In order to successfully position your organization in the marketplace, leadership teams must create a compelling and distinctive value proposition. Customers must believe you are there to champion their needs, not just to make a profit. However, defining a really attractive value proposition is actually the easy part. The hard part is getting the organization totally aligned and in sync with a customer focused value proposition. Everyone in the organization must understand and see that the customer is part of their personal responsibility. This customer-oriented culture relies on frontline leaders that help people understand how they fit into the strategic management of the business and why they matter.
If you can get people to think strategically about the customer at an individual level and act in ways to exceed their current and emerging expectations, you can keep the organization well ahead of your rivals. However, developing a passion for customer problems and creating solutions doesn’t come naturally to most people and can be challenging to develop. Begin by thinking about your own experience. Ask yourself how well you like doing business with the last company that had lack of interest in your problem? In fact, you might even ask yourself if your current suppliers are anticipating your future needs and problems.
More than 30 years of strategic management and consulting experience has indicated to us that “customer acumen” is the heart of successful business strategy. However, creating this customer-oriented culture is hard work and it is not an exact science. Here are a few tips to get started:
Ensure everyone in your organization understands that giving customers value is a clear priority. Leaders at all levels have to instill a deep understanding and reverence for what the company stands for and what your value proposition is. In essence, knowing what the company is trying to be, why the company does the unique activities it does, and why these activities are hard to replicate by competitors. A customer-centric culture is a function of the behaviors, attitudes, and training of each individual employee.
As leaders, you have to preach customer value every opportunity you get. This movement must become part of the daily vernacular. Let people know that bringing value to the customer is the core goal of the organization. Then, coach employees to take responsibility and act in ways that show they embrace customer value.
Finally, give them honest and immediate feedback when they succeed and when they come up short. The end goal is to help members of your organization understand that creating value for the customer is the ultimate measure of their success. It is what keeps you in business and pays the bills. To do this, leaders need to understand their role as change agents and coaches. You must extend the call to all leaders to be courageous coaches and hold people accountable. It is also important that leaders receive development opportunities so they know what feedback and coaching looks like and feels like. These discussions are different than the usual business opportunity discussions. Robust coaching sessions will focus on strengths, weaknesses, and actual behaviors that are occurring on the job.
With active strategic management, you can achieve long-term sustained success for your employees, customers, and owners. Once people understand their role as customer advocates, they will begin to see opportunities to grow the business and serve customers by exceeding today’s needs, anticipating future problems, and creating innovative solutions. As leaders and employees alike become comfortable challenging the status quo, they will create a dynamic and rewarding organization for everyone.