4 Tips Any CEO or C-Level Exec Can Take to the Bank


(originally published by Catalog Success Magazine)

Being a C-level executive these days has to be the ultimate challenge. These execs face a ton of pressure to keep their companies above water during these turbulent times. Truly, I feel for them.  

But, in many cases, my empathy for them goes only so far. Especially when C-levels exemplify what I call “ivory tower thinking.” This kind of isolation is what President Obama tried to compensate for by keeping his BlackBerry — the ability to stay in touch with people other than his high-level handlers and advisers.  

In other words, there are many people within organizations beyond the CEOs’ top advisers that can offer advice and wisdom. Getting out of the tower is critical to the success or failure of any business right now.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer four pointers for any and every CEO and C-level exec:

  1. Want to know what’s going on in your organization? If you don’t already, run, don’t walk, to your call center and spend time listening to order calls, customer service calls and other inquiries. (I’ll devote a series to this in the near future.) I guarantee you’ll be enlightened and find ways to improve your product(s) and service.
  2. Talk to your call-center staff — especially the front-line reps. These people are the true unsung heroes in your companies, and they intimately know what’s right and wrong with your products and service.
  3. Once your eyes have been opened by listening to your customers and reps, force everybody in the company to spend a day in the call center, too. Write it into law that every manager and above must spend one day in the call center every six months — or quarterly, and force your marketing staff to listen monthly. Make it mandatory for new hires.
  4. Embrace social media. Through my own research, I’ve found that most marketers who’ve traditionally sold via catalog are behind their online-only counterparts on social media adoption. Why? Fear. If you think your call center is a great learning experience, try developing social media tools to monitor your reputation by listening to the social media chatter about your company. What you learn may be the ruthless truth about your company, products and service, and how they’re actually viewed by people who speak the truth.

Beware though, you may have to take specific actions based on what you learn. But then again, that’s the point of getting “out there.” Back in the ’80s I was a huge Tom Peters fan; he called this process, “management by wandering around.”

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2 Responses

  1. All this logic really gets in the way of all this great advice. The call center is the heartbeat of the organization. Many years ago a mentor dropped me in a call center and strapped on a headset to listen to Medicare recipients. It was a moving experience. Within a few hours, it was easy to understand the pain, the frustration and the happiness that this client created on a daily basis.

    Numbers become more meaningful when “humanized” with a voice. As we subsequently developed marketing materials for this client with eyes open, the message started to resonate and we connected with our customers.

    Another great post Jim.

  2. As an extension of the idea, I know some CEOs who have daily installments of call center exchanges put onto CD or podcasts so they can listen to them on their to and from work. You don’t need to do it everyday, but once a week at the least.

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