|Real Customer Focus is Difficult|
- 1. Higher Customer Expectations – Customers are becoming very demanding. They now expect almost everything: Low costs, high quality, excellent functionality, perfect solutions, and so forth. And this trend is not letting up! So you must constantly find ways to improve and do things better, knowing that customers will demand more and more going forward.
- 2. Shifting Flows – Customer preferences will shift as people migrate and age. Economic and cultural trends will impact how people buy products and services. The market is very much psychologically driven and trying to unravel this can be quite daunting.
- 3. Abundance of Choices – Years ago we all had limited choices when it came to products and services. Now you see incredible specialization and niche marketing, providing customers with a wide range of products, features, and services.
- 4. Intense Competition – The world of global competition has given rise to an extremely intense competitive environment. As long as a company has access to the global community of resources (programmers in India , designers in Italy , low cost manufacturing in China ), then it really doesn't matter where the business is located at.
- 5. Innovative Improvements – A static product or service without innovative improvements is at risk. You can't simply continue to provide the same identical value proposition to the customer over and over again. It must evolve and change to meet changing requirements and needs of customers.
All of this can be quite challenging, but there are ways of making your business customer focused. For example, you will need great people on the front lines dealing with customers in a personal way and great products and services with strong underlying support from marketing, distribution and other logistical processes. All parts have to work together – product development, marketing, customer support, and any organizational unit that plays a role in touching the customer. An enterprise wide approach is needed since you want to great customer service to become a core value for the business.
You should also put emphasis on things that move from just customer satisfaction to customer loyalty. For example, creating a brand that customers identify with can help set your product or service apart from the many choices in the marketplace. Another trend that appears helpful is one-stop shopping. For example, people want convenience such as shopping at Wal-Mart to easily purchase everything they need. Therefore, you will need to have easy access for executing sales and service after the sale. People want the “whole package” and not just a small piece of the package unless you are highly specialized and extremely good at what you do. Accessibility and availability are now important factors behind servicing customers. Just walk into any airport, food store or bank - you see customers getting tickets from machines, not from the ticket agent, people using self-checkout at food stores, and conducting bank business through an automated teller machine. These new tech-interfaces have become part of the new reality of customer access and service.
If you expect to service customers really well then you'll need a lot of feedback systems in place – tracking customer satisfaction ratings, internal statistics and measures, market research, and quality control processes. Also, don't be reluctant to drop bad customers – they tend to prevent your company from focusing on the good customers. You want to assign your best people to your best customers – this is the fertile ground for customer loyalty (the ultimate goal).
Finally, many companies are implementing formal customer relationship management systems to pull all of this together. A comprehensive system can be powerful for analyzing and transforming information into intelligence. This can help lead to predictive type planning by customer segments using rather formal tools such as Behavior Maps. All of this gets back to not just technology, but the ability to listen, learn, adapt and predict what you must do to better service your customers.