Why Organizational Charts Are Backwards | Using VoC to Drive Change

why organizational charts are backwards vocOrganizational charts. We've all seen them. Most of us probably own a box or circle somewhere in the endless flow of relationship diagramming saved somewhere on the abyss of your company's cloud or shared drive. It shows us our "fit" in an organization and how it relates to who we report to, what division we work in, and who ultimately reports to us. It can be comforting in a way for many to see how their role impacts the organization.

Unfortunately, they are all wrong. Organizational charts and hierarchies teach us we all have someone to answer to regardless of the number of levels from ground, to associates, to mid-level, to managers, to directors, to c-level staff, to president or owner, to quite possibly a governing board. However, the one person that we ultimately are all judged by that impacts our business (good or bad) more so than anything else is not shown on the organizational chart.

Make room for the customer.

In fact, everything you've learned about organizational charts works against one of the most basic business principles of all time of keeping the customer happy. How? The late Sam Walton, of Walmart perhaps said it best, "there is only one boss. The customer. And he (or she) can fire anyone in the company by simply taking business elsewhere." Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon goes as far as leaving an open chair at all important meetings to keep the customer front-of-mind with management staff. So feel free to use that excuse next time you show up late to a meeting. "I was just making sure everyone was conscious of who we are working for here while all of you were selfish and showed up on time. We are all working for our customer. And he has been sitting in my empty chair for the past 15 minutes...while I was in traffic...and getting a coffee."

So why is it that those within an organization that have the most power to impact change on customer experience (CEOs, directors, managers, etc.) are typically those with the least amount of person-to-person contact with customers. And those with the most daily person-to-person contact with customers (associates, cashiers, ground-level staff) are the ones with the least amount of power to impact change on customer experience? Seems backwards right?

At the same time it's impractical for the CEOs of large corporations to do this. "[Knock, Knock] Hi, I'm George, the CEO of Dodge. Our data shows your family recently purchased one of our Dodge Rams a few months ago. So tell me, how do you like it? What would you like to see improved?" It's impractical right? Market research and surveys help organizations collect data in aggregate so appropriate feedback can get to the people within an organization that are empowered to make changes on customer experience.

Using surveys and opening up other avenues for employee feedback and customer feedback is the essential link to make sure customer experience improvements happen. It connects customers to decision-makers. Also, as a second component, fixing your customer experience is much easier when communication for improvements is being pushed upward in an organization openly. Those organizations that employ a top-down approach do not typically connect with ground-level staff as much as they should.

This is why many small and mid-size businesses have a better pulse of their customers? In these smaller organizations, the higher ranking titles are still very well-involved in the day-to-day customer interactions or work closely enough with ground level staff to offer up their ears. Larger organizations often have so many levels of pass-through before customer feedback reaches the top, the message gets lost, misconstrued, or is viewed as unimportant.

Drive Research is a Voice of Customer (VoC) company in Syracuse, NY. Our firm offers a number of market research services nationally. Contact us at 315-303-2040 or email us at [email protected].

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