On the heels of my last post, I received this email from Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J. Crew. For those of my readers not based in the US, Mickey Drexler is a legendary CEO, famous for turning around the Gap, a major clothing retailer. He is now CEO of J. Crew, another clothing company.
Observe how he wrote this post. His email talks about the changes they've made in design, quality and price. It also feels very J. Crew: a touch cool, a tad flippant yet upbeat, reminding the customer of J. Crew's brand personality. Mostly, it emphasizes their commitment to the customer: "... providing you with your J. Crew". It’s an interesting execution on so many levels.
Here is another example of a senior level executive inviting his customers to dialogue with him. In this example, it’s a retail product versus a service as we saw in my earlier example. It’s also executed at the CEO level to a much larger constituency.
Why should your company’s CEO (or similar) consider doing this?
One, it sends a symbolically strong message: I care enough to reach out and I’m accessible. It’s clear to the customer that s/he is a priority.
Two, it allows you as a company to inspect what you expect. Here you get pure, unadulterated feedback. Many companies have grown into bulking hierarchies (because that’s the nature of the beast!) and when the customer feedback mechanism becomes so far removed from the leadership team, it’s essential to bridge that gap and get closer to your customers.
If you do this, don’t forget to close the loop on this feedback mechanism. You know you’ve opened the floodgates when an email like this – or a newsletter as in my earlier example – gets sent out to hundreds of thousands of customers. So it's absolutely critical to have a closed loop process when soliciting feedback from your customers. Before doing this, you should:
identify key areas of concern and which functions that could impact (i.e. Pricing with price-related feedback, Supply Chain with quality-related feedback, etc.)
appoint a cross-functional task force who is ready to address key issues brought up by customers ( remember that response time is critical)
have a response tracking mechanism. You need to be prepared to reply to each email -- or have a way to make it seem like it’s you who is doing so, even if the inbox is managed by your admin
check in four months later to ensure any long term redress is being well-managed
If you have not properly thought through closing this loop, you risk frustrating your customers and doing more harm than good.
In summary, this is a refreshing trend I've been observing and I'm curious to see to whom else it will expand. Can you imagine your CEO (or similar) doing the same thing?