Today’s managers acknowledge the importance of customer focus for growing a business and competing.1 Yet the often costly customer efforts they have implemented have not led to the expected gains. The reason: a superficial understanding of what customer focus really means. Fortunately, a few organizations are going beyond thinking up new technologies, products and services and, through comprehensive organizational change, are achieving the deep customer focus that is nearly impossible to imitate.
Deep customer focus is not about buying customer-relationship-management software that tracks customers’ purchases. It is not about designing sophisticated new products like mobile phones or iPods — or even about processes that allow a car to be built with customer-requested features. It’s about an attitude that gets deep inside a company into what it is, what it does and what it prides itself on.
Many observers have suggested what needs to be done to create organizational change, but no one has spelled out how to get there, particularly how to make the changes that lead to a customer focus deep enough to become part of the lifeblood of an organization.2
Becoming Indispensable to Customers
Because companies with deep customer focus are constantly thinking about better, quicker, easier ways of doing things that customers need, they ultimately become indispensable. Whatever customers need to do (say, use information to make critical decisions differently, ensure employees’ lifetime well-being, manage energy or do on-demand computing), the company with deep customer focus excels at offering the outcomes each customer seeks. Through constant innovation, customer feedback and the use of knowledge, the enterprise becomes indispensable. And as the relationship intensifies, truly sustainable gains ensue. No product or service on its own can accomplish all that.
The company’s activities become so interwoven with its customers’ activities that clients end up spending more money with the company on a greater variety of offerings over longer periods. Thus customers reward the enterprise, giving it many opportunities for profitable growth.3
Think about being the customer.