What is your business centered on? Investors, competition, innovation, or customers? The rule of the game is to follow the money. Sure, it comes from all these motives, but it springs from customers buying your offerings.
When customers quit buying, all the rest becomes irrelevant. Centering your business on customers is therefore the logical choice.
Growth is the name of the game in business. It’s the measure of health. Growth can be inorganic via acquisitions or organic via demand. Organic growth means an upward trajectory set in motion without ongoing stimuli.
How can both profit and revenue grow organically? By getting things right the first time and consistently. The definition of “right” is determined by customers, the source of organic demand.
The term "customer-centered" may be more pure and powerful rather than customer-centric or customer-driven. "Driven" is overused. It seems everyone wants their pet topic to be the driver for the company: market-driven, project-driven, revenue-driven, design-driven, etc. "Centric" is misunderstood. It seems some managers view customer-centricity as kowtowing to customers’ every whim, such as making everything free. In reality, customers want you to be successful so you can make them successful on an ongoing basis. At least your target customers do!
Customer-centered means that your management decisions and actions in all facets of your business are centered on customers’ well-being as the path to your well-being.
"Well-being" is a balance of generosity and discipline. The well-being of your body requires sufficient rest balanced with exercise and a moderate diet. The well-being of a child requires a balance of recreation, learning, and structure. When customers’ well-being is great they make fewer demands on your company and they are eager to engage in mutual value creation.
Customer well-being requires a balance between the benefits they receive from your company and the collective costs they incur: money, time, effort and stress.
The idea of customer-centered business may feel foreign: something you’ve never experienced. It may be mysterious: you’re unsure of how to shift from investor-centered, competition-centered, or innovation-centered management. Or you may claim to be customer-centered already: double-check your assumptions by asking customers whether you’re really customer-centered.
This article is the first of a 12-part series to examine 10 keys to customer-centered business for sustainable organic growth. Here’s a preview of these 10 keys to success:
1. Goals — Sharing the Vision
- What’s customer-centered: Corporate objectives stated within the context of what your primary target market wants, and every department’s objectives following suit.
- Why it matters: Goals set the stage for the way people think and do; hence, your company’s and your customers’ productivity, costs and goodwill are at stake.
2. Values — Walking the Talk
- What’s customer-centered: Customers’ well-being overarching your list of corporate values, and as the reality for what gets people ahead or not.
- Why it matters: Regardless or what you declare as your brand promises customers will see your company in terms of your people’s behaviors.
3. Structure — Nurturing the Ecosystem
- What’s customer-centered: Reporting, rituals (planning, funding, reviewing, etc.), and internal logistics orchestrated to help employees help customers achieve their goals.
- Why it matters: Outside-in must be through-and-through — not skin-deep — for your company to achieve its full potential.
4. Processes — Preventing Silos
- What’s customer-centered: Universality, collaboration and customer well-being built-in and audited regularly among all types of processes company-wide.
- Why it matters: Re-work, delays, scrap and morale costs for the company and for customers stem from processes out of sync with customer well-being.
5. Policies — Empowering Growth
- What’s customer-centered: Internal and external rules audited regularly for customer well-being in simplifying access and use of your offerings.
- Why it matters: Customers migrate to the path of least resistance; creating hassles for customers causes unnecessary costs and churn risks.
6. Motives — Driving Win-Win Attitudes
- What’s customer-centered: Rewarding prevention of hassles and creation of mutual value, both formally and informally, as top success criteria.
- Why it matters: Criteria for promotions, raises, hiring, bonuses, budget expansion and recognition drive behavior even more than goals and values.
7. Engagement — Collaborating for Results
- What’s customer-centered: Cross-functional teamwork in preventing recurrence of customers’ hassles and in creating mutual value.
- Why it matters: Having a hand in making the company popular is a higher purpose that unifies employees and propels their productivity and tenure.
8. Improvement — Preventing Issue Recurrence
- What’s customer-centered: Identifying and resolving patterns and root causes of value diminishers for the entire customer base’s well-being.
- Why it matters: Chronic issues drain your company’s and customers’ precious funds, resources and morale, with numerous negative ripple effects.
9. Innovation — Creating Mutual Value
- What’s customer-centered: Empowering customers to achieve their goals with greater satisfaction in a win-win approach.
- Why it matters: Value creation is the surest path to differentiation and ongoing growth.
10. Momentum — Embedding Within Your DNA
- What’s customer-centered: Weaving customer-centered thinking and doing in everything the company does.
- Why it matters: Embedded customer-centered management ensures its ongoing legacy and your company’s ongoing differentiation, value-generation and organic growth.
Centering your business on customers means nothing is done in a vacuum: customers’ realities are the context for everything everyone does. Customer-centered business means your rituals and decision-making honor customers’ realities and needs as the pathway to meeting the needs of every stakeholder: employees, investors, partners, community, etc. This puts the horse before the cart. Feed the hand that feeds you and you will be fed.
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