Customer service as a priority is a winning strategy

Every business in the world is “customer-centric” when it comes to creating an online profile and some advertising but when push comes to shove and the moment to put its money where its mouth is, arrives, few can really tell you what that means.

I started the day reading an excellent article by Dave Gray on how (and why) it is good to put customers first I urge you to spend the required ten minutes reading it as I guarantee you will come away feeling wiser. What emerges from Dave’s excellent examination of some of the largest global companies and their very public failures (and, in some cases, their comebacks) is the fact that there is a serious threat of the bunker mentality for every company.

The moment you hit a small measure of success, instead of using that to build more momentum, create more of the same, tackle change and look for new challenges, companies (like individuals) look for the gravy train, easy life and a perpetuation of the established regime. This is so understandable from a human psychology point of view that the real question is not why it happens, but why does it not? And it is the few cases where this is avoided which actually become the valuable lesson to learn.

The answer, invariably, is discipline and a steely focus on why you are there to do business in the first place. If you believe, for instance, that customers and customer service are incidental to your business (and I do not know of any business which is structured this way and can survive) then your focus will be on something else. Otherwise your customers and their needs simply have to come first.

Sounds weird? Difficult? Annoying? Think about this. Google, the acknowledged global champion of search whose avowed mission statement is “To index the world’s information” thinks of its customers’ needs so highly that it introduced a whole host of metrics designed to improve the end-user experience. These range from Google Instant (a drop down menu with suggestions as you type into Google search) to Google Preview (Preview snapshots of websites straight from the Google search page) to collecting data on Click Through Rates (CTRs) and assessing them to see just how relevant search results really are.

If Google, arguably, the most technology-driven and probably most faceless of company’s cam take the customer so seriously that they devote refinements of their search intended to shave off micro-seconds off each search the customer makes, you’d be wise to do the same.

Airing this approach at a recent meeting with a business client I was faced with shocked faces and stunned expressions: “We are focused on our products” said, finally, one exec. Given the fact that the company has been struggling against diminishing sales in a tough market for three years it did not take long to make the connection between customer needs, and how they are being met (or not, in this case) and market share.

You need a more public example? Try the Research in Motion (RIM) case. Great products (I used to swear by my Blackberry instead of swearing at it) a fabulous tablet with the Blackberry Playbook and since developers are going awol (because RIM is focusing on products instead of customers) there is hardly anything you can do with them. On the other hand competitors such as Google and Apple have the Google Apps Store and App Store, respectively, where apps, both free and paid ones, are counted in seven figures. The market share Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone enjoy, speak for themselves.

Do you need more convincing? Think how you shop. Whether you go for products or services the trust you have in the source comes first as a criteria. Trust is not just that they won’t take your money and run, it is also the fact that should things go wrong (and they invariably do at some point) there is a solid customer service orientated company you can rely upon to take your complaint seriously and work to set it right.

So if you have began to fall in the trap where you are getting absorbed in the day-to-day processes of your businesses now’s the time to re-examine them and understand how they fit in with your customers needs.

Incidentally, since we are talking about this and in case you were wondering, SEO is also a customer-centric service. It allows those who look for your website and what it offers to find it easily when they need it.

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