How To Maintain Customer Focus As You Grow
It's hard to retain focus on customers as your company grows.
At start-up (and at micro-size), the original founder's passion and commitment to go the extra mile for customers tends to design in a terrific customer experience, but with growth, there is a real risk that this original focus is diluted (see the diagram below).
As an owner or manager of a smaller business trying to maintain customer focus as you grow, you'll need to be excellent across many disciplines. A useful place to start, therefore, is to assess if there are any areas of real weakness to be addressed.
Described here is a Customer Experience (CX) maturity model that can be used to test a broad set of disciplines across your business, together with a tip or two for each area. We'll publish some further articles on each over the coming weeks.
- Leadership: Think back to what made your company so customer-focused in its early days. Serialise that DNA and communicate it to your team. Go back to your business plan and check that every assumption around growth, profits and value creation matches a corresponding creation of value in your customers. If not, re-think and re- align.
- Customer Centric Culture: Find ways to make as many people in your company as possible accessible and responsive to customers, as deeply into the organisation as you can. Re-inforce the recognition that customer service is the responsibility of all individuals, not a department.
- Customer Lifecycles: Brainstorm the lifecycles of your typical customers and make sure you are keeping in touch with them across the entirety of their engagement with your company. Even doing simple things like pro-actively following up 'x' months after an appliance is installed, for example, can make a material difference
- Customer Journeys: Think about the actual journeys your customers take, rather than the internal processes you use to service them. Then change or tweak your process to design them from the customer's point of view. Try and draw how a customer actually purchases from you, for example - the image below shows a high level map from our own online channel, for instance. It is quite different to the "traditional" view of a software sales process, and accordingly affords the opportunity to design-in the best levels of service at each stage.
- Employee Empowerment: Assess the skills gaps and training needs of your people in delivering excellent customer service. Consider your incentive schemes too - do they support appropriate engagement with customers? Eliminate any other incentives that actively conflict with your goals.
- Insight & Knowledge: Work out how the simplest way you can create a method to consistently listen to customers, capture information from them, analyse it and share the knowledge with your teams
- Measures: You need to measure what actually matters to customers, and at the right time (are they still happy six months after purchasing?). Check your existing metrics against what you think creates customer satisfaction, and test your theory by asking
- Technology: Consider if there are substantial gaps that prevent you working in customer-centric ways, such as discontinuities in how you process customer data that make it hard to create a single view of customer interactions. Implementing CXRM may well be a step you might consider as an enabler to improving customer focus - read more about that here.
Most people reading will have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses across the broad categories described above, but it would be most interesting to hear comments and explore if there are any patterns! ^Phil
Here's an example of point (4) - understanding the journey your customers take from their perspective. The image shows a high level map from our own online channel. It is quite different to the "traditional" view of a software sales process, and accordingly affords the opportunity to design-in the best levels of service at each stage.