Many of you are good at being Customer focussed, and are Customer Experts. How can you become an outstanding Customer expert? You just need to follow a few steps given below.
1. Understand what Customers Value and related Customer Tools
First, understand what Customers value and why they buy from you and from your competitors. What is important in their buying decision? To do this you have to understand Customer Value, its terminology, its usage, its advantage both for quantitative metrics such as Customer Value Added and mind–set changes and implementation of Customer Value techniques such as Customer Strategy, Customer-Centric Circles, Customer Bill of Rights and the Circle of Promises, Zero complaints etc. You must use Total Customer Value Management (Total CVM) effectively. If you are following some of these, you are already on your way.
In summary, understand Customers and what they value, and have the mind-set to add greater value to them than competition.
So let us look at these items in some detail:
What do Customers Value? Value is what something is worth to a Customer. What is it that he finds in your products and services that is better than competition? Is it the product, or the price or the cost of doing business, your people, or your brand? We soon start to understand where we are better and where we are worse. Obviously we need to communicate where we are better, and work on improving where we are worse.
We also should be able to figure out what is most important to the customer in his buying decision. What are other important factors? Why?
Customer Strategy: Do you have a Customer strategy? Can you develop one at your level? How do we understand the Customer’s expectations? How do we deliver on these? Simplistically, let’s say the Customer expects the service person to come to his home on time. How do we ensure this happens, so that the Customer is not kept waiting or bets anxious? As you look at this case by case, you will develop ways of using your understanding of the Customer to give him a better experience and create better value for him.
Customer Centric Circles: Just like you yourself are getting deeply involved with the Customer through understanding him and giving him better offerings through this knowledge, you would like your front line people to deliver more. You cannot whip them into a team (like one does with carriage horses) and expect them to perform or move faster. It is better for us to give them a chance to think about the Customer and his needs based on the experience your front line people have gained over the years. On reflection of this knowledge of Customers, they will come up with what to do for the Customer, and make him happier. They will suggest easy wins that makes a Customer feel good. Suddenly you will have a team that thinks about the Customer and is willing to go the extra mile for him.
The Customer’s Bill of Rights: Your Company may or may not have a Customer’s Bill of Rights. You can make one for reference if there isn’t one. You can pretend to be the Customer and ask what my reasonable rights are as a Customer. Then work on delivering these rights yourself and through your team. You can build a Circle of Promises with your team so that there is reasonable assurance that the Customer will get his rights.
Now you have started a Continuous Customer Improvement Program, and if you ensure mistakes are corrected systemically, you will start to reach a Zero Complaints thinking.
As you reflect on all this, you will realise that your mind-set has changed and that you are becoming a great Customer expert.
2. Know more than your Colleagues and be recognised as the Customer Expert
With your understanding, two things will happen. You will have more knowledge than your colleagues. You can start using some of the knowledge proactively. Using more of your knowledge will require your educating and helping your colleagues and bosses, and slowly the Total CVM program will take hold. But certainly start where you can with what is within your control. First change yourself and your thinking. Unlearn old ideas. Bring in the new ones.
Remember, to be effective, you must break silos, have team work with all departments in offering the Customer a seamless experience and enhanced value. Some of this you can impact, and some of this will happen because your bosses will believe you, have greater faith in you and give you greater responsibility.
3. It’s all about Mind-set and Attitude
To be successful, you must have the right mind-set. You know that when you are in your company or your mind is focussed on your functional job, you are trained to think like an executive, and not like a Customer. Once in a while, take of your executive hat and wear your Customer hat. See and feel the difference. Inculcate a Customer mind-set. Help your front line people with a Customer attitude and mind-set. Just don’t keep training them on skills. Help them into a self-education and a self-reflection way of learning. Let them tell you what they want to do for the Customer. Help them in this process by incorporating Customer Centric Circles.
A great feeling for the Customer and doing the right thing for him/her will emerge. Combine this thinking with Customer friendly processes.
4. Go from being a Functional Manager to being a Value Creator
All this learning will move you from being a functional manager to being a Value Creator. Consciously create value and think of ways to do this for yourself and the Customer. You will then create more value for yourself, and create value for others, who in return will create value for you.
Recall that a Customer Expert creates Value for the eco-system: for himself, his colleagues, his employees, his partners, supply chain and delivery chain, society and for the shareholder, and thereby for the Customer.
5. Join Associations and Learn from Others
You have to be on a continuous learning and awareness program. So much is changing. Processes are changing. AI is coming in. Cost cutting and other corporate moves will force you to think of better ways to achieve your Customer goals. One such way is to learn from others, your competition and peers.
Join associations like Customer Value Creation International, Customer Think, and Linked in sites such as the Journal of Creating Value. Interact with Customer Value Foundation and others. Join LinkedIn groups such as Journal of Creating Value.
Learn from others. Become leaders of next practices. Do not just seek best practices.