Part 2: Be a customer-centric organisation

customer centric

What does “customer-centric organisation” mean?  It means an organisation with a mindset that considers the customer viewpoint in all of its planning, communication and activities, rather than it’s own viewpoint.

It’s not about us

There is a temptation for organisations to follow the efficiency mantras of the 80s & 90s.  Making everything easier for yourselves; reducing costs, increasing capacity, trimming services, etc.  But that is not customer-centric, it’s about what is better for your own organisation and it’s how we come to have call-centres, automated telephone answering & routing, repetitive application forms and enormous edge-of-town supermarkets.

Improving efficiency and capacity, reducing costs, etc. are all important for a maturing business but any such change must only be made with consideration of the impact on your customers.  Before making any changes it’s crucial to consider the impact on their experience?

It could be that you do too much for some customers, or that you aren’t charging enough for what you do.  A review of your practices will highlight this.  But rather than seeking to make changes to address this, to the detriment of your customers, perhaps you should talk to customers about it.  It may well be that they will pay more to retain the level of service?  Or perhaps you can take on additional work for them without adding to your costs and this in turn would improve efficiency/profitability.

Managing expectations

In a previous company that I founded, I introduced the ethos of “Always Exceed Customer Expectations”.  We called it “AeCE” and it was used as a verb; we talked about ‘AeCEing people”.  It was a principle and we strove to achieve it with all customers.  But key in reaching such high levels of customer satisfaction, was managing their expectations in the first place. 

Simple things like under promising and over delivering can be done by everyone.  It is sometimes necessary to suppress the natural desire to say “yes” to a demanding customer, to avoid the conflict of saying “no”.  Otherwise, you simply reduce the likelihood of being to meet. Let alone exceed, their expectation.

This principle touches so many parts of an organisation.  Even asking someone to wait whilst you do something.  How often do you hear someone say “could you hang on a second”?  When they will be at least thirty seconds.  Changing these habits is a step in the right direction.  If you need thirty seconds to look up a number or something, then say so.  If you don’t the caller has no idea of when to feel forgotten by you and twenty seconds may seem too long to wait.

Elsewhere, be prepared to stand you ground on things such as delivery expectation.  If you say something will take ten days and you deliver in nine then you are a star.  If you say five days and you take six, you’re a villain.  I am not suggesting wildly exaggerating timescales (because you will lose out to more responsive suppliers) but make sure that you have a very high likelihood of being to deliver.

Another way of thinking about this is to ensure that your company has "customer appeal". Rather like sex appeal for companies. If you focus on making sure that the organisation has "C appeal" you will be doing the things that make it better for the customer, not the organisation.  Of course the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and taking this viewpoint may uncover previously unconsidered benefits.