Implementing Customer Focus Is A Journey
As we discussed in last month’s article, companies and organizations around the world are concentrating on implementing customer focus strategies. Most organizations make the claim that they are customer focused or customer centered (who wouldn’t?). Yet some look more customer focused than others. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply make a decision to become customer focused. That would be like buying a guitar, taking one lesson, and declaring yourself a master musician.
Companies that are truly serious about implementing Customer Focus realize that it is a journey, not a decision. It takes time, commitment, and focus – focus on being customer focused. They also realize that, while the rewards are tremendous, the journey is difficult. Why? Allow me to answer that question with a metaphor and a story that I once heard…
The Customer Focus Challenge
One day a Zen student who was having difficulty with his practice asked a wise Zen master, ‘Why is it so difficult for me to reach enlightenment?’ The master said to the student, “Because it has to go through YOU.”
It’s the same with the journey to customer focus. Once you start down that path you invariably come face to face with all of the parts of your enterprise that interfere with customer focus. You must reconcile each of these parts with the whole of customer focus. In doing that you establish a clear “line of sight” between the customer and the services provided by the organization.
Primary Customer Focus Implementation Areas
But how do you know what parts of your organization you will need to “deal with” on your journey? The detailed answer to that question is beyond this article. However, I describe the four general areas that you will need to address below. For each area, I also include a link to an article with more detail on that implementation area.
Products and Services
Customer focused organizations utilize customer feedback and data to develop products and services that both address and anticipate customer needs. Interestingly enough, when there are problems in this area, they are often attributable to problems in the other three areas below. When product development and service delivery become less important than organizational dynamics and personal agendas, we must look within the enterprise to reveal the customer focus obstacles. See Developing Customer Focused Products and Services.
Customer focused operations embed the customer into their processes and technology. For example, a customer focused process provides for appropriate customer involvement, feedback, and visibility. In addition, it ensures that the solution and service meet the customers’ needs. Technology enables and facilitates that customer relationship, as opposed to blocking or impeding it. When we design processes and systems around ourselves instead of designing them to optimally delivery our products and services, we create customer focus obstacles. See Developing Customer Focused Operations.
Organizational Structure and Culture
Customer focused companies design organizational structures around their operations – to optimize the ability of the operational component to deliver customer focused products and services. They have customer focused leadership that creates a culture that motivates and encourages employees to understand the needs of their customers. These companies integrate sales, marketing, and operational functions to seamlessly create and deliver customer value. When we structure our organizations to accommodate organizational politics and powerful managers we sub-optimize operations and create customer focus obstacles. See Building Customer Focused Organizations.
Customer focused organizations have customer focused people who view their role of creating value for their customers, whether they are internal customers or external customers, as their number one priority. But the right attitude is not sufficient. From the front line to the back office all employees must acquire and practice the consultative skills that enable them to make the customer the center of all that they do. When our employees lack customer focused attitudes and consultative skill sets, they become customer focus obstacles. See Developing Customer Focused People.
So the obstacles to customer focus are everywhere, but each time we remove an obstacle, we enhance our customer focus. When we integrate Customer Focus into our organization’s structure, culture, operations, and employee behaviors and attitudes, the benefits are tremendous. Not only do the customers notice the difference, but the employees feel the benefits of a customer focused working environment. This is the kind of working environment that attracts and retains top talent. Revenue, profitability, and a strong competitive position are the natural rewards of a true customer focused organization.
Skills Corner: Tips for Implementing Customer Focus
Understanding Your Customer Needs
In order to implement customer focus and produce the best results for your client, it is important to truly understand their challenges, needs, and priorities. It is essential to learn more about the issues you are aware of and to identify any unknown or suspected problems or opportunities. Try using the following steps when gathering information and insights:
- Plan appropriate questions to explore how your project or initiative will impact your clients and uncover their related objectives or concerns.
- Expand your questioning to uncover possible areas that are not yet known to the client.
- Check the alignment of organizational, operational, and individual issues.
- Determine how the change will impact the organization and the individuals who will be part of it.
- Plan how you will contact the client groups from whom you will be gaining information and insights.
- Develop your own library of questions that you can ask different client groups.
By understanding all of your client group’s key issues, you will be better able to avoid potential obstacles and detours.
Get Help on Your Journey
At Advance Consulting we have helped many organizations become more customer focused. We can help you develop and implement a road map that will lead your organization to higher levels of customer focus. Our products and services can assist you in aligning your products and services, operations, organizational, and employees around your customers. For more information on how we can assist you, see our Customer Focus services. Or, contact us to discuss your specific needs.