Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Customer Should Be The Boss

Our Org Charts Are All Wrong

By David Miranda

First let me share a recent personal experience to set the stage.

I am a long time customer of Home Depot. I am fairly ignorant in the home improvement area and the orange-aproned sales associates at Home Depot have been the friendly and helpful people to make sure I purchased the right tools and products for the right job. That is until recently. In recent trips to Home Depot, I have found the level of service (and friendliness) lacking. The other day I searched the aisles for someone to help me select window shades. Finally when I did find someone, this person said it was not his department, got on a walkie-talkie, and told me to wait in Aisle 18. After waiting for some time, a gentleman with a surly attitude arrived only to make it clear in his tone that he was doing me a favor since I must have interrupted whatever else he was doing. I left the store and went to ACE Hardware where, by the way, the people were obviously happy I was there, particularly after I told them about my Home Depot experience. This is the same Home Depot that compensated its former CEO Bob Nardelli with a $250 million exit package. (I still love Home Depot, but they need to get the train back on the right track.)

The people who pay for all of a company's overhead (and hefty executive compensation packages) are customers, yet they're not shown on any company's org chart. Go figure!

As a matter of fact, the org charts of companies are upside down. The customer should be at the top, followed by the front line employees, then management, then executives, then the board, then the shareholders. Everybody in the organzation reports to the customer. Makes perfect sense - and good business. A company can always find new board members, executives, management and employees and not miss a beat - but lose customers and the consequences are dire. Just ask the shareholders of GM, Ford, Dell, Gateway, The Gap, Home Depot and others whose once-strong customer base has eroded.

This customer erosion does not happen overnight. It happens over time like a small leak in a dam that eventually weakens the entire structure with catastrophic consequences much like my Home Depot experience.

Imagine now if these companies had understood the importance of turning their org charts upside down treating every customer as they would if your boss was at the counter, on the phone, or on the web site. Imagine the level of service your boss would be given.

When was the last time you received treatment from a company like you were the boss? Chances are rarely if ever?

It's high time marketers spoke up in the boardroom about the importance of the front line experience for customers because all the great marketing in the world will not solve this problem, but turning the org chart upside down with regard to who is really important will.

Flip that chart!