Our publishing business is like a three-legged stool. Its success rests on the happiness of three primary constituents: our employees, our authors, and our customers—in that order.
The rationale is that if we take care of the employees, they will take care of our authors and customers. As a result, the very first point in our vision statement says, “We maintain an inspired work environment where people connect with the Company’s purpose and values.”
We have really made an effort to focus on this over the last two years. Based on the results of our recent employee survey, I think we have made good progress. We are not where we want to be, but we have come a long way.
The employee survey has been a hugely helpful tool. It has shown us exactly where we are doing well and were we are not doing so well. It has revealed specific areas where we still need to improve. As a result, we are able to focus our resources on those areas that would be the most meaningful to our employees.
This morning, I started thinking it would be good if we could similarly survey our authors. In Tough Choices, Carly Florina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, talks about something called “Total Customer Experience.” Much has been written on this, but the basic idea is simple. You have to take responsibility for every interaction you and your colleagues have with your customer. Each one either enhances or diminishes customer loyalty and, hence, your brand.
This is also true of authors. Every interaction—whether it’s with the receptionist, an editor, a marketing director, a publicist, an accounts payable clerk, or the CEO—shapes the author’s perception of our company. This is why I have resisted the idea of creating a separate Author Relations Department. From my point-of-view, “author relations” is not a department; it’s a way of life. Or to say it another way, keeping our authors happy is everyone’s responsibility.
To that end, I would like to see us create an author survey and send it to all of our authors. Perhaps we should do this 90 days after a book releases. This is long enough to get through the product development and launch cycle but short enough that the experience is fresh on the author’s mind. We could then summarize these a couple of times a year and generate a Total Author Experience (TAE) Score. This would then enable us to focus on improving those areas that are important to our authors.
As someone once said, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. I think that’s true, and I think it’s time to start. Any volunteers?