NOTE: This post was originally submitted as guest content on 18 Oct, 2011 for the Balancing Business and Law Blog sponsored by Equinox Law Group
There are many facets to creating a “Customer-First” business culture. Every part of your business should feel responsible for its customers and constantly redesign itself around behaving that way. Three core areas I always focus on are Management, Marketing and Sales, and Operations. These core functions can make high-impact changes that can generate improved customer experiences, better employee morale and higher margins through improved sales. For every major function or process in your business, the question should be asked – “How to I design this around my customer”?
In 2011 businesses are working harder than ever in a tough sales environment to squeeze more profits from their bottom line by improving “productivity”. But by focusing on their own productivity and not their customer’s, they may actually be hurting themselves not only now, but even more when the economy comes back. An example from one of the legends of the high-tech industry, Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita, is instructive. When the Great Depression started in 1929 he had to halve production. Faced with a complete disaster, he took a long view of his business and moved all idle staff to Sales while continuing to pay full salaries. His employees spread out around the country with samples of an innovative new lamp he had invented for bicycles. After leaving one in each of the hundreds of bicycle stores they visited in a visible display location with the light switched on, shop owners could not help but notice how long the batteries powered the light, and demand soon returned allowing him to restore production to beyond its previous levels. Matsushita had demonstrated an ability to make his customer more productive by offering superior value in the worst economic environment possible.
Fast forward to 2011, and business models where customers are perceived to be a lesser priority than profits still abound. Call up a business you patronize and you are likely going to be greeted by a computer voice that might even have the audacity to ask you 4-5 questions and require you to say a list of numbers out loud before you can reach a live voice. Clearly you are dealing with a business that has determined that their productivity matters more than yours. Your time, their money. As you engage with all kinds of businesses during your day, thinking about your own productivity as a customer will illuminate dozens of examples for you. But turn that around to your own business and try to see it through your customer’s eyes – are you making them more productive?