Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Customer Focus - 2010 & Beyond ...

We all know of the global crisis facing many of our largest institutions and organizations. What we must remember that all the bail outs and bankruptcy's won't matter if the customer (internal and external) is not at the front of each and every plan. We have yet to learn this from the 1970s.

What follows is an example of a letter from a Senior Officer to his/her direct reports (after a merger, reorg, takeover, etc...) that should be cascaded down through out the organization. It is written is a generic form that would require minor adjustment to fit your own company needs. Additional data from your own company on customer satisfaction levels and those of your customers also adds to the impact of this type of letter.
CUSTOMER FOCUS – 2010 and Beyond

Now that we have merged with qualityg enterprises (QGE), it is vital that the integration of our cultures begin with identifying those attributes that have made us both successful and those that need to be merged and transformed into one.

The attributes that will drive this effort are customer focus, preference and retention. Customers are Paramount. No matter how much or how fast the business changes, this is one value that will remain constant. QGE has had a vast amount of experience in recent years of customers moving back and forth between one service provider and another in the international market. While QGE has had a more loyal customer base, we need to start understanding our customers better and begin concentrating on what it takes to retain them for sustained growth and continued preference of our services and products. "We will keep our promises."

A few years back I was given a quote on what it means to have “Loyal Customers.” It had meaning then and certainly applies more today:

“It will not suffice to have customers who are merely satisfied. Satisfied customers switch, for no good reason, just to try something else. Success and growth come from customers who boast about your products and services. The loyal customer requires no advertising or other persuasion, and he brings a friend with him.”

One of my top priorities this year as you know is that “We Will Keep Our Promises” to our customers. Along with that I will be continuously stressing the importance of customer focus and challenging you on what improvements have been made in achieving customer preference and retention. Customer satisfaction in not good enough, studies have shown that between 65 percent and 85 percent of customers who defect say they were satisfied or very satisfied with their supplier/vendor.

Achieving Customer Preference and Retention

The purpose of our business is to obtain and retain customers in a profitable manner. Operationally speaking it is not our main objective to sell products and services. However, it is our objective to partner with our customers to share our expertise and technological skills in order to help them define their needs, and to create the most cost efficient service that is best suited for themselves and their customers.

This also means we don’t go the extra mile; it means the extra mile is part of our daily work. Only in the eyes of our customers should it seem like above and beyond the call of duty. Let me provide an example. If a customer contacts us and is having a problem (i.e. billing) and it is discovered not to be QGE related, I want us to stay with that customer and work with them until they are comfortable that they have made the correct contact that can rectify their situation. That means we work with them on their behalf and represent their needs. Think of yourselves as a customer for a moment, think of the times when you were truly delighted with the service you received, many times it probably had to do with a person who went the extra mile or beyond your expectations to make sure you had the right contact or service that earned your respect and loyalty.

We will install, deliver and repair what the customer wants and desires. We will respond to customers quickly. Each of us will listen to our customers and use their input to develop innovative solutions or add value to our products and services. In this way, we will earn our customers’ preference and retention. This is the type of service quality that QGE expects form all of its employees.

Now that the best Service Provider companies have joined forces it is important to understand the many challenges and aggressive competition that will face us on many fronts. To continuously be the best we must offer a total package of products and services that delight our customers. What will separate us even further from the rest will be our continued customization of service, front-line customer service, and commitment to customer loyalty.

Achieving customer preference and retention will happen through our employees, especially employees who are proud of our company and empowered to provide excellent customer service. It is our job as managers to enable our folks with the tools to succeed and then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

It will be one of my objectives going forward to lead our organization in using a systemic process approach that constantly searches for new ways to improve both customer preference and internal efficiency by partnering and linking with all our internal departments. Obtaining and keeping customers is essential and it requires all parts of the company to be aligned and focused on our customers.

The level of customer preference that we achieve will be the direct result of the quality of the partnerships that we have in place with our internal process partners (Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Billing, etc.)

At each partner linkage there is the opportunity for our customers to come in contact with us and determine if we will be and continue to be their vendor/supplier of choice. Even though we don’t work in these departments we will take the lead or partner with them when it comes to enlightening, enabling, empowering and encouraging our fellow workers to provide the best service possible.

QGE’s uniqueness for provisioning service and entrepreneurial spirit needs to continue even at a greater pace in 2010 and beyond. We must lead our new company in breaking away from our competitors. Our customers will differentiate our service from others because of the unique value that we provide.

We all have a stake in our business and are accountable for operationally excellent performance. We will take ownership and will focus our energy on growing the business profitably by managing our customers’ wants and needs. As we transfer and manage information for our customers, we will set the standards for value and quality in our industry.


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