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What’s your customer proposition?

29 October, 2018

Vision and mission statements are considered a crucial element of any organisation’s toolkit be it large or small. 

All good and laudable – because it gives organisations something to aim at. It helps define their corporate culture. It gives companies a homing beacon. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. 

At the risk of sounding controversial, I’m going to have to say I’m not entirely convinced. Aren’t mission and vision statements a bit of a brochure-filler these days? Words strung in a line without really impacting how an organisation lives its life or serves its customers. 

Okay, unpopular opinion, I know. But my concern here is that that mission and vision statements are a bit inward looking, a bit insular. They talk about what “we”, the business, wants to do. 

But customers these days don’t particularly care, do they? They’re more inclined to ask, “Yes, but how can you help me? What are you promising me, and how do I know you’ll live up to these promises?”

This is particularly true of service businesses, especially those that have the ability to redefine an individual’s life. In the financial advisory and wealth management business, for instance, would a mission and vision be the most important thing our clients consider?

For instance, as CEO of swissglobal, I could wake up tomorrow and try to convince the Board that our vision should be “To expand in global markets and reach new audiences.” Or “To spend every day in the pursuit of excellence.” Or even “To ensure that a pot of cream cheese is always served with crackers everywhere.” Not that the Board would listen, because layer upon layer of corporate governance is built into everything we do. But still – what if I made a pitch?

Brilliant, but I just don’t think our clients would be particularly enamoured. For one, I’d have spectacularly missed out on the crucial thing that matters to clients – what we can do for them. And remember: we’re in the business of personalised services on which people’s future prosperity and well-being depend. Our clients hold us to high standards and expect our working hours to revolve around them.

What I’m getting at, in a roundabout way I suppose, is that businesses like us should be more concerned about our customer proposition. In simple words, what we promise the customer; the benefits we give them; the promises we make and the guarantees we can offer. 

In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that we should spend far more time honing our customer proposition rather than defining esoteric visions. Because in our line of work, success, brand awareness and sustainable growth all come from the results we bring our customers. 

That’s why at swissglobal, we are developing a credo that is all about the customer. We promise to be transparent, for instance and completely frank about things such as costs, fees and percentages. No hidden charges for us. We promise to be independent, which means we’re not under obligation to specific vendors and so can do the best for you. We promise to listen and understand, because all our success stories start with putting clients at the centre of the solutions we build. There’re quite a few other line items, but you understand the gist. 

One more thing. This customer proposition can’t stay as a piece of paper framed to a wall. It must be reinforced every second of every day. Our people need to believe, and to act on it. Senior management needs to be involved and constantly hammer home these values too. It needs to be a natural part of coming to work, not just something to quote at corporate meetings. 

Of course, I realise companies can have all three: a mission, a vision and a customer proposition. Many do. But what I’m saying is that in our world, what we can do for a customer is far more important than our long-term goals as a firm. For when customer needs are prioritised, growth and success come as a natural consequence. 

This piece was written by swissglobal's CEO Mike Coady.

What’s your customer proposition?

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