Posted: 23rd June 2010

Customer engagement: the CEO you should be!

Further to my last post about how different types of CEO’s view customer engagement, and in particular how they handle customer complaints, here I want to discuss in more detail what really makes a customer-centric leader. Many CEO’s are often so focused on their own business and how to run it better that they don’t see that it’s the customers that help to run it better. Customer feedback, and indeed their criticism, should be viewed as a gift to the company and not a headache.

A great example of true customer-centric vision comes from Jouko Karvinen, CEO of global paper group Stora Enso. In 2008 he introduced a unique customer satisfaction programme based on the common loyalty measure Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) in order to understand his customers’ top five buying criteria and how they ranked against competitors. Whilst he knows that cost and quality must be good in the paper industry, he considers the customers’ point of view on other aspects to be more important. However, finding out exactly what your customers think is difficult when your business spans 61 countries, covering 17 different languages. But Stora Enso speaks to ALL of its customers. And in the customers’ own language.

The firm gathers continuous feedback using an Voice of the Customer system that updates in real-time and allows Stora Enso’s salespeople to see when customers are due a feedback review. The information gathered is fed back into the system and reported to those in the organisation who need to take action. As the first company in the paper and pulp industry to embark on this kind of strategy, Stora Enso has found it creates a competitive advantage, allowing them to stay ahead of the field and, importantly, to continually improve customer satisfaction.

Jouko works to the ethos that you should never be satisfied. In his words, “The moment you say you are satisfied, you go backwards. You give up on making tomorrow better than today, you give up on improving productivity, quality, cost and customer service.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

*Net Promoter® is a registered trademark of Fred Reicheld, Satmetrix Inc. and Bain and Company.

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