Do you accept the fact that every employee in an organization can impact customers? The recent United Airlines fiasco should make that clear to us all. United is a rules- and systems-based culture, not a customer satisfaction–based culture, and that is why they imploded last week. As a Sales and Leadership expert, I help people see that growing sales is a people business, and it isn’t just the responsibility of the executive team and the sales people; growing sales requires every single employee to realize they can impact customers. Furthermore, every employee must be empowered to do what is necessary to handle all situations effectively. I’ll bet the executives at United Airlines wish they had the right culture in place last week. Imagine the negative IMPACTs as a result of this situation.
Someone who does have the right culture in place is Karl Wadensten, the president of VIBCO, a manufacturer of industrial vibrators for 50-plus years. He invited me to tour his plant, as more than 400 CEOs and presidents had done before me, to see the amazing job he’s done with lean manufacturing as well as how all of his employees positively impact the customer.
On the day I toured, I met Lucy Manly, who has worked for VIBCO for 24 years as a small electric assembler. She said, “I build what the customer needs that day. Why should I build 20 units to sit on a shelf when the customer only needs two? This way I build what they need. I build it, I test it, and if there’s something wrong with it, I know right away. In building fewer at a time, there’s time to test each one.”
Throughout the tour, I was amazed by the infectious attitude and incredible morale of those working there. I ran into Roland Smith, the supervisor of the machine shop, and asked him to explain the high degree of motivation among the employees. He said, “We have company meetings, and everyone is allowed to speak—to raise a question or a problem—and we do the best we can to solve it. That’s where people get their positive attitude from, because they feel heard.”
This is a company that has increased its efficiencies to lean manufacturing but realized that lean manufacturing alone is not good enough. They had to get each and every employee invested in the process, and that started with each employee realizing that they truly impact the experiences of their customers.
Whether you’re a manufacturer, a retailer, or a service provider, do you accept that you can positively impact the lives of your customers? If so, do you accept the personal accountability to make it happen? When everyone is invested in positively impacting the customer, morale soars and sales do too. As a CEO, do you empower your employees to do what it takes to positively IMPACT your customer experiences?