In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” he explains there are five fundamental functions (the critical elements) that must be addressed and incorporated by any company in order for them to become a High Performance Team. Lencioni’s five critical elements are:
- Fear of Conflict
- Lack of Commitment
- Focus on Results
What if a company, doctor, dentist, or any service provider decided to “team” up with their customers utilizing these five critical elements as their guiding principles and foundation to build customer team relationships? Let’s take each one and explore what a customer team relationship would look like when incorporated into company’s fabric of how they are going to do business.
- Trust – Which comes first, your expectation that your customer trust you because of your knowledge, training, and position, or do you put trust in your customer first. The answer is in order for anyone to gain trust they must first put their trust in those in which they serve. How are you demonstrating your trust in your customers? Do they know you trust them? Are you asking your customers what they want, need and/or expect on a routine basis? Do you take action straightway based upon that honest customer feedback? If for example, you are a Dentist, do you know your customer’s concerns, fears, and past experiences? What is your methodology for gathering this important information so that you can begin building an environment of “trust?” When people trust you they become loyal repeat customers, convert their family/friends to becoming customers and economically are your most cost-effective commercial and advertisement.
- Fear of Conflict – Most people are afraid of conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it even at the peril of their company’s best interest. Conflict can be productive if it understood and managed correctly. From a customer’s point of view, they certainly don’t want to encounter conflict. However, they do want an environment that encourages their honest and critical feedback. Is your service providing a “safe’ environment, one which creates an open and honest dialogue with your customers? Are your managers/employees trained on dealing with difficult or painful feedback? Great companies create an open and trusting environment so that conflict is welcomed and addressed in a productive and meaningful manner.
- Lack of Commitment – In his book, Lencioni describes the failed concept that you must have consensus from all the team members in order to move forward with any new initiative. He explains that you do not need consensus but you do need for everyone to have a chance to provide input. Then it becomes essential once a decision is made that you have a commitment from everyone to support that decision regardless if there was not a consensus. Have you provided an opportunity for your customers to provide timely input on the service you are providing? How does this input and feedback manifest itself? Have you taken the time to listen to your customers about their expectations from you as a service provider? Once that information is gathered and a decision is made is everyone committed to making that decision a reality or are there some on the sideline saying, “This will never work!” Does your customer know and understand the decision that was made based upon their input? Are they committed and trust you even if they are still concerned going forward?
- Accountability – Once we commit to a specific course of action then the next critical step is holding people accountable for delivering what they said they would do. Are you holding yourself and/or your employees accountable to the service you committed to your customers? What high standard of service are you holding yourself and employees to? Does the customer clearly know and understand that accountability is paramount to you? What form does this accountability take when service is below expectations? How is this standard measured? Do you have meaningful metrics that gives you timely data to make changes and/or adjustments to the service you are providing? For accountability to be creditable it must be done quickly, effectively, and most importantly sincerely. Hollow apologies, insincere gestures of kindness or insufficient refunds are poor substitutes and sure way to kill a business.
- Focus on Results – Lencioni stated that regardless of whatever a team might set out to accomplish if they don’t get the stated desired results they “fail.” The question each company or service provider must ask and honestly assess is, “Are you getting the results you have set and expect?” The key operative word in Lencioni’s analysis is “focus.” Are you focused like a laser beam on achieving the results you must obtain in order to maintain and grow your customer base? You might be making money now but that might not be enough to sustain you in the long term. Your customers are the key to long-term viability. If you ask your customers about the results you are obtaining what would that feedback look like? Are you honestly and candidly seeking their feedback on their opinion of the service and ultimately the results you stated you would provide? Consider engaging in regular communication with your customers/patients by utilizing an automated e-survey tool such as Identify, Inc., described by some dentists as a “refreshing new approach.” Identify makes the claim that by, “understanding the patient’s perspective, you can concentrate on the things that matter most.”
Lencioni provided context on how each of these five elements or lack of them play a critical role in company’s becoming high performance teams. I believe they can and should be used as guiding principles to form customer “team” relationships for your company and/or service. Nothing happens overnight but by making the decision to incorporate each of these critical elements into your business the foundation will be laid for a lasting and endurable customer-focused company. Nothing is easy but always worth it when the action taken is based upon sound proven principles.