Bringing the Customer Into Focus
Customer focused businesses outperform their competition on every metric that matters – profitability, sales growth, innovation and customer satisfaction.
Most business leaders agree that increasing customer focus will improve business performance so the question then becomes how?
Here are 7 ways leaders can help improve the level of customer focus across their businesses:
1. Get everyone involved. Every employee has an impact on customers, sure sales, marketing and customer service lead the daily interactions, but the non-customer facing staff can have a powerful impact. Sales and marketing teams make the promises to customers that the organization must deliver on. If everyone is not on the same page execution falls over and customers bare the brunt.
2. Benchmark your current level of customer focus. There is a lot of talk about customer focus but how do you make such an abstract concept real? We think part of the answer is to measure and benchmark it. We do that through the Market Responsiveness Index which measures the level of attention companies place on the markets and customers they serve. As Peter Drucker once said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – a customer focused culture is no different.
3. Make it real – Define what “customer focus” means in your business. Customer focus will mean different things in different businesses, it is important to get clear on what it is and what it means in terms of expected behaviors in your business. Many companies have this term in their vision or mission statements but it stays in the “ether” what do those mission and vision statements mean in terms of actually guiding operations?
One of our clients recently started to change the language they use when talking about customers. One of their businesses is an online dating service. Rather than only focusing on new subscriptions they are looking at other metrics for example How many dates have we created? This type of metric is more meaningful to both customers and employees, it focuses on one of the outcomes important to customers and recognizes the contributions employees are making to improving people’s lives.
4. Put customers on the agenda. This is a simple action leaders can implement today. Are customers discussed in every meeting? If not why not? What impact will decisions have on customers? Are we making decisions that create short term gains at the expense of customer relationships?
5. Hire people with a customer focused mindset. People make have the technical skills required for a job, but do they have the “customer focus” skills and/or mindset? In order words are they value creators that recognize their role is to serve customers or serve those that do.
6. Help employees connect their work with customers. In many large organizations employees can feel disconnected from customers. Leaders need to provide the tools and communication to help them connect their work with the bigger picture.
7. Recognize customer focused behavior. Individuals demonstrating the right customer focused behaviors need to be highlighted and recognized in a meaningful way. If employees believe they will be recognized they will be motivated to do things differently.
Customer focus is really about understanding the customer’s world and what your organization does to improve it. If your employees don’t understand the customer and what makes your company different you are missing a significant opportunity to improve performance.
How do you improve the customer focus in your company?