By George Brown Jr.
Executives often want their companies to be more customer-facing. That aspiration is admirable. The best companies thoroughly understand their customers and fully incorporate customer insights into their plans and priorities. Yet the challenge is implementing that vision.
Here are four ways to transition to a customer-facing culture:
First, create the right connections between your people and those in the customer organization. Too often, getting other departments involved means taking them on sales calls. Sometimes this is useful and even necessary, but it rarely is the way to build an ongoing interaction. On the other hand, when the right connections are made, the discussions can be fruitful and the start of an ongoing exchange.
Second, focus on the future. The natural agenda for a discussion involves either ongoing operations or past problems. Past problems have to be resolved so that they don t recur, but if all that is accomplished is some combination of finger-pointing and apologizing, all parties are usually quite eager to conclude the discussion. When the agenda includes topics that focus on the future, it creates a sense of excitement and interest and lays the foundation for innovation. Good ideas are often the product of insights about the market, and direct interactions with customers by experts across any company many specialties and disciplines creates the most fertile field possible for generating new ideas.
Third, bring clarity, energy and an active cadence to these interactions. Among the firms that have shared horror stories with us, we often heard laments like We tried that once, but it didn t really work. It takes a real commitment “ and usually a proactive champion “ to jump-start an effective relationship with a customer organization. And it very easy to back slide and return to a low-energy, infrequent mode of interacting. If your organization is going to make a commitment to a customer relationship, make it real and make it work. Best-practice organizations have a plan for their interactions with customers, and ensure that someone is responsible for making that plan happen.
Track goals with meaningful measurements. If your organization is committed to customer relationships, put in place meaningful measurements that reflect the goals of the program. We ve all heard some version of the statement If it not measured, it doesn t matter. Besides adding dashboards and scorecards, share the goals and metrics with employees and customers to gain buy-in.
The evidence is strong that those companies that connect effectively with their customers will find success.
George Brown Jr. is CEO and co-founder of Blue Canyon Partners, Inc., a strategy consulting firm, and author with Atlee Valentine Pope of “CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs,” published by Greenleaf Book Group Press of Austin, Texas. See www.CoDestinyBook.com for more details.