We Want to Believe.
As business owners, we want to believe if we INTEND to have a customer-focused organization, we will! We deliver an experience in the beginning based on who we are, not any plan about how we deliver. It’s organic – we just ARE customer focused. Organizations grow, though, and things happen. Consider the ways growth and scale as an organization can threaten the focus on the customer.
- Quick hires are made based on skill sets, not the actual whole person. The guy who might be great at fixing widgets just might be terrible with people.
- RULES are established instead of culture. Following the rules is not fun, but believing in a culture is.
- Risks are discouraged and punished. Employees learn to do what’s always been done, even if it’s only been a few months!
The business owner, the very one who said THIS would be a customer focused organization, has lost touch. There are simply too many responsibilities, too many people to manage, and too much to do to worry about what is actually happening to the customer.
If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!
That word – intuition – can be a dirty word among business types. Venture capitalists want banking statements, not emotional ones. And yet no matter how much data we collect, we are human. Every day. Trying to manage the outcome from humans is vexing, whether they are employees or customers.
Where have we gone wrong?
When we speak of employee engagement and happy workplaces, we often leave out the customer. The important step in ensuring a superior customer experience is understanding what your employees need to not only have a wonderful experience themselves, but to understand the goal of being a customer focused organization.
How customer focused organizations communicate has everything to do with BOTH sides of that coin. For an amazing example, check out this culture manifesto from Hubspot (via Slideshare):
The challenge – the WHAT in your culture – is what will define your customer experience. Everyone pretty much says similar things: we hire the best people, we believe in work/life balance, we want results…but really thinking about the nuances of your culture will define it.
Culture supporting a customer focused organization includes:
- Playfulness. Neuroscience is supporting that people are at their best when they have time to play. Play can be lots of things – breaks for video games, silly team challenges, or just an atmosphere that encourages this type of attitude. (3M allows time off to employees for personal interests to encourage innovation.)
- Understanding. Employees know what’s best for the customer is not always what’s best short-term for the company. (Ritz-Carlton empowers employees to do whatever it takes to solve a customer issue. Each employee has specific budgets allowing real money to be spent to make customers happy.)
- Relevant Perks. Jackson Fish Market, a user experience firm, described it this way:
Finally, startups need to realize that people are human beings. They’re not always rational. The 70k per year offer with lots of perks may be way more attractive than the 80k per year offer at the “scrappy” company. The perks may cost less than the 10k difference. They may even cost the same. (Imagine what you could do for each employee’s comfort and convenience at work with an extra 10k each year.) But most humans will weigh the environment and convenience of the perks above their straight cash value. Especially when they’re something they can show off to their friends.
Amen. Employees who are treated well AND understand the mission AND are held accountable is the best combination. Make your mission about your customers, rally your employees to be part of this customer focused organization and then keep at it.
Ok, let me know about your experiences. Have you ever been part of a truly customer focused organization? How did it go?