By: Benson Smith

A little over 20 years ago I was working with two colleagues who were researching something that changed my perspective on exceptional performance forever. Over time I have found that what they discovered may be the most important thing I’ve ever learned.

At the time, my colleagues were trying to understand what the best data was to predict the future success of a company. To their surprise, it turned out that customer satisfaction scores, which were the accepted gold standard, were not at all predictive to future success. In other words, increases or decreases in customer satisfaction scores did not correlate with increased or decreased business outcomes. Why not? And if not that, then what did correlate?

Eventually they discovered that the most predictive data was related to the company’s “customer advocacy” scores.  Customer advocacy scores are the percentage of the company’s customer base who would describe themselves as advocates for the company. For example, if three brands were competing in the same marketplace, the company with the highest percentage of customer advocates almost always grew faster.

So then, what makes a customer an advocate? The answer turned out to be somewhat obvious.  There was something about either the product, the company, or the people they dealt with, that the customer perceived as better and different.  Think about it. You would never recommend a restaurant and say, “You’ll like it. It is just like every other restaurant.” Of course not. There is something about that restaurant you find better and different. It might be the food, or the service, or the ambiance, or all three. 

The big surprise we found was the same phenomenon was true with high-performing leaders, managers, and sales representatives… in fact, almost any profession that requires developing productive long-lasting relationships. In our admittedly brief research into long happy marriages, we found the same thing. Spouses were readily able to describe what made their partner better and different.  Apparently, no one falls in love with someone who is just like everyone else.

So what is there about you that is “better and different”? And more importantly, how can you can use that to develop productive collaborations? If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. At SRG, we have spent great deal of time and energy in the last 20 years developing tools to help you discover how to be better and different. Contact us for any of your talent management needs.