In your business, there will be a way in which customers are framed and thought about. It won’t be the same as what is written in the corporate brochures, it will be an attitude born somewhere/somehow in the business, and it probably goes accepted and unnoticed. But it will either underpin or undermine the competitiveness of your business.
Active Knowledge Question:
Do you ever think about whether your customers feel respected?
Are you in business to profiteer from your customers, or are you in business to meet their needs better than anyone else? The answer will lie in how your business thinks about its customers rather than any instruction manual that may have been carefully crafted.
We talk about customer service and how the customer is valued but rarely do we dig into how our staff feel about our customers. Of course, there will be some customers who are difficult to deal with in any business, but what we need to dig into is the culture that has been built up over the years towards our customers. It is the subconscious mental frame, attitude, that every person who comes to work in our business is inducted into, expected and required to adopt.
In some of my work over the years, I have heard senior management teams refer to their customers as being dumb, unable to get themselves out of a wet paper bag and being anyone who would buy from them. As culture is seeded and sustained by leadership, such thoughts are quickly accepted as being ‘the way’ to talk and think about customers.
Such language reflects leaders who do not respect nor value their customers as individuals but rather see them as something they have to bear with so they can make a profit.
A business that does not respect its customers is a business that will never lift its competitive potential to the forefront.
Do You Have A Purpose?
To seed a healthy attitude towards your customers, start with the reason for which your business exists. In the absence of a meaningful purpose, profit will become the default reason for everything that your business does, and your customers will simply be a means to that end.
And a focus on profit-first leads only to short-termism, self-interest and politics and results in a lesser profit than would otherwise be possible.
No matter what business you may be in, there must be a clearly articulated, lived and righteous reason for being. And that reason can be found in the customer need that your business competes to meet.
In whatever market you have chosen to compete in, your success depends on your business’s ability to deliver a greater customer value than anyone else. And that value is determined by the extent to which you are able you satisfy that customer’s needs.
It may be the best-tasting pizza in the world, the finest tailored clothing or the safest family car to drive; whatever business you may be in, there will exist a meaning that can be purposeful.
Think about how you compete, the need you seek to fulfil, and the value you strive to deliver; and there is the purpose for which your business exists.
And through this succinct and meaningful purpose, your business and everyone working within and with it can draw their attention to the lifting the value they are able to deliver to your customers, outcompeting everyone else in your market. The customer is now seen in a very different light.
Pride Feeds Attitude
Would you prefer to employ someone who works for your business simply because they need a job, and the money is okay, but they’ll walk the moment they find something easier, or would you prefer to employ someone who takes pride in what your business does for the community of customers whose needs they strive to fulfil?
Which employee do you think will respect your customers more?
A meaningful purpose allows someone to take pride in their efforts. And as they begin to respect the jobs they do, their contribution and the outcome achieved, so will they respect and truly value their customers.
A business that respects and values its customers for who they are and not what they may earn from them competes at a very different level to those that seek merely to profiteer. They are able to place their customers-first, which means their needs are at the centre of the business, and everything orientates to this view.
The entire business exists to meet their customers’ needs today and, more importantly, tomorrow. A business that has a relentless focus on the customer is one where its sole reason for existence is meeting its customer needs. Everything is geared to delivering more value to the customer, from which great profits will be earned if done well. Profit is merely one outcome of competing effectively and is certainly not the most important outcome or measure of success.
In a business where a relentless customer focus has been developed and is being sustained, you will likely see:
- A sense of purpose that is clearly connected to the specific needs of customers.
- A motive to compete overriding a profit-first motive.
- That customer need is the focal point of the business and all activity.
- Metrics measure the effectiveness of delivering customer value.
- Rewards are based upon contribution to purpose.
- Decisions are made and assessed by their impact on customer value.
- Growth opportunities are assessed against alignment with purpose.
- Profit performance is measured against that required for sustainability, reinvestment in future customer value, working capital requirements, and the cost of capital including dividends – not against maximisation.
These are businesses that know how to compete and are always stepping ahead of their competitors and outcompeting all those who choose to enter their marketplace.
For a business to be able to place their customer first, they must first respect those customers and their needs. And this respect, seeded and sustained by leadership, lies in how those customers are framed within the culture of the business.
Start with unearthing how your business, at a cultural level, really feels about its customers. Position and strengthen this mental frame around respect and empathy, and that customer will then become centre place in your business, and growth will exceed your wildest dreams.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,