Business to Business News
The Key To Your Company's Long Term Success: Exceptional Customer Focus
by Jack Hoffmann
Many businesses have a tendency to think they are providing better service to their customers than their customers think they are. To avoid this disconnect business leaders must listen closely to their customers and adopt an external focus on service, rather than an internal one. They must understand that in today’s economy the customer is very much in charge, and those firms not producing a discernibly higher level of customer experiences will suffer at the expense of brand or company loyalty.
Often repeat business with a customer is confused with customer loyalty. In many cases the customer is not coming back because they are loyal, they are continuing to do repeat business with you because of mundane reasons like location, convenience, pricing and other intangibles. But anything less than true loyalty leaves a business wide open to losing customers to a competitor that provides these basic competitive advantages better than you!
Customers are sick of marketing messages that over promise and under deliver. In order to establish loyal and truly satisfied customers you must meet and continually exceed their expectations. In today’s hyper-competitive economy, nobody raves about a business that has just “met their expectations” Instead, they now demand an exceptional experience!
As an organization you have to develop a long-term strategic approach to “delighting the customer”. Part of that strategic approach includes listening to your customers, but it also includes listening to your internal sales and service organization. Every day your people come to work with better ideas that could grow your business and better serve your customers; and just as likely, they go home having received no encouragement to share their ideas and different perspectives. They’re never asked for their input.
Consequently, developing competitive strategies and advantages must be a business priority. The key is to realize that in a world of uniformity, mediocrity and repetition, people want unique experiences, not just products and services. When people feel good about their relationship with your organization, they will return for more. Therefore, part of your strategies should involve being creative and fully committed to seeing the world through the eyes of the customer.
Various association studies have revealed that the root cause of poor service relationships is this disconnect between a company and their customer’s perceptions. This gap certainly has something to do with employee attitudes or motivation levels, but it has everything to do with a lack of clear definitions of customer expectations. Many organizations pay lip service to the importance of the customer, but spend most of their time trying to resolve internal issues unrelated to the customer, resulting in the lack of customer focus with the company’s policies, support processes, follow up systems and other programs geared to the delivery of high quality experiences to the customer.
At a minimum, you can establish ground rules for a customer-focused culture:
1. Establish a clear vision of what exceptional customer focus means in your organization and to the customer.
2. Understand and communicate the financial advantages to your company of implementing a customer-focused strategy to turn fickle or uncommitted prospects and customers into long-term, loyal customers.
3. Understand the impact (positive or negative) that your current systems, policies and procedures have on your employees’ ability to focus on the customer’s needs; then determine what is required to align them to exceed the customer’s expectations.
4. Develop ways to go to the customer on a regular basis to find out what their idea of exceptional service and product performance really are and if those expectations have changed.
5. Determine what needs to be measured in order to sustain the new customer focused culture.
Greater customer focus requires superior performance. Processes, systems and machinery can’t do that; only people with a passion for pleasing the customer can. You can’t make your people care, and you can’t make them go the extra mile, only your people can make that choice. What you can do is provide leadership, a customer focused culture and the right team members. Then step away and let them make the difference.
Jack Hoffmann is the president of Milestone Solutions LLC, a management consulting firm that helps small, medium and large companies maximize their business and people performance.
Source: St. Louis Small Monthly
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