Is your customer really #1?

customer centric blogHow to identify if you really have a customer-centric business.

I’m sure if I was to call 50 companies right now and ask if they were a customer-centric business, they would all say “yes.”  Isn’t that why we’re all in business – to be of service to our customers?  The happier (we’ll define happy in a future article) they are the more business we have.  On paper,yes.  In the board room, maybe.  In your cubicles, not quite.

A few weeks ago I attended an ASQ event on Value-Stream Mapping.  ASQ are the really smart guys and gals that make up the quality profession, the engineers, managers, business-improvement people who make quality of a product/service their 100% focus.  And value-stream mapping is a design used to follow a product or service from the very beginning all the way through to the customer.

The ASQ presenter used a case-study from their company based on a customer complaint: the customer was not happy about how long it took them to receive the ordered product.  This was a big client – there was no sweeping this complaint under the rug.  There was the “I’m sorry” and “we’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again,” and XYZ Company meant what they said. So, they set up a committee to make sure that the situation was not only remedied, but a new plan would be set in place.  This was not about reprimanding the department or individuals that may have delayed the delivery.  This was a solution-focused conversation and this committee was ready to make the necessary suggestions to put a change in place.

After the committee interviewed all departments in the flow, they found the problem was in Receiving.  Here’s a very simplistic review of what resulted:

  1. The committee talked to everyone in Receiving (not just the department head.)
  2. Employees in receiving made suggestions on how to improve the process (these were the front-line people – the ones that are really in the know)
  3. Implementation of employees’ suggestions (talk about empowering the employee)
  4. Lead –time was reduced from 10 days to 3 days! (customer and XYZ were thrilled)
  5. And because Receiving felt empowered by the committee’s process in using their ideas, after one month, the lead time was reduced even further – to 2 days!!

Now this is a customer-centric business!  And it all started with their INTERNAL CUSTOMERS.  The presenter from XYZ was excited to share just how powerful it was when the committee engaged with the front-line and how implementing their ideas not only helped the process, but now these internal customers felt more vested in XYZ than they ever have before. As the presenter said “These people are hard workers and really want to do their best.”

When was the last time you had a challenge and you talked with your employees and asked for their ideas and solutions?

It’s never too late.  This is a win-win situation. It’s so simple, and yet so few leaders and managers do it.

Your action:  This week, go and talk to someone in your front-line and ask them how things could be improved for the customer.  I can almost guarantee you, it’s going to be something you never thought of.

Then:  Implement a suggestion – shake things up a bit.

Finally: Start accepting that to put the customer as #1 you must begin with the internal customers.  Let me know what happens.

Unequivocally more people will be smiling at the end of their workday – including you and the customer!

Important: If you can’t or won’t engage with your front-line people, if you are at all hesitating, you must find out what’s blocking you.  The agility of your company depends upon it.

Remember – A Customer-centric business starts with your internal customers – always!

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