Customer-Focused Leadership is Critical

by | Nov 12, 2015 | Customer Service | 0 comments

“It’s not that we ever even say we’re customer-centric. We don’t have to. What we say is we’re going to the right thing, we’re going to try as hard as we can, and that just spills over into the way we treat our customers.” – Ted Hoy

Since businesses cannot run without its customers (or employees) it is important that a company be focused on doing what is right for them. When each component of the business is working as a single unit, it would reflect in the customer service. While ensuring a customer focus is the responsibility of each person in the organization, it really begins with customer-focused leadership. The hallmark of truly customer-centric companies is customer-focused leadership, since employees will emulate and follow whatever the leadership does. In such companies every process, strategy, employee and leader is aligned and the result for such a company is customer loyalty, profitability and brand advocacy. They are able to sustain all these aspects over a long period.

Customer-focused leadership promises relentless motivation to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of the customers in all aspects. Each person within the organization supports the customer-centricity of the leadership and all the processes and strategies are consistently evaluated to ensure compliance. Every employee knows what they need to do from a customer service perspective and how their role affects the achievement of high standards of customer service. Customer focused leadership encourages each person within the company to contribute extensively towards the attainment of customer satisfaction and happiness. Customer-focused leadership is required since a focus on external customers does not happen on its own – especially for those employees whose primary job does not involve interacting with customers. Through customer-focused leadership, a company can develop this effort over time through different strategies and processes.

The leadership of a company must have the prime responsibility of ensuring that every action and decision made within the company must be based on the customer’s needs and expectations. This cannot be left to the discretion of the baseline and customer service staff – without customer-focused leadership there would be no direction and impetus to this critical element of business. The companies that fail to achieve customer-centricity are usually the ones where the leaders fail to be completely attuned to the meaning of customer-focused leadership. Failure to spearhead this business imperative leads to others in the organization to fail at it too. Customer-focused leadership must gain a place in the list of management priorities for a company’s long-term success through customer satisfaction.

Without customer-focused leadership, companies forget to empower and encourage their customer support staff to provide the best service to customers. In order for these customer facing employees to seem knowledgeable, creative and able to resolve small issues on the spot a company must allow them authority and discretion. Ensuring that these employees are able to raise the standards of customer service should be one of the basics of customer-focused leadership. It should be there responsibility to ensure that the workplace throbs with the drive and willingness to provide customer service excellence.

Without customer-focused leadership, the top rung would never be able to understand the challenges faced by the customer service staff. This in turn would lead to a work environment that is stressed, negative and not congenial to promote an attitude of service. Poorly treated staff would naturally be sullen and have a bad attitude towards customers, leading to their dissatisfaction and possibly even taking their business elsewhere. Customers are not expected to understand the reasons for shoddy service – internally however, this is a clear indication that the company lacks customer-focused leadership and does not treat its baseline employees with respect and care.

It would flow naturally that without customer-focused leadership, there would be no investment made to train and coach the staff. In such ‘lacking companies’ the thought process often is that training is a nice to do and is not a business imperative. Therefore, budgets for training and development are limited and dictated by what the leadership believes the requirement to be. Poorly trained employees would inevitably make mistakes and repeat them often because they would not be equipped to change the way they work. These recurring problems would definitely annoy customers enough to not only stop business with a company but also ensure that their negative experiences are known by all. Most customers do tolerate minor lapses but are not willing to forgive problems that should be resolved. The feeling that the company does not care for its customers soon becomes dominant and customers begin leaving. When a company has customer-focused leadership, they would have an ‘eye’ for such possible threats and downfalls. Repeated customer problems would not happen but if they did, the leadership would be quick to put checks in place to ensure the problems go away and customers are treated right.

Through customer-focused leadership, companies are better positioned to build and sustain revenue and profits. As the company continually focuses on providing customer service excellence, they gain the customer’s trust and loyalty. Such customers are more open to providing repeat business and spreading the good word about the company such that others are attracted to the company. According to a survey, customers who consistently receive great service, feel valued, respected and trust a company remain loyal for at least 10 years – of course, the company’s products and services should be something they require and the pricing suited to their ‘pockets’.

As customers become loyal and trust a company, they would remain with the company despite harsh market conditions. Such customers become ‘partners’ who would stand by a company and even pay more for its offerings because of the consistent and positive experiences they have had with the company. A company that encourages customer-focused leadership will experience the financial benefits repeatedly over time, of providing top class service. Happy customers do not just provide repeated business but also become willing brand advocates for a company. It is a known fact that attracting new customers is a lot of hard work and requires huge investments but through great service, a company can save its resources. The existing happy customers would be proud and happy to ‘announce’ your company to others, attracting new customers without the hassle and expense. People want to deal with companies that have an established reputation in customer service and if the recommendation for such companies comes from existing customers, it would be hard to ignore them.

Customer-focused leadership translates to company-wide understanding and willingness to meet and exceed customer expectations. Such companies shine and stand out from the melee of companies ‘dishing’ out similar products and services. Customer-focused leadership soon becomes the single most important differentiator for a company and gives it that ‘edge’ and winning quality. As a company’s reputation enhances, customers feel a sense of elation and pride to be associated with such a company and will not skimp on praising it whenever and however they get an opportunity – this is possibly the most robust and best form of advertising and promotion that a company can have.

The reality is that customer-focused leadership is the ‘action’ that complements the words a company speaks regarding their commitment to their customer. It is a highly influential and sustainable way of ensuring customer service excellence, since employees tend to believe and follow whatever their leaders do. Hence, if a company expects its employees to care for and empathise with its customers, its leaders must be beacons that take them along the path of customer service excellence.

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