Putting A “Face” To Our Customers

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As sales people, we work with customers every day. We see them, we’re in their offices, we talk to them. They’re very real (sometimes too real) to us. Customers–each of them—are very important to us. Sometimes, it’s frustrating, people in our companies don’t seem to be as customer focused as we are.

Many of the people we work with aren’t as sensitive to customers as we are. Part of it is they are busy doing their jobs, part of it may be they may not understand how what they do impacts the customer experience, part of it is simply that the customer is probably an abstract concept to them.

We talk about customers in our organizations all the time, but we refer to them as faceless entities, “General Motors,” “Bank Of America,” “IBM,” “Verizon,” or Company XYZ. It’s hard for us to relate to an entity, but that’s how all of us tend to talk about customers. These are entities without a personality. We never talk about Bill, Sue, Joe, Lauren, Amir, or Deborah. People within our companies don’t know how Robin is using our products and why they are important to her. Or how the results produced through our services bailed Jim out, making him a hero to his customers.

It’s magic how people’s attitudes toward the customer change when they can put a face to the customer. When the customer is transformed from an account or an entity to a real live human being, it’s hard not to be concerned with the customer. When you know who the customer–the individual—is, what she looks like, what he’s responsible for, how our products help her do her job, the relationship changes. It’s not a faceless entity, but an individual trying to do his or her job, trying to achieve their goals, trying to reach their dreams–and they need our products to do this.

Walk into a truly customer centric company and you see the “faces” of customers everywhere. Their pictures and stories are in the halls, conference rooms are named after customers (individuals not entities), customers are invited to participate in meetings, there always seems to be a customer visiting and talking to people in the company.

In reviews and meetings, they talk about customers as people. Rather than saying “we saw this when we visited XYZ Corp,” customer centric companies say “Jill at XYZ Corp has a problem doing this, I’ve seen Dean at ABC, and Yuegang at DEF have the same issues….” When we make decisions, we know the impact on Robert, Kelly, and Juan.

Want to be more customer focused? Then put a face to your customers. Rather than talking about corporations and entities, talk about people. Celebrate the customer with pictures and stories in your halls and conference rooms, invite them to visit you. Talk about them in your meetings. You’ll be amazed at how attitudes change.


As the new year approaches, take some time to re-assess your selling process. Make sure it’s updated and aligned with your customers’ buying processes. For a free eBook and self assessment, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected], ask for the Sales Process eBook

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Dave, you raise a good point about the importance of personalizing the customer; brining them down to a human level.

    Can you share some of the specific intiatives that you’ve seen companies undertake, to get employees to see “customers” on this more personal and human level?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. Jim: Great question, there are lots of interesting things–and some real failures that I’ve seen people do. First, the organization has to be genuinely interested in their customers, improving their understanding of customers, and creating value for customers.

    Being customer centric is not a fashion statement. Being truly customercentric is a core value and a key element of the culture of the organization. For customer centric organizations, these suggestions can help, for non-cusotmercentric organizations going through the motions, these will be hollow and backfire.

    Having given the disclaimer:

    1. Customer councils/user groups.
    2. Inviting customers to customer facilitities to present to all employees/suggested groups.
    3. Pictures and stories of customers–people in hallways. Not just executives, but users at all levels.
    4. Customers as part of your product development teams.
    5. Executive/customer contact programs.
    6. Customer sponsors or advocates for key intiitatives.
    7. Customer satisfaction surveys that have teeth and real meaning.
    8. Measuring people on customer experience/satisfaction/service.
    9. Using customer names, people, in disucssions, rather than abstract terms.

    It’s dozens of little things, consistently and continously executed that have an impact.

    Thanks for the great question.

  3. Dave, thanks for the quick response.

    In reading through your list, I’m reminded of something that Zappo’s does to inculcate their entire employee population with the customer-focus factor:

    Every new employee, regardless of their position (even a Sr. Legal Counsel) is required to spend time in the call center, on calls with real customers.

    And one that’s closer to home:
    I once worked for a software company that included a 30-day “internship” for every new customer-facing employee. That internship was 30 days working for a customer in several capacities that involved regular use of the product. Through this internship, every employee gained a very deep empathy for the customer, their challenges, and our solutions. And indicentally, that company was the market leader.

    Thanks again for the ideas.

    Jim

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