“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” said Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.
Every good organization wants to understand the needs of its customers, keep track of them as the needs keep evolving and ensure that their products and services keep appealing to their customers. How can we get our employees connect more with customers, observe their behaviours, gain insights and collaborate to develop products and services that win in the marketplace?
Right at the Top
Leaders at the top have to set the tone in the organization by demonstrating action that reaffirms the commitment to customers. They need to meet customers regularly, understand how their competitors are responding to customer needs, resolve customer complaints and reward employees for outstanding customer focus.
It is not enough for the leadership team to show the intent and reward the right behaviours. It needs to be felt by the employees each day, their performance indicators have to reflect the customer satisfaction levels or the aspects that the customer is looking for. They have to set up systems to enable the employees capture the insights they pick up from the market and collaborate amongst them to leverage those insights.
Is it the Salesperson’s job?
Normally, it is the sales team who connects with the customers to pick up new orders, service current ones and keep the competition at bay. Thus, it becomes their responsibility to gather insights and bring them back to the organization, particularly to the design and delivery teams. It is not a rarity to see a tension between these teams. Manufacturing or delivery teams feel that the salespeople aren’t able to sell the company’s offerings well enough to the customer. And similarly, the sales team feels that the design and manufacturing teams are unable to keep pace with the dynamics in the marketplace.
To resolve this lack of trust and collaboration, companies have to find a way of getting everyone in the market to listen to the customers’ voice, understand the needs and observe how the customer uses the products and services. While the salespeople would invest the most of their time in the market, the teams in design, manufacturing and delivery need to invest at least 10-20% of their time in the market. Similarly, the sales folks have to spend 10-20% of their time with design, development and operations teams to appreciate internal realities such as technology, raw material, costs, supply chain and so on.
This intervention helps all the teams to unify their view of the external as well as the internal environment, thus optimising their approach to the market.
Let’s enable everyone!
With the advent of technology, building systems and deploying them has become very easy. Customers can raise concerns, seek clarifications and offer suggestions easily. Similarly, employees can easily record their inputs and look up what others have said. With techniques like gamification, employees feel motivated to participate in the process of recording their insights.
Managers should be able to draw the summary of the insights easily and take actions to improve the offerings of the company. On a consistent basis, they need to communicate within the organization about the positive behaviours and the impact delivered on the business. This spurs the employees who have been either passive or uninitiated in the process of customer connect to get started. Further, this helps form a clear idea about the success formula for one’s career growth in the organization and thus, builds the culture of customer focus in the company!