“Your website isn’t the center of your universe. Your Facebook page isn’t the center of your universe. Your mobile app isn’t the center of your universe. The customer is the center of your universe.” ~Bruce Ernst

It seems safe to say that most businesses know if they want to be successful and increase profits, they need to focus on the customer. The question is if most businesses know this, why aren’t they doing it?

It could be that some businesses believe that if they just build a better product, customers will be beating down their doors at all hours of the day and night. But it doesn’t work that way.

What does being customer focused actually mean? It means that no matter how good your product or service may be, the customer will always be front and center of every major decision that is made. It means that you actively address their concerns and needs. It means you help them achieve their goals, no matter how large or small those goals may be. It means that you take the lead in exceeding expectations. It means you listen, and show empathy, you follow up and follow through. It means you talk to your customers and get to know them. And it’s crucial to know this process takes years, not weeks or months.

After reading that list, now I know why many businesses shy away. It’s hard work.

But the payoff is immense. First off, studies suggest it is 6-7 times more expensive to go out and get new customers than to keep the customers you already have. So why wouldn’t you do everything possible to keep the ones who already know you? More importantly, repeat customers spend more on average than new customers.

But here’s the catch, and it’s an important one. You cannot be customer focused unless you are employee focused.

Hiring the right people, creating the right culture, and giving your people the right tools they need to do their jobs. That’s employee focused. Once you have that in place, getting customer focused is a much easier task.

Remember that customers want great products and services, but they also want value and a return on their investment of time and money. Here are a few reminders to make sure you are staying customer focused:

  • It starts at the top. Everyone from the CEO on down must have a customer-focused
  • Review the customer experience. Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes and see how easy (or hard) it is to do business with you. If necessary, hire a secret shopper or outside firm to get an unbiased review.
  • Deliver on the promises your brand makes to its customers.
  • Your teams are only as good as the training you provide. And it should be continuous, not just for new hires. Make sure to stress the vision and culture of the company and how it pertains to the customers.
  • Empower your employees to make decisions immediately.
  • Communicate to employees on a daily basis the importance of the customer and how they are treated.
  • Have evaluations and reviews that reflect customer-focused

According to a survey of over 1300 business leaders and professionals by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and the American Management Association, over 40% of respondents said they didn’t know their customers very well and just 52% reported they are more customer focused than their competitors.

Being customer focused is a combination of customer service, engagement, quality products and services, and an understanding of who your customers are and how you can help them solve a problem, or make their life easier. Your customers should feel good and have a smile on their face after doing business with you.

The difference between successful companies and under-performing ones are their approach to these important areas. Focusing on your customers (as well as your employees) will determine how loyal they will be, and ultimately, how successful you will be. There really is no substitute.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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