Build a Customer-Focused Culture

An effective customer satisfaction strategy should incorporate three key dimensions of performance – focus, measurement and, environment. And to build this culture, management can implement five steps to move their organization from one that does not take a proactive approach to one that is totally focused on loyalty from a profitable customer base.

In each of the five steps, customer service and satisfaction practices are outlined, measurement tools and techniques and the complementary environment (organization structure and roles) are described. As practices, in each step, are implemented successfully, new practices are added, from subsequent steps, which will help to continuously improve the connection to the customer. The practices become more integrated as the organization moves through each of the steps, bringing more players in to the value chain (suppliers, employees, shareholders, and distributors). Emphasis and assessment move from individual to team performance as organizations progress through the steps.

Step 1: Minimize Hassles

Practices associated with this step are implemented to control the customer as opposed to servicing them. Actions taken are not about the customers but rather about minimizing the cost of servicing them. The organization is volume and cost driven so customer service actions are about fixing problems, reducing errors and backlog, reacting to complaints. Management is focused on short term results so has a low tolerance for mistakes. They believe customers buy from them because of brand recognition, their reliability and their responsiveness to purchase requests.

The organization is internally focused and has a small number of employees with direct customer interface. Employee jobs are highly segmented and customer segmentation is based on locale or product basis.

Step 2: Manage Discontent

The voice of the customer is part of the culture. The management may be volume and cost driven as well as those companies in Step 1 but they include the voice of the customer in their business plans at the business unit level. They work to make the interaction easy targeting ‘best in class’ status. Customer preferences are taken into consideration for product and service changes.

The organization is a place where people and process changes are made and developed to improve the relationship with the customer and reduce dissatisfaction. Although management gives short term results priority, there is consideration given to long term results during the planning stage and customer satisfaction goals are set during annual planning activities.