Most people, when they are honest, answer a, b or even c. But if you answered d, are you really working for your customers, or just paying lip service to it?
It seems everyone is talking about “customer-focus”. I love the phrase “customer-focus” because it recognises a fundamental truth that too many people seem to forget – that customers are your raison d’être – whether your company deals with consumers, other businesses, or both. Your customers pay your salary, not some faceless company.
Being customer-focused makes more than just instinctive sense, the more focussed you are on customers; the more likely you are to meet and exceed their expectations, needs and wants. And the more you meet and exceed their expectations, needs and wants, the more likely you are to have happy, loyal customers. And the more happy and loyal your customers are, the more likely they are to spend above the category average with you. A win-win situation, if ever there was one.
I’m not going to pretend that being customer-focused is easy — because it’s not. It requires an absolute dedication to the cause, starting from the top, right on down throughout the organization. But the process involved is relatively simple. I’ve broken it down into two lists – things you Need To Do, and things you Need To Review.
Need to Do
1. Listen. To your customers, to the market, to your staff. And never stop listening. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know everything you need to know about people. Through listening come insights and insights are what drive any business.
Take FedEx for example. Years ago, when listening to people talk about their delivery needs, they realised that there was a market need for overnight deliveries guaranteed to arrive at a specific time the next day. The likely cost of this service was such that it would only be used when deliveries really did have to get there on time – so the on time guarantee meant everything. And FedEx delivers… that’s why they’re the #1 express transportation company.
2. Take Ownership. Own every issue that affects your customers, even if you don’t technically own what’s causing the problem. You may not have full control over your customers’ experiences, but if your customers are disappointed by something while using your brand, you’d better take ownership of the problem, and fix it. Because it’s your brand that will take the flak… and the glory.
For example, when Virgin took over the two British Rail franchises in 1997, all it ‘owned’ was the right to run certain timetables on certain tracks. The trains belonged to another company, as did the railway infrastructure. So, when a train was delayed as a result of a signalling problem, Virgin took
responsibility for solving the problem on their customers’ behalf – apologising and paying them compensation, while working behind the scenes with Railtrack to attempt to make sure the problem didn’t happen again. The bottom line was that the customers were sitting in a Virgin train when the delay occurred.
3. Be Consistent. Your customers need to know what to expect from you – not in a boring and repetitive way, but rather in terms of the quality and type of response you’ll give them. By all means, do the unexpected, exceed their expectation – but always do it in a way that’s consistent with their needs and wants, and your brand.
Southwest Airlines is a great example of this – you don’t always know what they have in store for you on a flight, but you do always know that it’ll be something you like.
4. Attention To Detail. Attention to detail is all about showing your customers that there is nothing you won’t do in order to give them the best possible Customer Experience.
It’s about that chocolate on your hotel pillow, that massage on your transatlantic flight, that reminder text about your partner’s birthday, that unsolicited call to see if you’ve any problems using your new handset. It’s also about not being satisfied with anything less than perfection – about arriving exactly on time, about returning calls exactly when you say you will, about having wait times that last no more than the time you say they will.
5. Watch Your Language! I’m not suggesting you’re swearing at your customers…actually, it’s worse! You’re talking about them behind their backs in a pretty disparaging way. Hands up all of you who segment your customers by value, calling some your ‘most important/valuable’ customers, and, by implication, others your ‘least important/valuable’ customers? Many of you who segment your customers by lifestyle/lifestage, use quite unflattering names to describe certain segments?
Language guides behaviour and attitudes. So if you refer to your ‘least important’ customers in internal discussions or briefings, then there’s a strong chance that your employees will treat those particular customers as though they don’t matter. You don’t mean for that to happen, but it does. Likewise with the lifestyle segments. Beware of using a single photo or personality to characterise a particular segment – Colin Farrell/Britney Spears may seem to characterise your ‘fast and loose’ segment, but not everyone in that segment will be just like them. Instead of ‘most important/valuable’ customers, how about something innocuous like ‘highest yield/highest spending’?
6. Measure Your Results. The only way to know if you’re really customer-focused is to ask them. Find out from your customers which particular aspects or attributes of your product or service are most important to them — whether it’s reducing wait times in retail outlets, or arriving on time, or having mobile coverage wherever you are, or having the latest fashions in stock, or having the best prices. The key here is ‘from your customers’ — never presume that you know what they are. Piattaforma lavoro