Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Charismatic Leaders Influence Customer Service Driven Companies for Profitability

Edward Brown, M.S.

For the last several years, you have seen a push for companies to get closer to customer buying experiences.  Recently J.C. Penney (JCP), under the leadership of CEO Ron Johnson, former Apple executive and President Michael Francis, former Target CMO, has rolled out a new plan to have mini-shops inside each of its stores. Each department will be cordoned off to convey a different theme and experience.  Instead of walking through a huge space of apparel being separated by signage, you will be walking into a whole new store inside JCP (Girard, 2012). This store within a store concept is a merging of the concepts of “cheap chic” at Target and the low prices at Wal-Mart.  Given the current economy, the customer service experience will entail an upscale buying experience at bargain basement prices.  Time will tell if this is game changer for retail. However, it is an example of the impact charismatic leadership has on corporate profits.

If you want to increase the profitability of your company or department, here are three (3) tips for driving a customer service orientation:

1.)    Get personal.  Charismatic leaders are not mere managers, but evangelists for their companies.  They have a great need to immerse themselves in a compelling vision; largely because they judge themselves by their own performance.  Charismatic leaders are dedicated and relentless and take setbacks and failures personally.  If you want to increase corporate profits, get intimately involved in your business operations.

(Take away: To beat your competition and increase profits, make your company a mirror reflection of your core beliefs and viewpoint of the world.)
2.)    Get laser beam focused on customers’ buying experiences.  It is no mistake that Steve Jobs’ influence on Apple, generally, and JCP’s President Michael Francis, by proxy, would be used as a road map for JCP’s reinvention. Job’s concentration on making Apple products “user friendly” as well as attractive has been the hallmark of Apple’s success. By tapping into the thinking and behavior of customers, you can begin creating products and experiences that increase profits.

(Take away: As a trial run, encourage potential customers to walk through your customer service process to determine if the actual experience matches your expectations.)

3.)    Look for gaps in your industry to exploit. The merging of Target’s and Wal-Mart’s business models for JCP promises to create a new kind of customer service experience for JCP customers. Although JCP seeks to reinvent itself, a better way of discovering gaps in an industry is to delve into what’s missing in the customer’s buying experience.  Charismatic leaders are inquisitive and voracious readers.  Consequently, they have a breadth and depth of knowledge of where their focus should be and where new opportunities lie.  JCP may create a third option to Target and Wal-Mart, but not necessarily overtake either in profitability.  The late business guru Peter Drucker said “if you can’t be number one or two in your industry, choose another industry. “This is JCP’s ultimate challenge.

(Take away: Through your extensive research, determine what experience is missing in customer service. Ensure that the distinction you are attempting to make is a clear one.)

The charismatic leadership model allows for innovation in customer service driven companies.  Howard Schultz created Starbucks as a “third place” to distinguish between one’s home and office.  Follow the path of charismatic leaders by not only enhancing customer service, but by creating an unmet need not even realized by customers.

For more information on developing the skill set of charismatic leaders, visit: Charisma


Girard, K. (2012 March 5). Is J.C. Penney’s makeover the future of retailing? Harvard Business School: Working Knowledge. Retrieved from:

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