How many of you have ever made the statement, "We are a customer-driven organization"?
Most of us like to believe that we make all of our decisions for the benefit of the customers we serve. How many of us espouse a customer-focused mentality where the customer is "king"?
If this is true, why is there such an abysmal absence of good customer service in this world? How many times has service you were to receive fallen short of its mark? If organizations are "driven" by what their customers want and need, why do they continue to fall short of those same customers' expectations?
I would like to have you consider a term that frequently gets confused with "customer-driven" and that is "customer-led."
What's the difference? Glad you asked!
Being customer-driven means understanding the wants of your customer and delivering what they need. Customers are (rightly so) focused on their specific issues and are not concerned with the priorities of your other clients. Nor are they empathetic to the issues internal to your organization. When you are truly a customer-driven organization, you must be focused on the specific needs-based issues of EACH of your customers. You must prioritize the needs of each client, balanced with your primary objective for your business. (Do I need to say profit and growth?)
Continuous Quality Improvement is defined as conforming to agreed upon requirements. This means that both you and your customers must agree to the requirements. If you only give in to each customer's "demand", where does that take you? It takes you to a "customer-led" environment of trying to serve multiple masters, placing you and your customers in a no-win situation, particularly as your organization grows.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Change your mindset. Decide that you want to be in charge....not your customers. Be clear on what you are trying to achieve and which of your customers are essential to that achievement.
Understand that everything is negotiable. You (and your customer) must come to an understanding of what can be done and what the tradeoffs are. Not every customer can have what they want, each and every time. We must provide what they need.
Analyze and take action. Determine why you are not fulfilling customer needs and devise processes that meet the needs that have been clearly defined.
Have courage. Be willing to stand up to demanding clients when they are being unreasonable. Your employees look to you to advocate for them.
Realize that all business is not good business. It takes a truly professional organization to determine when certain clients need to be "fired". Are they paying their bills? Do they treat your people with respect? Do they reward you with business where you can make a reasonable profit?
Being customer-driven is a wonderful mantra when it is properly executed. Being customer-led is a lose/lose proposition that will become increasingly difficult to fulfill as your organization grows. Be sure you know the difference and lead your team to provide top service for your customers.
To Your Success!