Focus on the stars; be more customer centric

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Here’s a quick astronomy lesson on how stars are formed. (No, you haven’t stumbled on to the wrong blog—bear with me….)

When swirling particles of gas and dust clump together they create a gravitational pull that draws in other particles and clumps. The self-perpetuating process creates an ever-growing gravitational mass that becomes proportionately denser and hotter. When it becomes hot enough for nuclear fusion to occur, the star is born. (Or something like that—no doubt, Carl Sagan could have explained it better.)

So, how does this apply to business? You’ve likely heard the term “customer centricity,” which can mean a variety of strategies, tactics and ideas. But I’d like to focus on the bedrock of this concept: How to create a gravitational core in your company that is so customer centric that every aspect of your business operations gravitates toward it.

  • Hire a few stars of your own. Your employees make a big impression on customers. They can make or break customer relationships. It’s important to get clear on what skills you need in your front-line employees (the ones that have direct contact with customers). Who are you hiring? Focus on what talents you most need to grow and sustain a focus on customers (not just “how things have been done” in this industry). One thing I’ve learned in hiring customer service staff is that you can’t train someone to be friendly and nice, you can only train people in hard skills such as computer or system usage.
  • How do you create financial incentives and reward employees? Often, company rewards are based on new sales. That creates a culture of focusing heavily on new customers at the expense of investing in existing customer relationships. If that is the case with your company, consider how you could create incentives for employees based on retention too. Consider how other incentives might affect customer relationships. For example, when I first took over an internal customer service call center the reps had an incentive to restrict calls to two minutes. Result? Some reps hung up on customers after 2 minutes!
  • What are the common metrics at the company? What is talked about in meetings? Is it just sales or percentage increases or customer satisfaction numbers? Push yourself for stronger, yet more specific, metrics. Jeanne Bliss, a customer culture expert and speaker, suggests your “customer math” include the number of customers in and the number of customer out (from her book Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action). I love her idea of getting 2 bowls and putting white marbles in one bowl (new customers), and black marbles in the other (customers lost). Using percentages doesn’t have nearly the same impact.

Start focusing on some of these principles, you’ll become a star in your own business-sector constellation.

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