The Coach’s Challenge for 1/13/13 “Who’s your customer?”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about the importance of focusing on your customer. “Customer” comes from Middle English and is defined as “a person who purchases goods or services from another.” The Middle English word is derived from the Latin word consuescere, which means “to accustom,” and the Medieval Latin custumarius or custom means “a usage or practice common to many.”

From these definitions, we can see that the word “customer” comes from customizing a good or a service that someone else wants to buy. If you go into a store, for example, and you don’t see anything you want, then you won’t buy anything. But if you see something that has been customized for you, made specifically based on your needs or wants, then chances are good that you’ll buy it and become a customer.

These definitions seem simple to understand, and yet, we forget what we’re actually in business for: to serve our customers.

I frequently see teams that are working diligently to meet deadlines and to “get stuff done”, but forget to ask the fundamental question, “How does this serve my customers?” We often get so focused on our deliverables, our design, and our specific part of the project that we forget to look beyond our day-to-day tasks to see if what we’re doing is actually satisfying the customer.

When was the last time you sat in a weekly staff meeting and talked about how you recently gave customers exactly what they wanted or needed? Generally, meetings are all about where you stand with the current project, what you’re doing to get your part done, and what’s preventing the team from moving forward.

At some companies, it’s rare when a customer is mentioned in a staff meeting. In fact, some of the managers I’ve worked with are more concerned with their competitors than they are with their customers and ignorant or confused about precisely who their customers are. Consequently, people work on projects and deliver product designs that miss the mark. They aren’t what the customer wants.

“When you obsess about the customer, you end up defeating your competition as a byproduct,” said K.R. Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy, a fuel-cell company. “When you are just obsessed about the competition, you end up killing yourself … because you are not focused on the customer.”

It is all too easy to become so busy that we lose sight of what’s most important. We can’t see the forest for the trees. And while we’re busy with our heads down getting stuff done, customers may have changed their minds, become dissatisfied with our lack of customer service and support, or developed a preference for a competitor’s product. All of these things can happen when we don’t regularly remind ourselves that the very reason we’re in business is to serve the needs of our customers.

This week, assess the degree to which your team is focused on the customer. Find out if your team members are able to connect what they’re doing – daily, weekly and monthly – with the company’s fundamental need to deliver customer value. If they’re not and they’ve lost sight of what’s most important to your business, then spend some time to help them realign. Take time to educate your staff members about how their piece of the pie becomes part of the whole. Help them see how what they do has a direct impact on the customer.

Find ways to figure out what your customers really want and communicate that to your employees. If you haven’t talked to your customers within the past three months, make it a practice to inquire about whether they’re getting added value from your product or service. Direct customer feedback gives you an opportunity to discover what’s working and what isn’t and to gather new ideas for future product enhancements. Some of the best new ideas come from the users themselves. And most customers love the connection you provide when you call them directly. It makes them feel appreciated — because they are!

Take a lesson from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Have a good week,

 

Kathleen

 

© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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