Customer focus is a good idea. Loyalty, a good customer relation, is good business acumen – a good customer is a returning customer. And people living in modern society have more choices than they know what to do with; if a business doesn’t afford them customer satisfaction, there are lots of other places to go.
Therefore, the interest in customer focus – and various other synonyms and concepts speaking of delivering a good experience and building customer relations – is growing rapidly. More and more companies, and their executives, speak of it, more and more strategies contain it. As a speaker and workshop guide I meet nodding heads, lit-up eyes and deep resonance when I speak of these things out and about in the business world. From product development to service, marketing, even economy – everyone increasingly understands the importance of this topic.
And then comes everyday life.
I bet you, as a consumer, have had experiences that are in brutal conflict with all of the above. You may have even had one this week, or today, or at least heard of one from a friend, or on social media. Maybe you work in a company where these ideas float around at the top floor, but you can’t see or feel them in your workday, or among your colleagues. Perhaps you’re a CEO or business captain, and you read and talk about these things, but you can’t see them reflected in your own organisation, or at your customer frontline.
It’s obvious that there are places where all of this is moot. Is it really so hard to turn all of those good intentions into everyday work for a business?
Well, if you want it all at once, then yes. This goes for most strategies: If you want to stand at the top and see “Clever Plan” stretching to the horizons, now, right away, then it almost feels as if you might not even bother. It becomes overwhelming – and it you try that way anyway, it tends to become an act of going through some of the motions, with little real impact.
The good news is, there are other ways. When it comes to customer focus there are almost always low-hanging fruit to be picked right away, whether any work on this has been done before or not. In the words of Vestas VP Svend Ottesen, customer relations development is a job that’s never finished. There’s always something to do.
Assuming everybody’s on board that this is worthwhile, a first step might be to found out where, in the existing organisation – from the customer frontline inwards – the responsibility for customer satisfaction resides. Do you know? Do the employees know? Is the responsibility accompanied by the agency to do anything about it?
Another way of getting into this is to examine reward structures. Do the employees have reason to believe that customer focus is valued? Is it rewarded, implicitly or explicitly? Or are there incentive structures in place which work against it – again, directly or indirectly?
You could also look into what, if anything, the company knows about what “a good experience” means in their particular circumstances, for their customers – and who, if anyone, within the organisation knows. Does the frontline personnel know? Are there employees in customer service with profound knowledge, from their everyday interaction with the customers, about this, but nowhere to go with it? Do the leaders know – and can they convey it?
Also, this: Start trying out new initiatives in the real world. You can’t micro-manage customer experience from the top – experience has to be gathered “in the field”, where it counts. This also means working out structures in which the organisation’s knowledge and experience can live. Channels for them to propagate inside the company so everyone can benefit from this ressource. This may all sound like it’s difficult to implement – but here’s the motivation: If you don’t do this, other cultures will emerge instead, ones you’ll have zero control over and very little insight into.
I the absence of “What is our relation with the customers like around here” structures, it’s easy for a “f**k the customers, they’re annoying and demanding” culture to arise instead. Or an “it’s not my responsibility” culture. Tendencies like these can thrive below the radar in an organisation – and if they do, I guarantee you’re sinking more ressources into them than it would take to launch some positive, constructive activities. A bonus effect is that the employees will feel like they’re involved, that their knowledge and experience matters. This increases motivation and job satisfaction, which is very beneficial to a business in and of itself.
These are just a few examples. The point is, there’s always something to do – and that this is too important to just kind-of hope it will be OK. If you don’t quite know how to get going, you can always contact someone who can help you…