Customer-focused Companies Win

“We’re trying to do something really interesting and fun but we also need to be humble…because we know that everything is based on this foundation that we’re trying to do what’s right for the customer….you realize that these users make your livelihood possible.” – Kevin Hale

The title of this exposition; customer-focused companies win, may be a cliché, but it holds true for any company across industries and customer types. Some companies truly understand what great customer service is about – they build their culture around it, hire the right people, provide training and development opportunities, and ensure that each person understands and delivers top class service. Other companies on the other hand, only claim to understand what service is about, but refuse to move away from their traditional mind-sets and rigid business operating methods. This obviously translates to service to customers driven by what the company wants and believes, leading to customer dissatisfaction. A company that is internally focused, rather than customer-focused, will expect customers to ‘adapt’ to the products and or service it offers – with so many choices, customers are unlikely to ‘stick’ with such a company.

Customer-focused companies win simply because they leverage technology and the special skills and experience that exist in their companies to serve customers and develop products that customers would want. Such companies do not limit themselves, but rather seek to develop the capabilities they may lack depending on what customers tell them, and do not rest until they are able to meet the expectations of their customers. An internally focused company would first aim to satisfy its needs and simplify processes. This in turn creates siloes between departments that are unable to cooperate and coordinate with each other when serving internal customers, leading to many poor and unsatisfactory customer experiences. Such a myopic view of business and customers would over time lead to the downfall of a company since customers would not last. The difference between customer-focused and internally focused companies is the manner in which they define themselves. Those with a culture to please customers would take every opportunity to show customers that they are important and whatever the company does is with the intention to satisfy their needs. Companies that lead their operations inside out, have a much narrower view, are not agile enough to meet the changing needs of customers, and are unable to swing into action as a response to changes in the market. In such a competitive environment, the inability to change swiftly can be a company’s undoing.

Customer-focused companies win because they understand that the business exists because of the customer – without customers there would be no company, no jobs, and no money. Hence, they are willing to take every step required to keep customers happy. Research and statistics prove without doubt that customers stay or leave a company depending on the service they receive – therefore, customer-focused companies have that drive and a clear goal, which motivates everything and everyone in the organization. It would be hard to survive in today’s environment without making customers the driving force behind everything a company does, focusing every goal of the company’s business on them. There may be arguments, around which approach is better – however, the fact is that the people a company tries hard to attract, retain, keep happy, serve, and sell the products to should be the most important and the reason a company remains in business. Customer-focused companies win and they display certain traits that would be missing in others. From a customer’s perspective, it would be beneficial to work with such companies.

When dealing with customer-focused companies it would be easy to see that its employees and representatives seem empowered to make spot decisions in favour of customers. While there may be rules, they also work with certain guidelines that allow them to make these decisions so long as it benefits the customers, are not illegal, and would not go against the business and principles of the company. Employee empowerment leads to swift resolutions, lowered effort, and diminished wait times for customers, which in turn makes customers happy and more inclined to continue working with such a company – leading it to success. Conversely, internally focused companies are unable to give their employees enough leeway – there would be a number of rules and approvals required for everything, and it would be this red tape that would cause delays leading to customer frustration.

Customer-focused companies win because they know exactly who they need to hire and make no mistake in recruiting people who will fit in with the culture of service, and would have inherent characteristics that would align with the company’s vision, mission, and values. They understand that the people they hire could be trained for skills and knowledge, but must first essentially have the characteristics that would allow them to serve the company’s internal and external customers, irrespective of their department and job role. Customer-focused companies win also because they not only hire the right people they provide their employees with several opportunities for training and development. They spend time and money to train their service staff in areas such as relationship building, empathy, service excellence, and other such skills that will ensure top class service to the company’s customers, without much effort. These companies focus on both soft and technical skills in order to stay ahead and encourage each member of the company to engage in self-development activities and learn new ways to serve the customers and their co-workers.

Customer-focused companies win because they do not only expect their employees to serve customers well, their leadership leads by example. They use every opportunity to provide extra care and service to their customers – both internal and external. Their behaviour is aligned to what they expect from their employees, and would make every effort to motivate the staff and appreciate the efforts of the staff in building and sustaining the culture of customer focus. Companies that focus on and expect their employees to serve customers, put their employees first – they care and value their staff ensuring that each person working in the company stays happy, motivated, engaged, and encouraged to not just do their job well, but go the extra mile for the company and its customers. Customer-focused companies understand that their first customers are their employees and that happy employees make happy external customers. Within the boundaries of customer-focused companies, customer service is not the responsibility of one department – it is the responsibility of each person. Such companies encourage the service culture by ensuring that each employee embraces it and views it as part of their job.

The fact is that in these tough and fiercely competitive times, businesses must realize the importance and value of a customer focus in order to remain successful. Products and services are made for customer use – it is therefore common sense that the offerings be ‘customized’ to suit the needs and preferences of customers. As the face of the market and customers change, focus on the customer is no longer a choice – it is a crucial requirement of any business. Customers have made it amply clear that they would stay with or leave a company depending on the kind of service they receive – meaning that customer-focused companies would ultimately emerge victorious. In addition, this focus must be sustainable and run throughout the company as the driving force, in order to be able to convince customers about the commitment and passion of the company to serve them consistently and in the manner that they deem appropriate.

 

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