The Queen finally listens to the voices of her market
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
This morning I was thinking about the movie, The Queen, which I watched last night for the second time. The first time I was struck by the way the movie guided my sympathies away from the increasingly wacky public to an appreciation of the private and rational motives of Elizabeth II. This time, probably because I was walking to work, I thought about the Diana debacle from a different perspective. The movie, it seems to me, could be viewed as an object lesson about long-established companies clinging to traditions that are no longer meaningful to their customers.
It isn’t really a stretch to think of the royal family as a business—perhaps the most traditional family business there is—relying as it does on the support and loyalty of the British people for its income. In this instance, the royal family business held on to the tradition of the monarch’s standard, which flies over Buckingham Palace for one reason only—to notify the people that the Queen is at home. The people, however, considered it merely a flag that should be flown at half mast for Diana. They no longer knew or cared about its original purpose. The failure of the royal family to grasp and appreciate this change created a lot of hard feelings and disaffected customers. According to the movie, one in four respondents to a poll (customer survey) was ready to give up the monarchy. That’s a lot of “detractors” in Net Promoter parlance.
Within the world of the movie, the royal family received 360 degree input, in the Voice-to-Market manner that Whitney described in her recent post (May 18). From the people of Paris who stood silently when her hearse passed. From the police chief who wanted a condolence book to help crowd control. From the growing carpet of flowers outside the palace gates. From the press. From the polls. From the Prime Minister, acting as the royal family’s business consultant. Even from Prince Charles, who seemed to get it that the monarchy had to modernize or lose support. Once Elizabeth listened, it turned out to be pretty easy to give the customers what mattered to them: a brief appearance in front of the crowd, a sympathetic public statement, and the lowering of a flag. That’s a good lesson for companies about listening to the market. While the consequences of not listening can be dire, the remedy may be a lot easier than you fear.
Nancy Heifferon, Consultant