Customer Focus

Developing Customer-Focus Strategy  

Dear Valued Customers

How to ensure continued growth in demand for our products or services? This is the question which always looms around the Boardroom of companies.  We should avoid falling victim to common myths that can cause us to become complacent. Here’s one especially dangerous myth: “There’s no competitive substitute for my industry’s major product.”

Believing that your products have no rivals makes your company vulnerable to dramatic innovations from outside your industry. Often, these innovations are developed by smaller, newer companies that are focusing on identifying and satisfying customer needs rather than developing products. For example, railroads stopped growing when other innovations (cars, airplanes) satisfied consumers’ transportation needs better and won the railroads’ customers.

Companies that can outsmart the competition know who they are, where they want to be, and how to get there. They are constantly seeking new ways to be distinctive and competitive, are inclined to action, and are willing to adapt new ideas to keep pace with or stay steps ahead of a transforming marketplace.

In Outsmart!, author Jim Champy describes real and practical strategies that are helping companies achieve breakthrough growth. He presents concise and compelling case studies of a variety of businesses and demonstrates how entrepreneurs are uncovering unseen opportunities and fulfilling unmet needs.

You can’t outperform rivals if you compete the same way they do.  How to be king of the jungle, not copycat? Spur big, new growth–quickly and profitably.  Simple moves can help. For example, redefine your unit of business, what you bill customers for to reflect what customers value. This value might not be the same thing as the product you make.

Consider Cemex, the renowned Mexican cement company. It redefined its unit of business from “cubic yards of cement” to “delivery window”: the right amount of concrete delivered when customers needed it.  Cemex then reconfigured its information and logistics systems to improve truck utilization – a key performance metric for delivery businesses.

In an age when many products are becoming commoditized, only exceptional service distinguishes your company from rivals. How to provide such service?  Is there a disconnect between what people in your company see, hear, and think — and what’s really going on outside the firm? If so, you’ll find it virtually impossible to convince them that the organization must change to neutralize a serious hazard (such as growing dissatisfaction among key customers).

In fact, we can use ritual, tradition, and cultural indoctrination to foster a hunger among employees to do something remarkable and memorable for our customers. Take Best Buy’s Geek Squad: They wear a recognizable uniform, drive to clients’ locations in identical cars, and sign a six-point pledge including “Never saying ‘I don’t know’ instead of ‘I’ll find out'” and “Never violating my clients’ trust or disrespecting their property.”

Also, delivering effective feedback is a key responsibility for any responsible manager. How to ensure it improves performance? Make listening a priority. Invite your employee to identify his strengths and challenges. Paying close attention to his answers will allow you to spot opportunities for targeted coaching.

Thus to drive growth we need to rely not only on seeking new markets and making acquisitions.  If so, we may be ignoring a goldmine of growth potential: knowledge of our customers.

See you soon.

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