Customers First: Common Bonds Link the Best Customer-Driven Companies
Business Book Review
By Eddie Kennedy, Owner, Great Deals on Furniture
Considered by many to be the “bible of customer service,” The Customer Driven Company, written by Richard C. Whiteley, was based on a series of research projects conducted over a five-year period by the Forum Corporation, that sought the define and measure the successful practices that distinguish profitable, customer-driven companies from the less successful.
The research done in 1988, discovered that nearly 50 percent of customers left businesses because of poor quality service. In today’s business environment, where the customer demands more and is less patient with under-serving companies, that percentage would be higher. By applying several of the key points of this book, your company can deliver exceptional customer service and grow your business.
To become a customer-driven company, you will need to saturate your company with the voice of the customer. The key here is that everyone in the organization must measure every action against the customer’s needs, expectations and wants. If the action isn’t producing added value for the customer, it must be eliminated.
First, you target who you want your customers to be. Then get your staff to know their needs and expectations as intimately as possible. Finally, inspire everyone to measure their actions to exceed those expectations.
Researchers at Texas A&M University developed the acronym, RATER, to help identify customer’s experience with service quality. Reliability, the ability to provide what was promised; Assurance, the knowledge and courtesy of employees, and their ability to convey trust and confidence; Tangibles, the physical facilities and equipment, and the appearance of employees; Empathy, the degree of caring and the individual attention provided to customers; and Responsiveness, the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
To become a customer-driven company you will need to go to school on the winners. First, find people who do an excellent job in performing the jobs involved in your business. Then, study those people, keeping your mind open and being teachable. Finally, never assume you know enough or have found the best ways. Keep searching for better ways to improve.
Whiteley suggests the following nine-step plan to help you with your schooling.
- Identify your problems. Spend some time thinking about where you are getting beaten or need improvement.
- Choose organizations that are solving the problems you face. If you visit companies in industries you know very little about, you’re more likely to appreciate the management systems, instead of the technical details.
- Develop specific objectives before you visit. Prepare a list of questions you want answered. Let your host know what you want to learn. See if any topics or areas of their operation are off limits.
- Make the visit. Take other leaders from your company with you. Ask your questions. Don’t lose track of time. Listen carefully. Make notes, if possible.
- Debrief. A quick team debriefing captures first impressions. A formal debriefing focuses on what was seen and learned.
- Convert learning to action. Decide what you want to adopt, and create an action team to get the changes started. Set your goals and establish standards to measure your success.
- Spread the learning throughout your organization. Package what you learned and make it accessible to everyone in the organization.
- Show the winners how much good has been done. Tell the company that helped you what you learned. Keep in touch, and share the results of the changes you made.
- Repeat the cycle. Don’t stop. Constantly seek improvement.
This book is a great read and has self tests and tool kits for each chapter to help assist you with moving from talk to action.
Eddie Kennedy is the owner of Great Deals on Furniture in Augusta and an avid reader of business books. Eddie believes every business owner should invest in themselves by reading, but if you can’t, then read his column every
month to see what he learned. Have you read any great business books? Let Eddie know at firstname.lastname@example.org.