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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Are You Focused on Your Customers? If Not, Why Not?

Most organisations forget, or worse, don't even realise, that the customer is always thinking “what’s in it for me” and then go on to measure "what's in it for them" using lagging key indicators such as profit, sales and debtor days when looking at their numbers.

These measure what has happened in the past rather than what is going to happen in the future. 

Managing the business by focusing on past performance is much the same as driving a car by looking into the rear-view mirror. The challenge is to create value for the customer and find ways to measure "what's in it for the customer."

Remember also that performance is not necessarily linked to financial results.  An unsolicited telephone call before a delivery or a small something extra means far more and is more likely to be remembered.  That is the ultimate objective; to be remembered when orders are being placed and the unusual signifies more than the obvious.

There is a tale, possibly apocryphal, of a UK business that ordered some components from a Japanese supplier and for the first time.  When the delivery arrived there was a mysterious bag of components included and when this was investigated turned out to be a small number of rejected items.

On further investigation the supplier said that the specification had laid down an accuracy level of 98% so “we sent them to you in the bag.  We had to make them specially as we never send items that are outside accuracy limits.”  That is the way to be remembered.

Future customer-focused key indicators are by far the best means for determining the direction in which your company is going and there are many which can come under that heading. 

A typical example is on-time delivery that is an excellent indicator of how well your company is currently functioning. If all of the operations are running smoothly, there's a good chance that on-time delivery is within acceptable parameters. 

The key here is under promise and over deliver. In other words give a realistic and rather conservative estimate of delivery time, and then beat it. A neat point is to call the customer to say that you’re sorry but you plan to deliver a day or two early – will that be alright?

Another key indicator is the time you take to answer an enquiry. Customers and clients will take your speed of response as an indication of your interest in their enquiry and after all, their enquiry is what matters to them.

Professional firms can be noticeably lax in their response to clients’ enquiries and actually delivering on the “I’ll call you back in a couple of hours” is often a vain hope.

Remember that the client or customer assesses everything on the WIIFM basis – that is, What’s In It For Me? How will I benefit from this, not how will YOU benefit. Accordingly make sure that your Key Performance Indicators are not lagging but leading, that is, are customer focused not past performance focused.

It is, of course, essential that you measure everything and keep records of what happens. It will mean the collection of new forms of data as well as the normal monitoring of the financial numbers but the effort is well worthwhile. Do it well, and the financials will demonstrate the value of what you are doing.

Ivan J Goldberg, author, professional writer, content producer
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