3 Measures for Customer Focus

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Many clients seek my services when they lack customer focus and are not achieving the order growth they had planned for.  One of the ironies I observe is that people, who lack customer focus, will often resist obtaining it. A symptom of being “unfocused” is the belief that if people were only aware of the excellent products and services, they would buy them. Businesses following that logic will invest in advertising and social media; only to observe disappointing results. This reminds me of the American who believes foreigners will understand English if they just speak louder.

Business people generally care greatly about their customers. Customer focus, however, is acquired by developing a new attitude toward business and customers.  An attitude is a habit of thought and, like any other habit, it can be difficult to break an old habit and acquire new ones. These are three measures to gauge your customer focus.

 

Have a list of customer-validated desired results:  What customers want will drive buying decisions. Wants are associated with feelings and experiences people yearn for. A result is the observed change in measures or perceptions that occur after the purchase of a product and go far beyond the function of the product. Customer focus is identifying the expectations buyers have for what will result after a sale. A self-centered focus only studies getting the sale. Simon Sinek has described how successful companies focus on why customers want to buy their products rather than which products customers buy.

Have data from your customers regarding what they find satisfying and dissatisfying about your business and a plan to improve: Customer loyalty, or the willingness to purchase a business’ product repeatedly, is based on the complete purchase experience. The ease of ordering and paying, the warmth of product displays and service employees, and the ability to resolve product and service issues are as important as the product. And because customers’ perceptions are relative to your competition, it is impossible to understand how customers perceive you without asking them.

Desired results, product benefits, and product features are in clear alignment:  The value of products and services is determined solely by the customer.  Advertising and sales presentations will have little impact unless they touch on what customers want. The first bullet addresses what customers want. This bullet addresses how clearly a business satisfies a want. In short, how many of your customers are raving fans?

I welcome all comments regarding customer focus. If you have concerns about the focus of your business, please contact me at Charles@accelachv.com.

Three Dimensions of Successful Time Management

Effective use of time is a vital tool for business success. A business leader’s ability to use her time to delegate and motivate will grow an innovative and productive organization. A salesman’s ability to heighten a sense of time scarcity in his customers will close sales.  A passive, reactive style of time management will lead to disappointment and unsatisfying results. I have found three necessary foundations for effective time management: clarity of intention, focus on effectiveness, and desire to innovate and improve.

Clarity of Intention:  Having clear goals is an obvious requirement for managing time. Clear intentions require both an understanding of all the results you want to achieve and how you need to contribute to the result. The best goals are directed at what is going on in the present. For example, revenue and profit measure what’s been going on over the last few months. Winning five new customers in a specific market segment or achieving a 50% gross margin on a bid focuses a business on what is happening right now. The other question is what are your effective behaviors? Managers organize and clarify, salespeople empathize and persuade, and production workers need to be precise and consistent. The suggestion is to identify the activities that will boost your personal productivity. I would caution that another requirement for personal productivity is having clear goals for your life outside of work. A lack of life balance will disrupt your time management.

Focus on Effectiveness:  Clear focus is engaging in the activities that are important to achieving the result and reducing the unimportant. The focus needs to be broad enough that it addresses both the activities and the relationships necessary for success. While the purpose of a business is to satisfy customers, focus needs to be on delivering products and services that are pleasing to your customer; and not just pleasing your customers. Whether it is a relationship with customers, a boss, or a personal relationship, once you surrender your focus, your effectiveness is lost. The amount of courage required for maintaining confidence in your mission and integrity in your relationships should never be underestimated.

Desire for Improvement: Measurement is the basis for all improvement. Effective measurement includes metrics for all the important activities that lead to a result; rather than just measuring the end goal. A willingness to keep an open mind and experiment with new approaches and tools is vital. In the Internet age, we are bombarded with new ideas and information. The trick is to pay close enough attention that you can identify the ideas that may be of use to you. A mentor early in my career advised that managers should always take phone calls. (This was back when businesses depended on the telephone.) His argument was that one call in twenty will guide you to a really great idea. Stay vigilant and keep changing it up.

I enjoy helping organizations tune their productivity. Please post your own suggestions or any questions on how to make time management work.

Strategic Planning and the NFL

I recently saw an article in the Wall Street Journal by Kevin Clark titled, “The Philadelphia Eagles’ Personnel Strategy: Targeting College Grads.” As the title suggests, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided that student athletes who graduate from college perform better than those who don’t. The rationale being that those who self-motivate to finish an academic program will generally apply the same motivation to their career. Two of the three teams with the highest number of five-year graduates played in last year’s Super Bowl. The New England Patriots, my favorite perennial powerhouse, has been a league leader in recruiting graduates for years. The New York Giants currently has one of the largest rosters of three-year non-graduates and the team has not shown the greatness of years past.

The Eagles’ decision is clearly strategic. As I’ve written in previous posts, strategies are more focused at what organizations want to become rather than on what they will do. Athletes are traditionally measured by strength, coordination, and agility and the mantra of the football player has always been execution. As a fan, I have watched the football playbook grow in complexity over the years. It’s increasingly important that football players perceive what an opposing team is presenting and adjust their play accordingly. I can easily imagine the Philadelphia coaches sitting around a table discussing how they want their team to be smarter, more perceptive, tactical, and possibly shrewd. Selection and training of players and coaches becomes the critical goal area for this strategy.

Complexity is increasing in most economic sectors; especially manufacturing and healthcare. Business strategies address investments in assets, creation of intellectual property, and human resource requirements. The experience customers receive from a company while buying is most impacted by the employees they encounter directly and indirectly. Strategies that address customer experience always contain adjectives; such as smarter, shrewder, and more perceptive. Yet, because strategic plans are often pursued to support the budgeting and reporting of financials, few plans address these critical adjectives that steer a company from being mediocre to distinctive. What are the adjectives you would use to describe what your company needs to become and how would you go about implementing it?

Just a Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way

When you think of premier brands, like Apple, Mercedes Benz, and others, there is something distinctive about their products, service, or social responsibility that inspires us. Apple has turned heads with astonishing product innovation that changed our lives. Long before computers and robots built cars, Mercedes was known for delivering products with every part engineered for perfect fit. There’s good chance you’ve been inspired by more than global and national brands. Perhaps you have an insurance agent who stays connected with you with a personal touch or a dry cleaner that makes an extra effort to fix a stain or loose button. The result is always the same. We return to businesses that inspire us to purchase their offerings again and again. And in turn, those businesses enjoy customer loyalty and stellar profit performance.

There are two ways you can influence other’s behavior: inspiration and manipulation.  Manipulation is the more popular mode of influence. In business, manipulation can be positive and have a shared benefit like discounts, incentives, and bonuses. Or, it can have negative and self-serving benefits like deceptions, threats, or unfair punishment. The problem with manipulation, even the positive kind, is that results are only achieved while customers feel a “real” reward is in place. If a business discontinues a discount or promotion, customers will look elsewhere. If the discount is held in place too long, the customer can come to expect it.  Businesses that use pricing as a competitive tool often struggle to sustain profitability.

Inspiration, on the other hand, happens when someone addresses a deep-seated, personal need that that goes beyond the benefits of a product. Examples of these needs are affirmation, justice, beauty, or prestige. The important distinction from manipulation is that inspiration is rooted in the values of people, and not products or prices. Inspiration often leads to an emotional connection that can be between customers and employees, customers and business owners, or employees and business owners. Inspiration is the root of all employee and customer loyalty.

One of the most satisfying aspects of my practice is helping people discover their ability to inspire.  Please comment if you have an example of how a business has inspired you.