On a social post recently, a well-known CEO stated, “Customers are hard to reach.” This sentiment is shared among industry leaders and is not at all unfounded. Companies invest heavily in marketing, outreach, PR, and various forms of communication to reach their customers, and more often than not, these efforts still fall flat. The converse is also often true: CEOs are often hard to reach.
Customers rarely try to reach a CEO randomly and usually will do so because they have complaints about the business. Even the most prestigious and trusted businesses make mistakes or have issues from time to time; however, complaints can typically be resolved easily when they are quickly and properly handled. Swift response, especially by the CEO, can increase a business’s trust in the long run, proving the business is reachable and reliable. Customers may also reach out because they want to buy more product of service, so it pays to make yourself available. Acquiring customers is never easy; when someone wants to discuss expanding the business relationship, that should always be a priority.
Here are three simple strategies for a CEO to implement when it comes to approaching customer feedback:
- Tear down the wall. As an experiment, rather than send a customer communication from a “no-reply” or “marketing” account, try sending directly from the actual CEO’s email. Few customers will respond to these emails, likely doubting the address belongs to or is used by a CEO, but for some, it will be an opportunity to have a direct customer dialogue.
- Make some time. There may not be enough time to get to every message received, but carve out an hour daily for customer communications. Most incoming mail can be delegated to other managers if the load becomes too much. However, the customers should still have an avenue to reach people of authority within the business.
- Communicate directly. When a CEO interacts directly with customers, it sends a clear message to the customer and everyone else on the team. Status does not warrant self-importance, and everyone should be willing to take input from the people they’re selling to.
CEOs often put up barriers between themselves and their customers because they believe it’s not a good use of their time, or that others in the organization may be better equipped to handle the communication, or they feel they have higher priorities. By making themselves directly available to their customers, executives can ensure they remain in touch, create new and more promoters, understand their evolving operating environment, and demonstrate leadership to their organizations. Customers are hard to reach, but you shouldn’t be.
Jason Foodman is an American CEO and entrepreneur with global experience starting, operating, advising and selling companies.