Become Customer Focused

I recently posted one of my articles in a great online publication, Customer Think, one of the top repositories for customer service articles on the Net. Bob Thompson, the editor in chief at Customer Think, and Michael Lowenstein, a fellow author, and I embarked in some interesting dialogue around the article, which was about being employee-focused before you are customer-focused.

If you have been following my articles and social media posts, you know that I believe that before you can become customer-focused, you must be employee-focused. Customer service starts with employees of an organization. And, that means all employees. From leadership to the most recently hired to the entry level positions. To become customer-focused you must practice internally what you want the customer to experience externally. All employees must treat each other, the way the customer should be treated. That is where it starts.

Well, Bob Thompson seemed to disagree. He believes you become customer-focused first. He had some very valid comments, and I think the concept is up for interpretation. Yes, there are companies that have both great customer service and also an incredible employee experience that have failed. The reason is that it also takes a great product, which is a very customer-focused concept. After all, without a product that customers are willing to buy, you won’t have a business regardless of how good the customer service is. Bob referenced the era where employees were in the most incredible, almost lavish, work environments, but in the end some of the companies still failed. In most cases it wasn’t because of the lack of customer or employee focus. It was because the product didn’t make enough money for the company.

Here is the bottom line. There is proof that top customer service companies are also employee focused. Look at the surveys that indicate the best companies to work for and you’ll find many of those companies on the lists that provide the best customer service. Yet, Bob Thompson’s point is valid and here’s my spin on it:

Yes, you must first decide to be customer-focused. The decision becomes your goal. The decision does not guarantee your outcome. And to achieve this outcome, you must create a process, which is put into place by the leadership of the organization. And while part of the process is about having the right systems and procedures in place, you still need people to act upon it. The right people must be hired, trained and empowered to support the vision of what the customer experience should be. And this vision, or outcome, will never happen unless the employees support it.

So, you start with the end in mind. And, begin with first focusing on your employees.

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