I laughed a little the other day when asked this question. Customer Focused means so many things
– the vision
– the values
– the mission
– the standards
– the teachings
– the culture
– the language
– the way things are prioritized
– the way people are promoted
– the way people are hired, oriented, paid, challenged and developed
– what we talk about in our meetings and how we share it
– what we measure, what we reward, how we allocate resources
– how we communicate and even how we do the math.
Do you know your retention or loyalty rate? Your NPS? How highly your employees rate you as good/great to work for?
Truly Customer Focused companies are strangely different from the mainstream companies out there. They are what we call “Positively Deviant” in the ways they think, feel, interact, reward and invite people to participate in their culture.
They do crazy things like destroying the rules and policies that hamper on-the-spot decision making in Customer-facing positions. Crazy things like trusting their employees to use sound judgment when making decisions that will keep the customers happy (and keep the company bottom line healthy.) Insane things like making the financials public in ways that help the employees become smarter about how business is run, what makes it successful, and how much they can do to keep customers loyal and happy.
They do really rebellious things like defining success for themselves, so they can respond to changing customer needs and temporarily turn their backs on the investors so the long term prospects of the business can thrive.
They do dangerous things like call their suppliers in at budget time to capitalize on their expertise and make choices that are fair.
They do outrageous things like having book clubs and open forums for discussing new ideas. Some even bring the customers into the discussions!
Contrary to the common business practice of telling employees to “check their emotions at the door,” they invite employee emotions in, and ask them to check their egos at the door.
Customer focused companies just look different, sound different and value different things.
Many companies think they are focused on the customer when in fact they miss many of the places where they have an opportunity to connect, communicate and create a stronger emotional bond. It’s important to keep in mind that loyalty is an emotional attachment – based on feelings – not logic.
Retention, on the other hand, maybe be very logically based, and still somewhat profitable, but it’s risky in all the wrong ways. Customers without emotional attachments are often just looking for the next best deal. For instance, I frequently shop at the pharmacy on my corner. It’s convenient, the specials are enticing and it’s open 24 hours.
To the people who work there it may seem like I’m loyal – but that’s far from the case. I think the service is mediocre at best, I don’t have nice things to say about them, and given the chance to pick up the very items they sell if I’m at the supermarket, I’ll do it. Retained? Yes – by the convenience. Loyal – no – they do nothing to earn that.
What’s missing? That lovin’ feeling. The feeling that they care, the feeling that I matter or that my business is appreciated, or that I am special in any way. That experience I desire is consistently missing.
Is yours consistently present? Do your customers get “that lovin’ feeling” from you?
Being Customer Focused begins with looking at the customer – in the eye – with a smile – with recognition and with appreciation. (Yes, even on the web.)
If you put that warm, welcoming customer interaction at the center of a circle, with a little bit of caring, it’s a good start. If you connect the customer facing people to the center in a way that helps them understand the role they play in customer happiness, you help create meaning.
“I come to work because…” is connected to a reason that makes people proud to show up for work. You know, like those crazy, rebellious, outrageous reasons I mentioned earlier in this tip. Engaged, loyal employees who are nurtured, trusted and understand the stake they have in an organization will go out of their way to contribute to the mission and the dream. They’re the ones who create the experiences that generate customer loyalty.
In turn, loyal customers give more back to you in the way of purchases, referrals and positive word of mouth. They are usually easier to serve and more forgiving. When an entire organization is focused on creating loyal, happy, repeat customers, they do things other places don’t. That’s “Customer Focused.” All eyes looking in one direction – putting a smile on the face of the customer.