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Customer Focus in a Slow Economy

By Eric Fraterman

“The issue is not that service is poor, but that the promised and necessary great service is harder than ever to deliver! ”

Enhance your Customers’ Experience and sharpen your Customer Focus to differentiate your organization and build long-term loyalty and profitability.

If you need help, check out our book, That’s Customer Focus!: The Overworked and Under-appreciated Managers Guide to Creating a Customer-Focused Organization.

Everything you need know and do to create and implement your strategy is covered in this great book. 

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Michael Hepworth, in a Canadian Marketing Association publication, provides some facts in support of the Fast Company report :

So what are companies doing to resolve this issue? Today too many company leaders spend their time and resources looking for magical technology solutions. I call this “The Great System Seduction.” Since we live in an age of “real time” and “1-to-1 marketing,” the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems business is burgeoning . However, a good system does not equal good service. The European Centre for Customer Strategy predicts that future CRM effectiveness will be assessed less through hard measures and more through the stories people tell about a company. This means companies must give the customer distinctive service experiences so they will become advocates, telling stories to their friends and colleagues.

Only if your people are ‘turned on’ will you generate such legends!

The disappointing reality is that the human element is frequently overlooked at the expense of the systems challenges. Enduring and real customer service success requires a passion for people—both employees and customers. Author Jim Clemmer observes, “Too many managers treat ‘their people’ as assets with skin wrapped a round them.”

Debra Fields, president of the highly successful Mrs. Fields Cookies, expresses the flip side: “Customer service does not come from a manual or a system… It comes from the heart. When it comes to taking care of the customer you can never do too much and … there is no wrong way if it comes from the heart!” In other words, we need a balance between managing things from the head and leading people from the heart.

While rational strategy is essential, emotional intelligence accounts for as much as 70% of the personal and organizational success factor. The fundamental problem is that most business leaders are not “pathological” about customer service and do not believe passionately in it as a key differentiator. One of my clients (a president who used the word “pathological” in his communications and speeches about customer service) was successful in making service excellence happen and royally reaped the commercial benefits. He did not just make the rational strategy case for it, but he lived it from his hear . Unfortunately there are too few leaders like that. For many, the distance between head and heart is far greater than the typical 16 inches… and therein lies the root cause of customers’ continuing disappointment with the service they receive .

But if the customer is king, why are so many companies still behaving like republicans instead of royalists? There is often misalignment between the people and the systems in place to manage them.

The challenge for today’s business leaders is to put their people front and center; to pursue short - term results while continuously aligning  technology, work processes and structure a round the people to enable them to become customer-focused in all aspects of operation. After all, a sharper customer focus means a sharper competitive edge.

T h e re are two lessons in this:

  1. M o re organizations need to think longer and harder about the people factor in customer service,


  1. They must also pay fanatical attention to managing each customer touch-point. This is serious and hard work. Being “pathological” about customer service demands passion fro m leaders. They must be pre pared to walk the talk, be patient, pay attention to customer detail, and constantly work on people-and customer-focused alignments. Only then, when they have become “pathological” about customer service, will business leaders truly be able to say “Everyone wants to do business with me.”

Eric specializes in customer-focus consulting. He helps clients achieve increased customer-focus and operational effectiveness by ensuring that externally the voice of the customer is captured and is effectively deployed intern ally, so that business operations, people and supporting processes work together to deliver customer-value. The resultant improved customer service, strengthened customer loyalty, organizational alignment and increased employee commitment give clients a sharper competitive edge.