You can’t possibly write down all the rules for every situation and every action you take in your life. But if you know your guiding principle, you will always, always know what to do and how to to do it. My values are my North Star. They guide how I behave and how I operate. With the uptick in customer expectations set by competitors, other technology, and our current global situation, there is no better time than now to take action and to live for customer value. Here’s how.
Living for customer value is a state of mind - where you adopt a serving attitude. It is the key ingredient behind success. It is a realization that customers are ultimately the main - the only - reason why companies exist and why people’s jobs make sense. This doesn't mean that we need to act in a submissive way, or that we just need to do anything that a customer asks. Instead - we need to do whatever we can to deliver customer value and to drive customer satisfaction.
It’s imperative to aspire to build long-term and trust-based relationships. This starts with creating and maintaining a company-wide, customer-centric culture. Start by giving in every interaction with the customer. But be aware that whatever you give to build that trust, you're going to have to maintain it in a sustainable way.
Anyone can build a relationship during good times - like in the middle of a sales cycle, or after a successful completion of a project. But the actions we take during crises are critical to building trust and reinforcing our commitment to our customers. There’s no better time to take action. Start by listening to the customer and support them where they need it most. On December 22, 2006, when I was the President of Oracle Spain, I received an urgent call from the CEO of a mid-sized insurer in Spain. Earlier that year, I had convinced him to migrate their claims management system from a mainframe platform to an open system based on Unix, HP hardware, and Oracle databases. My intention is to always make the customer successful, and sometimes this means pushing them to try something new. With this, I feel responsible if something goes wrong. That night their system went down and they could not process any claims. So, I jumped into the “fire” - and it was a big one. I mobilized multiple resources and was personally involved in every call for the next many days through Christmas. Shortly after, we diagnosed and fixed the problem, and everyone was elated. A few weeks into the new year, the CEO called me again. He had just found out that the night of his panicked call, I had just had an emergency appendectomy and was managing everything while recovering in the hospital. Very touched, he thanked me profusely and offered me to join the board of their company on the spot, which I proudly did for many years. As of today, I am very close friends with the company and the CEO. We built a personal and professional trust-based, long-term relationship - which all started in the midst of an emergency.
We must lead with empathy and address customer needs to strengthen our relationships - especially during a crisis like the global pandemic. There is no better time to align the expectations of customers from an innovative standpoint.
When our customers' needs have shifted dramatically toward more essential concerns, we need to listen, be flexible, and respond accordingly. We can’t stick to a previous agenda that is no longer relevant. After listening to our customers about how impacted their supply chains were at the early onset of COVID-19, in less than a week, an entire team of Celonauts came together to design apps, build additional use cases and demos, and create useful content to launch our COVID-19 Customer Care Program. We rolled out three free apps for our customers and non-profits focused on what’s most critical - Cash Preservation and Supply Chain Reliability.
Prioritizing how we live for customer value makes Celonis a stronger company because it enables us to both improve the customer experience holistically and boost lifetime customer value. As a result, we’re designing seamless and consistent customer interactions and satisfaction. Not living for customer value will ultimately hamper our ability to expand our base and win new customers.
I'm passionate and proud. I'm also laser focused on everything that I do. These are very important leadership traits that help you continuously improve and excel at execution. The best way to feed that passion and that pride, and to remain laser focused is to center your energy around the customer. Nothing else matters. Nothing else gives you the growth and the feedback that you need to excel as a professional.
My advice is no matter how small it may seem, the way you treat the customer is crucial for fostering and maintaining a superior customer experience. To truly live for customer value, I recommend that you:
Stay humble and always thank the customer
Really listen to the customer
Request their feedback
Adopt a serving attitude
Be proactive and prioritize the customers' asks
Transparently communicate with the customer - both the good and the bad
Strive for doing everything with the highest level of excellence
There is a reason why living for customer value is our number one value here at Celonis. It is the foundational one. From here, we can build anything. Learn more about our values and The Celonis Way here.