The importance of Krulak’s Law in CX

By Emily Collins, EVC Marketing

Krulak’s Law of Leadership states that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.

And Charles C. Krulak, the creator of this law, should know. As a highly decorated, retired General in the United States Marine Corps., he published an insightful article in Marine Magazine about leadership based on his 35-year experience. You can read the article here:

Over the years the Krulak’s Law message has evolved among the business community, with mentor and guru, Seth Godin, recently stating: “The experience people have with your brand is in the hands of the person you pay the least. Act accordingly.”

Godin relates this encounter to support this point in his article, the $50,000 An Hour Gate Agent.

“Consider the work of Wade, an unheralded Air Canada gate agent. Yesterday, I watched him earn his employer at least $50,000 while getting paid perhaps .1% of that.

“The microphone was out of order, but instead of screaming at the passengers, he walked over and spoke directly to the people who needed to hear him.

“On his own, he started inquiring about the connection status of a family of four. He could have cleared the standby list, closed the flight and told the four that they’d have to find another way home. Or, he could have saved them their four seats, which would have flown empty if they hadn’t been filled. Instead of either path, he picked up the phone, organized other staff to find and expedite the family and get them on board.

“And then, in an unrelated bit of valor, he tracked down a lost wallet and sent his #2 to fetch it from where it had been left – getting it to the plane before it went.

“Most of all, in an era when loyalty is scarce, he probably increased the lifetime value of a dozen wavering customers by at least a few thousand dollars each.”

Conventional wisdom is that top management is worth a fortune because of the high-leverage decisions they have to make. Indeed, average annual CEO salaries in the US now top $113,000*.

Krulak’s Law states that leaders are “ultimately judged by the quality of the leadership reflected in their subordinates.” So, ensuring that their employees make the right decisions is a leader’s primary responsibility.

And yet, in most organizations today this is simply not happening. Unfortunately, micro-management and a lack of trust get in the way. The work environment companies need to build to earn the human, dedicated work of the next Air Canada Wade has been replaced with one of tight control. No one has any leeway or can take the initiative when dealing with customers, “because, after all, you can’t trust them.”

Of course, Godin acknowledges, that one or two errant minimum-wage employees can cripple an entire brand – indeed, “the closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.” However, tight control and over-management “is a self-defeating precaution.”

By eliminating humanity from the interactions you have with customers, you’re guaranteed that your (now sterile) brand will mean less than it could. Who wants to engage with a brand that has no personality?

Godin’s solution to Krulak’s Law? “Hire better people. Trust them more. And be prepared to make it right when they don’t.”

Indeed, Bob Schultek, author of The Gauntlet, adds that in today’s fast-moving, technology-driven world “there is no time to wait while senior leadership decides how best to respond to an urgent operational issue.”

Our employees must make “in the moment” decisions which can have a severe impact on the company’s reputation, brand awareness and finances. Leaders must train and nurture the strategic, first-contact employees who are expected to deliver exceptional customer experiences in the name of their company. And, it is these who are often paid the least.

Krulak proposes the following actions to support this vital personnel:

• Offer them the freedom to fail and with it, the opportunity to succeed;
• Avoid micro-management;
• Pair supervision with proactive mentoring;
• Empower them, but hold them accountable for their actions;
• Cultivate the leadership potential within each of them.

The front-line people in an organization are among its most valuable assets. Investing in them strengthens competitive advantage and their sense of purpose.

Acknowledging the importance of those on the front line for delivering the very best customer experience is one reason why CustomerCount, and our partners at The Resort Trades, hold the annual Customer Engagement Professional (CEP) award.

This coveted award recognizes those who exemplify customer engagement within the timeshare resort and hospitality industry. The CEP award recognizes resort managers, assistant managers, front desk folks and customer service team members who are in daily contact with members and guests.

“This is a unique award,” said Bob Kobek, President of CustomerCount®. “In the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction rules – and those in customer forward-facing roles are key to keeping people happy. This award is designed to acknowledge those team members who make a difference.”

Nomination for the 2020 Customer Engagement Professional Award will open later this year.

About the Krulak Institute

After his retirement, Krulak became a college President and founder of the Krulak Institute for Leadership, Experiential Learning, and Civic Engagement.

During his 35-year Marine career, Krulak held a variety of command and staff positions: commanding officer during two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, commanding general during the Gulf War, the commander of Marine Forces Pacific, nominated to serve as the Commandant of the Marine Corps then finally promoted to general. In September 1987 he was assigned duty as the Deputy Director of the White House Military Office.

Upon his retirement from that post, he took on leadership roles in banking, sports management, and corporate government. In his four years at BSC, he dedicated himself to developing young men and women of character by providing students opportunities for hands-on education and leadership experience, all while working to build a thriving community.


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