are empowered to make decisions in the moment to quickly meet customer expectations. Management needs them to be leaders – and to be seen by customers as trusted individuals to address their needs in a timely manner. The more time and attention management devotes to these frontline employees, the better – because it will make it easier for customers to do business with that company.
New opportunities are the result of change: a change in vendor, a change in product, a change in behavior. Frontline employees are the agents driving this change. Their message to the customers is to “trust me because I can make this easier for you.” And so, if an executive wants to make change easy for customers, he or she needs to make things easy – or at least as easy as possible – for the company’s most valued assets: its customer-facing employees.
Russell Newman is the President of Austin-based HealthTronics. He joined HealthTronics as a Senior Finance Consultant working his way to President in 2014. Prior to joining HealthTronics, Mr. Newman held various finance positions with Dell, Inc., and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Professional Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin, and is a licensed CPA.