Don’t we always look at things from a customer’s point of view?
The sad truth is that we don’t, but we need to. We live in a world which is essentially a buyer’s market where customers reign supreme. One dissatisfied customer tells ten other potential customers causing you to lose market share; one delighted customer becomes your ambassador helping you gain market share. History has shown us that survival depends on being customer-focused, yet it has not become as prevalent as it should be. This blog post examines why we neglect our customer’s needs and suggests a solution.
In many enterprises, employees face a choice: satisfy their customers or satisfy their bosses. In that situation, we know who wins!
In these enterprises, employees believe that their salaries and pay increases come from their bosses. Their department managers are viewed as kings of their kingdom. Employees try to please their boss; try to look good to their boss; defend and support their boss in meetings, even if they KNOW that that position adversely affects customer satisfaction.
The department manager’s mindset is centered on self-preservation. “My department should look the best in the eyes of my superiors. My career depends on it. I better meet my departmental goals and stay within my budget, since budgets are sacrosanct. The problems my people see in my department are my business and therefore, there is no need to share them with others. Let other departments take care of their problems. I don’t want to be bothered by their problems.”
Why do the employees and managers behave this way?
The root causes of this behavior are due to the conventional style of management:
- The notion that we need to manage people to manage output
- The inefficient and short-sighted concept of Management By Objectives (MBO)
In this pay for performance system, an employee’s objectives are aligned with those of their superiors, as per the hierarchical structure. Those who meet their objectives (targets, quotas) are rewarded and those don’t are punished.
Obviously an employee does what is important for him and his boss. The boss is pleased when you help her meet her quota. But, what if that is not what the customers need and expect? The customers are annoyed and unhappy – and they complain. The service department ends up spending countless hours fixing the resulting problems. In the eyes of employees and managers, customer complaints are not their problem; they are somebody else’s problem.
In the conventional thinking, the boss and boss’s boss are the customers. The notion of internal customers is missing; they are not included on the org chart!
These attitudes came from the days of Taylorism. These approaches were perhaps needed in the past, but not anymore.
Management concepts are evolving to incorporate customer focus
The first two of the 6 guiding principles of Business Management are:
- Salaries are paid by satisfied customers
- Results come from processes
Consistent with these principles, high performance enterprises:
- Manage for results – they don’t manage by objectives
- Manage processes – they don’t manage people
If we want to keep earning our salaries, we need to continue to satisfy our customers’ changing expectations. Remember that customers are the reason why you have your job. The super ordinate goal of any enterprise should be the satisfaction of customers (we are no longer in sellers’ market where substandard products could be sold for a profit). Every employee should be sensitized to this fact and should be allowed to take pride in building quality into the product or service. Obviously, top management has a major role to play in making this happen.
What can you do to instill customer focus in your employees?
- Adopt the guiding principles that ‘Salaries are paid by satisfied customers’ and ‘Results come from processes’.
- Adopt a holistic approach. Describe your enterprise’s global process flowchart, as shown below. Map customer expectations into appropriate processes on the global process flowchart.
- Introduce the concept of internal customers of your processes. (More on this in my future posts.)
- Encourage all employees to improve their processes to meet and exceed their internal customers’ expectations.
- When internal customers are satisfied, external customer satisfaction can reach the highest possible levels.
You would be well on your way to transforming your enterprise.