“When you’re trying to make an important decision, and you’re sort of divided on the issue, ask yourself: If the customer were here, what would she say?” ~ Dharmesh Shah, CTO of Hubspot
You may have heard the term “Customer-Focused Leadership” and wondered what it was all about. Or you may have heard the term and knew immediately that you worked for a company that practiced the concept.
Customer-focused leadership is exactly as it sounds: companies that are operated based on putting the customer first in everything that they do. It is a team approach that is centered on the complete customer experience that leads to overall customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and repeat business. The end goal is to make your customers (and employees) raving brand ambassadors who will sing your praises to family, friends, and anyone online who will listen.
Shouldn’t all companies be managed this way?
You’d think it would be that easy, but as we all know, it is not. There are some companies (and we all know a few) that put the customer last. Unfortunately for them, they do not stay in business very long.
To run a customer-focused business, remember the following:
- It starts at the top with a genuine commitment from ownership, senior executives, management, and supervisors who all are on the same page that the customer comes first, and that is the reason you are in business in the first place. Employees need to see that commitment from senior management every day in order to know it is expected of them as well.
- Employees must understand why being customer focused is so important, and how it affects them in a variety of ways. This comes with basic training and education. They must fully understand how it influences both the company’s and their bottom line. In today’s global marketplace, you cannot compete on price alone, and since consumers buy on emotion, their experience with your company must be a positive one. Every time. Even if there’s a problem. Especially when there’s a problem. Employees need to know they are helping to build a relationship with the customer, so if something goes wrong, there is enough trust built up to give you a chance to make it right. Make sure employees know the long-term value that each customer brings.
- Make it a total team effort. Everyone in the company works for the customer service department. It’s an attitude, not a department. And if you have employees who are not on the front line working with customers, then they are back of house servicing those who do work with customers and are just as important to the process.
- Empower your employees to make certain decisions right on the spot if there is a problem. Customers hate being passed from employee to supervisor to manager, having to repeat the same story over and over, just to get a problem fixed. It can be a multi-level approach, where frontline employees have a $100 limit to make things right, supervisors can go to $250, and managers have up to $500 to correct a problem. (These are just examples-every company should set their own limits.) Not only will the customer be happy to get a resolution right away, but your employees will feel a much stronger connection to the company if they are able to make these decisions on the spot.
- Recognize and reward the people who exemplify customer-focused behavior. There are many ways to reward employees who show they are committed to a customer-focused environment. Anything from public praise in the workplace (wall of fame) to a mention in the company newsletter, gift cards, lunch or time off are all great ways to show employees they are noticed and appreciated. The list is as long as your imagination and creativity.
- Communication channels need to be open in all directions in order to continually improve. Frontline employees, who are constantly working with your customers are your greatest source of information as to what is working, and what is not. Your next best source is your customers. How often do you correspond with them in order to know how their experience was with your company? There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. The best way is to pick up an actual telephone and call them (what a concept!). Your customers will be shocked to get a call from management (the higher up the corporate ladder the better) and delighted to know you actually care. You can also use paper or email surveys, leaving online feedback (think Amazon), live chat and listening to what is being said on social media. Continuous training is key to keeping everyone up to date and on the same page.
It’s vital for businesses to concentrate on all areas that affect the customer experience in order to cultivate loyalty and repeat business. Making customer-focus leadership a reality requires a total team effort that starts at the top and includes every employee, regardless of which department they work.
Following the guidelines above will give you a great framework on which to build. It will lead to repeat business and customer loyalty and create raving brand ambassadors who will sing your praises to anyone who will listen! Isn’t that what business is all about?