BIV Boardroom Strategy: Your business strategy needs to focus on what your customers care about

[read time: 4 mins]

As you go about your day-to-day business, it’s easy to get caught up in a flurry of activity that doesn’t really mean a thing to your customer.

Making the decision to be more “customer-focused” is easy, but making the shift toward a customer-focused approach is another story. It requires putting customers at the centre of business decisions, company-wide, and consistently thinking about what you can do to meet or beat your customers’ expectations. It’s not an initiative that can be taken on by one department alone, but one that sees the customer become the driving force behind everything your company does.

A pro-active plan to be more customer-focused can generate trust in your brand and create a partnership between you and your greatest asset: your customers.

Here are five ways to move your strategy toward a customer-focus.

  • Make it authentic. If I had to pick one thing that can either make or break a customer-focused initiative, it’s authenticity. A customer-focused initiative that’s authentic shows up in a corporate culture in different ways. Money, resources, passion and accountability are all powerful signals from management that the customer experience is a priority. It requires getting people passionate about the business you’re really in – so much so that your customers get wrapped up in the experience of doing business with you. Every member of your team is critical to the customer experience.
  • Get everyone on the same page. This might seem like stating the obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Uncover the multiple interpretations of customer-focused initiatives and ensure everyone understands what is required to be truly customer focused. Take a look at cross-departmental initiatives. Do they work together from your customers’ perspective? Limit the initiatives that run counter to your customer focus and reduce the silos by communicating what needs to be done across the organization so customers are not getting lost between departments.
  • Consistently ask, “What’s in it for me?” Evaluate decisions and actions by continuously putting yourself in your clients’ shoes and asking, “What’s in it for me?” Make WIIFM part of your culture, and commit to understanding how everything you do affects your customer. Evaluate goals by asking how they show that you understand and value your customers.
  • Try a new approach. When it comes to customer-focused initiatives, ask yourself: are we doing things this way just because it’s the way we’ve always done it? What used to work, might not work anymore. Are your new initiatives just adjusted versions of things you’ve already tried, with a different name? Make a change. Instead of spending time looking for opportunities to make more money from your customers in the short-term, be on the lookout for opportunities to build loyalty and trust.
  • Turn ideas into action. Two of the best ways to guarantee action on any initiative are relevant resource allocation and metrics. Send a message about what’s important by setting up measures of success that are focused on the customer experience, satisfaction, retention and loyalty – and give them as much value as sales and marketing metrics. Then, consider how your resource allocation might be running counter to your customer-focused initiatives, and rework them to support your efforts.

If you’re looking for inspiration from companies that have excelled at making the customer their No. 1 priority, pick up a copy of The Starbucks Experience or The New Gold Standard (about the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain), both written by Joseph A. Michelli.

Mike Desjardins is the CEO at ViRTUS (www.virtusinc.com), an organizational development consulting firm. This column was co-written by Shannon Lawder, content director at ViRTUS.

Click here for the original article in PDF:  BIV Boardroom Strategy – April 2010 – Customer Experience.

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