“Customer Service Focused” or “Customer Oriented” -Which best describes your business?

Which best describes your business, “Customer Service Focused” or “Customer Oriented?”

Many people would cite that they build their business around the motto “Customer Service is Job One!” It oftentimes gets tied up into what is called your “value proposition” or that promotional promise that you market to your customers. Understandably, keeping your customers happy is probably the most important job your company has. If customers feel good about your company and the products or services it provides, they will not only be less inclined to switch suppliers, they will be more inclined to increase the amount of business they do with you.

The basic truth in business is that repeat business, from faithful customers, is the business that builds your profit. We have all heard that, statistically, it is much easier to keep a customer and sell other products and services to that customer than it is to gain new customers. So what is the most effective way to gain repeat business? Is it by providing superior customer service or is by being customer oriented? Be careful with your answer, there is a difference between the two terms and nowadays if you fail to understand which is the most important, you will not only fail to create a value promise, but you will fail on delivering it. Your customers will see more of a value cliche because you are disconnected from them and this is what will cause them to go elsewhere leaving yourself and your business to be eaten alive by your competitors who understand what it means to be customer oriented.

You Cannot Hit What You Are Not Aiming At

What does “customer oriented” really mean? Well think of it this way… Consumers travel in different directions when it comes to their needs and wants. You have heard the old saying that “You cannot hit what you are not aiming at” right? In many instances your business could be traveling North when the clients that you are trying to service are actually traveling South. What tends to happen is that you have to steer your company 180° the other direction just to re-orientate to your customer’s needs. Many business owners mistakenly call that “customer service” when in actuality, it is just a massive course correction of your business model. Making those giant course corrections adds strain on your employees and your customers and doing so in the name of “customer service” just simply adds confusion on top of an already trying situation.

I once knew of a window film dealer that specialized in tinting cars. They would regularly advertise that they also sell window film for homes and commercial buildings. The problem was that all of their installers were busy installing film on cars everyday and there was no one that could go out and sell these residential and commercial jobs.  In order for them to sell one of these jobs the owner had to leave his store taking his eye off of his business and drive around giving estimates. When he finally sold a job, the owner would have to pull one of his automotive installers off of the car he was working on at the shop and send him out to install the job.

The problem was very apparent. This company was traveling “North” selling and installing automotive window film. At the same time they were trying to service commercial and residential customers who were traveling in an entirely different direction “South.” It caused all kinds of problems from scheduling conflicts and missed appointments to reduced productivity. Every time the “ball was dropped,” the owner would have to make concessions to his customers in order to fix problems and in his mind this was “customer service” when actuality, it was a failure on the owner’s part to orientate his company so that it could properly service his customers. Sure he was “going the extra mile” but it wasn’t in giving customer service, rather it was an extra mile (and then some!) that he had to travel to catch up with his customer who was going the opposite direction. The problem lied in his whole business plan and execution of that plan. It would have been better to hire a salesperson and a dedicated installer to take care of the residential and commercial customers rather than pulling himself and his automotive staff off of their primary tasks.

Visible Warning Signs That You May Be Lacking In Customer Orientation

  • You lack repeat business and referrals
  • You are pulling employees off of their primary task to do unrelated projects
  • You as the business owner are taking off of you primary task of directing and growing your business in order to do a job that you would normally hire someone to do
  • You are losing money because of massive “course corrections” to chase down new customers
  • Employee moral is low due to disorganization
  • High employee turnover

Determine What Direction Your Customer Is Traveling

How did you answer the original question at the outset of this blog? Is your company “Customer Service Focused” or “Customer Oriented?” If you have any of the above visible warning signs happening in your organization you may be getting a wake up call that you need to re-orientate the direction that your company is focused. This is not simply a philosophical or emotional change that you are being called upon to make. The truth is, it takes a lot more to do this than changing the company vision—it requires a departure from years of tradition, an honest appraisal of who and what your organization is, and a deeper understanding of what motivates your customers to buy from you, or from your competitor. This would include orientating the services that you offer so that they are meeting the needs of your target market. Fortunately, the cost to make this change is surprisingly low, while the benefits and the returns can be incredibly high. Falling back onto old habits -those massive course corrections to capture a customer here and a customer there are only going create problems and this will not get you the repeat business that you were looking for in the first place. Let’s take a brief moment to discuss a few critical things you must do to orientate your company in the same direction as your customers and increase the likelihood of repeat business and customer retention.

Three Critical Steps You Can Take Towards Customer Orientation

  1. Know your customers. Without in-depth insight into your customers, you are unlikely to accurately identify, create and deliver the values that your customers are looking for, and perhaps even waste valuable resources on things that may not matter after all. The more you know about your customers’ individual needs, preferences and priorities, the better you will be in differentiating your treatment towards them resulting in real value creation.
  2. Align Organizational Capabilities. One of the top challenges of any organization is in staying relevant to the customers throughout his/her life time. By understanding the different ways in which your customer ‘experiences’ you, you can align your organizational capabilities to optimize that encounter or relationship.
  3. Empower Your People. Real customer-centricity happens real-time at the point of customer interaction. To avoid another lip-services, organizations need to empower their people – the very medium for building customer relationship. 

Creating a customer orientated organization must lead to something meaningful and it will require sacrifices in these 3 areas to become truly customer orientated. The examples given may not fit your exact business or circumstance but one principle remains the same, that is, if nothing in your business changes then nothing will change. So taking these steps in whatever way you possibly can will put you on the road to building a strong organization that can develop repeat business and grow profitably. In a future blog we will take a closer look at these three critical steps so that you can better understand what you will need to do to for your business.

-Rob Oranges

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