Every company says they want to satisfy their customer. They talk about customer surveys and gathering the Voice of the Customer. They might even have allocated responsibility for collecting and analyzing this information.
But looking past what is being said, how can you tell if your organization is doing the things? How can you tell if you are really there? In essence, lets define what constitutes a Customer-Driven Enterprise.
In our experience, when we have seen strong performance related to customer relationships, we have observed the following characteristics;
- A focus on process rather than on functions. The reason for this is simple when you focus on process you focus on resolving the causes of problems and you measure upstream metrics that give early warnings. When you see organizations focused on functions, its usually an indication of the desire to fix or deflect blame. Also, it is when you see a neglect of process that you see lagging indicators such as financial measures dominating attention.
- Employees know and accept their roles in the processes they either own or of which they are a member. In addition to their recognition, you see their incentive systems tied to the customer metrics. Beware of incentive systems solely tied to financial measures. There is no surer way to take your eye off the customer and develop a short term focus.
- Everyone understands how the organizations processes are operating. People know how things fit. They dont just look at their process or their role in a process but they begin to understand and relate to how the processes are linked. When people focus on the linkages, there is less white space and fewer hidden processes.
- Processes are measured objectively and measures are reported regularly. In other words, its not about the blame and there arent any secrets.
If you arent there, what do you have to do to achieve that state? Well first there are some prerequisites. An organization needs to bring together all its initiatives under one umbrella responsible for the business improvements. Next they need to communicate the seriousness of the need. One of the best ways to do that is to put the customer information in front of the process owners. Too many times the customer data is hidden. People are given just what the organization believes they need to know to do their jobs. The customer data, especially the most unpleasant, which by the way is the most motivating, is locked up so no one knows the bad news but that just means no one knows the need to change. Finally, leadership must make their commitment. (See Leadership Steps in Becoming a Customer Driven Process Enterprise).
With prerequisites in place, the organization is ready to reorient ifself. Our process is based upon a system where we emphasize (i) Establish, (ii) Deploy, (iii) Implement and (iv) Review. We will get into that four step process in our next Customer Driven Enterprise article. In the meantime, identify if you are a customer driven organization and, if not, set the foundation on which to build. If you would like to discuss, contact me.