Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Focusing employees on serving the customer.

Post 345 - Clients frequently tell me that in today’s economy, the customer is king! They know that competition is tougher. Consolidations have created fewer, larger players. The internet allows customers to find better pricing and faster delivery. Ideas move to market quicker than ever before and are readily copied and modified. All this has resulted in a more dynamic, competitive and uncertain business environment which has also changed the requirements for creating and keeping loyal customers.

So, it’s more important than ever to build a culture that keeps the customer at the center of everything the company does. This means actively encouraging employees to examine how they contribute to creating loyal, satisfied customers. But first, you have to raise the importance of customers in the employees’ minds. Often, people who don’t deal with them on a daily basis feel they have no role in establishing, providing or maintaining customer loyalty. Building a customer focused business means constantly emphasizing that contributing to a dialogue about customer service is part of everyone’s job. Here, it helps to differentiate between the value of customers and the value provided to customers. Showing employees the personal importance of customers in their own world (no customers, no raises, no promotions, no jobs) will help to encourage them to focus on and provide value for customers. Employee buy-in is critical. People need to see the personal value for them in order to commit to a change in attitude, behavior and performance.

Customer-focused businesses find ways to continually surprise their customers with exceptional responses. To do this, they actively involve everyone in the firm in brainstorming and idea generation. They include a component of customer satisfaction and retention in every employee’s job description, quarterly goals, and pay and incentive plans. Managers openly and regularly discuss complaints and feedback from customers and the company’s response. This becomes part of the firm’s daily ongoing conversation. Only by continually focusing on these issues can you build a culture of customer focus.

As Walt Disney once said, “Do what you do so well that they’ll want to see it again and bring their friends.” So, how focused is your company on your customers? Is customer loyalty at the center of your business universe? Do you boldly go with customers where no one else has dared to go? When you create quarterly employee objectives, do they include factors that focus on the customer, regardless of whether the employee deals directly with external customers or not? Do you have open conversations about providing customer value? Do you involve employees in suggesting ways to make your business more distinct in the minds of your customers?

Involving all employees in regular conversations about these topics keeps the customers at the center of your business universe. Employees know a lot about customer service and customer loyalty. Even if they don't deal with them directly in your business, they're customers themselves in their life outside the business. When your customers see that they’re always at the center of your universe, you’ll stand out over others in your industry. Your business will look different from / better than your competition and will be remembered as a result.

If you revolve your world around your customers, more customers will revolve around you.

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