I’ve recently seen an onslaught of marketing campaigns that feature companies trumpeting their commitment to customers. Really? Without customers you can’t have a company.
That customers are number one should be a foregone conclusion. It is a tenet integral and implicit to the existence and success of an organization. It doesn’t require a campaign to make it so. Generally speaking, if a company is shouting from the rooftops at customers telling them they are important, one or more of its internal functions isn’t customer savvy.
As an entrepreneur and leader, you create the values for every function within your organization. These five tips can help you keep, or put, customers front and center in all key areas within your company.
Related: How Right Should the Customer Be?
1. The corner office. As CEO and president, it can be easy to lose sight of the customer. Do so at your own peril.
Customers can provide keen insights into many aspects of your organization. Get out in the field. Build regularly scheduled customer visits into your routine. Solicit direct, unfiltered feedback regarding every aspect of your company: sales, customer service, product and back office functions. Put mechanisms in place to act on the information you gain.
Seek the same type of input from your sales people, without management in the middle. Expect brutal honesty from those on the front lines. Without it, you lose the customer’s voice. Build a culture where people are confident feedback is valued and issues are resolved.
2. Product development. A product that’s informed only by an internal vision will fail. The customer’s imprint should be all over your products. Every time you meet with R&D or product development to discuss progress, ask: “how is this offering going to impact the customer?” “What difference will it make in their life?”
If the team can’t answer those questions, ask why are you building the product? Anticipate how the user will interact with the product. How many clicks does it take to use the most popular feature? Then, make it even easier.
3. Training and support. If your product requires a lot of training and support, it is likely a sign that it is too complex and sucking up valuable resources from you and your customers.
Companies of all sizes fall prey to the “more is better” myth for features and functions. Actually, most customers crave simplicity. Use your training or customer support teams to learn how customers, ideally in beta, interact with your product, what features and functions they use, how often and under what circumstances.
If you design products with the customer in mind, your products will be easier to use, and your customers will thank you for minimizing training time.
4. Hiring. Don’t just hire the slickest resume. Prospective hires can have stellar resumes, be super smart, have run huge operations and big budgets, but be “customer clueless.” What have they have done in their careers to ensure customer happiness?
When interviewing a potential product manager, for example, you should ask, “how do you spend an unexpected free block of time?” If the answer focuses on catching up on administrative tasks, or doing an ops review, you should pass. If you hear, “I spend time on the sales floor” or “I go on a customer visit,” the candidate is worth another look.
Lean toward the candidate who exudes an “I want to know what the customer wants” attitude.
5. Back office. Bring your back office into the customer-centric dialogue. Customer facing managers should meet with back office staff to explain how their roles are linked to the organization’s overall success. Describe or demonstrate the ways in which back office work directly impacts the customer. Brainstorm ways to improve.
There’s a strong link between customer and employee satisfaction. When back office professionals feel they are integral to a customer’s happiness, they become more passionate about, and interested in, their jobs.
View every aspect of your business from your customers’ vantage point, including those areas you may not consider customer-facing. Listen to your customers. You will be surprised by what you learn. If you put that knowledge into action, you won't feel a need to shout to your customers from the rooftops.
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.