High performance organisations require and demonstrate excellent customer focus. But what makes the difference between creating a customer-focused strategy and being a really customer focused organisation?
Browsing in a shop recently, I was approached by a sales associate, who greeted me politely. He asked questions, presented purchasing options and smiled appropriately. Eye contact, body language and listening skills were exemplary – text-book in fact. Eventually I selected a product I liked, he walked me to the cash desk, thanked me for my custom and I paid and left the store.
I knew such an experience should have generated a warm feeling of customer satisfaction. But it didn’t. It left me feeling cold – a reaction that startled me.
As I walked away from the store, I reflected on what was missing. Our interaction lacked a real sense of engagement – it felt robotic, automated. In short, it felt like he was doing customer focus – acting his part, following the script, delivering the sales process. But he wasn’t being customer focused. Where was the authenticity, presence, warmth, sincerity?
Many organisations perceive customer service as an act, selecting words, music and dance that help associates perform effectively. Associates are provided with a script to rehearse their lines, before going on stage to perform for their audience. For the organisation, this establishes service standards and helps us to measure employees against them. But what does it do for the relationship with customers – especially if they realise it’s all an act?
Customer focus is about sincere interactions that value external and internal customers. People managers therefore have a responsibility to role model genuine customer focus to their customers – their people.
One of the most authentic (and effective) CEOs I’ve known was head of a life assurance company. He genuinely engaged with his 300+ employees at a human level. He helped them understand that when people made a claim, it was because they were critically ill or had recently lost a loved one. So the most important thing they could do was treat every customer like it was their closest friend or family member… because one day, it might be. By getting to know his people, focusing on their needs and engaging with them authentically, his people learned to treat customers the same way.
1. If internal customer conversations and relationships are transactional, then external customer conversations and relationships remain transactional too.
2. If your focus is on the process of managing people, rather than building a real understanding of your team as individuals, then your employees will manage the process of service and sales rather than truly engaging customers.
3. If your culture and values say that meeting targets is most important, then that’s what people will pay attention to. Your people reflect your values and culture outwards.
4. If your internal customers have a sense of customer satisfaction OR dissatisfaction from your customer focus, they will pass this on to external customers.
So, ask yourself the question… how authentic are your customer service initiatives?