Numerous theoretical studies are conducted all the time to prove that to gain sustainable competitive advantages, the company must maintain constant customer focus. The goal of any business is customer satisfaction. Indeed, companies that are clearly oriented towards the customer needs achieve clear competitive advantage over firms that ignore this approach.
A few weeks ago, I was giving a technology presentation to a prospect. I have known this guy for over 10 years and for whatever reason he trusts me. I always wondered why is that? Does he trust everyone, or is there something else? So I asked him point blank, “Why do you trust me?” His response was surprisingly simple, “Many years ago I had a technical issue. I called the Customer Service of the company you worked for at the time and they did nothing to help me; they were too quick dismiss that there was even something wrong. When I called you personally, you dropped everything. You listened and took care of the problem. You made me feel like I am the only customer you have and my business is important to you.”
He went on and on about trust and servicing customers. And then he said, “Your new company is very young, the technology seems promising, but I am worried about putting my revenue-generating core business applications on it. Why don’t we do this – let’s break something on purpose and call your support center. I want to see how they handle it. If I am going to transition to your product, I must evaluate your support as much as I test the product.” And he did. Reduxio Systems Support lived up to his expectations – the response was stellar, the data was collected, analyzed and solution proposed in a very short time. The fix was applied and the usually dreaded Root Cause Analysis (RCA) report was submitted in less than 30 minutes from the time we dropped off the conference bridge. It was detailed, but concise and to-the-point. Mind you, I was not allowed to speak during the conference call and alert the Support Team what was going on. He looked at me and declared, “I want to do business with your company; your Support is awesome!”
Wait, what?! Support?! What about the product and all the cool features? Needless to say, I was shocked by his brutal honesty. But it also made me think about the culture of customer service in general. Many companies talk about how great their culture is and they show off a plaque of their values in the main lobby of the corporate headquarters for everyone to see. But there is a big difference between listing the values and actually living them. When company is small and everyone knows everyone, the culture is easy to maintain – people are driven by the goal of survival and making their company great. You can dream, right? Usually, with like thinking and motivation, the group attitude is positive and everyone has each other’s back. The hiring process usually means all team members getting together and discussing a candidate to make sure that aside from the technical capability (which can be taught) and attitude (which cannot be taught), the person is a good cultural fit.
As companies grow in size and new people come on board, the culture is harder to maintain. New people bring their experiences, values and attitudes. Some bring bad culture with them. Bad culture doesn’t require any effort – all of a sudden, the candor is gone, finger-pointing and backstabbing become the new norm. Just like cancerous cells destroy the body, bad culture ruins great companies that miss the early signs…
We all know that building something outstanding takes a tremendous amount of effort and discipline that must be fueled by passion and belief. Dr. Alan Zimmerman, an international expert, author, and keynote speaker on Attitude, Communication and Leadership, once said: “ALL excellence, including excellence in customer service, involves a tremendous amount of discipline that is fueled by a great deal of passion ".
Despite the understanding of the importance of this approach, many managers only pay lip service to the actual need for following the appropriate policies. Doing it in real world is even more challenging. Therefore, only a few firms actually pursue and promote a policy of focusing on the customer.
If you really want to build a world-class company, there are few things that need to be emphasized and religiously followed by everyone – managers, executives and employees alike.
First of all, take care of your customers. Everyone knows the famous quote by Sam Walton of Walmart, “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.” I know that there are rules and policies in place. Have an open mind, make sure to take care of your customer. I am not suggesting doing something that is illegal or unethical. All I am saying is solve your customer’s problems by all means necessary. Look at it through their eyes and from their perspective– it will help you better understand and find a solution.
Second of all, take care of your teammates. Bill Marriott says, "If we take care of each other, we will be able to take better care of our guests."
Third, be proud of what you do. If you are not passionate about what you do and it feels like a burden, then find something else to spend your time on.
The next thing is to never stop improving. You are not perfect; keep learning and you will get even better. Accept criticism and use it to improve yourself.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that we, as a company, have to be there for our customers well after the equipment has been paid for and installed. We must treat our customers with the same attention and interest we gave them when we were trying to sell the solution to them. I know technological advances are important and innovation is the key, but we all will live and die by the way we take care of our customers.