This is the sixth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Customer Focus.
Customer Focus is all about putting the customer first. Do you anticipate and then meet and/or exceed customer needs, wants, and expectations? The experiences that customers remember the most are the ones where someone went above and beyond. Those who are skilled in Customer Focus are great at anticipating those needs and meeting and exceeding them before the customer even knows that’s what they want.
No matter what your product or service is, the customer is in control these days. The market has shifted from Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) to Caveat Venditor (Seller Beware). Customers have access to so much information now that most of the time they have already made their buying decision before you ever meet them. And what do they base a lot of those decisions on? Online reviews from other customers. You cannot afford to have poor customer service, because word will spread and your brand will be ruined.
Customer Focus is ever important and can be the deciding factor between success and failure for a company. You can truly set your company apart if you have a great customer experience. This doesn’t just mean trying to anticipate their needs, but also responding well when issues inevitably arise. Are you known for putting clients first? Even when it might be a detriment to your bottom line? Those who are strong in Customer Focus are always looking at things from the customer’s perspective and deciding what the best option for them would be.
Good Customer Focus is the lifeblood of any business.
There are several things you can do to bring in new customers, but unless you can get those customers to return again and again, your business won’t be profitable for long. Customer retention costs way less than customer acquisition. This is why Customer Focus is so important. It is the key to getting customers to come back.
If you are a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it’s your approach to Customer Focus that will determine whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else. If you can sell them on the product and also send them home happy, that’s where the real magic lies. Because then they will pass on positive feedback about your business to others. And then those people will try the product or service you offer for themselves.
Word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool in the world. And nothing spreads faster than news about someone’s customer experience. You have to make sure that the experience you’re providing is nothing but spectacular for your customers from day one. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to catch up to and stop the spread of those first few bad experiences.
Great Customer Focus will distinguish you from the pack.
Given that customers have multiple options for where to shop and which products to buy, you have to find a way to set yourself apart from your competitors. You can do this in multiple ways, but at the core, it is about being a company that serves its customers well.
Maybe you have a very strong brand that people identify with and are proud to say they use. Perhaps you have a seamless buying experience that takes all the fear out of making a big purchase. Or maybe you are so responsive to customer needs and complaints that everyone leaves every interaction satisfied. Or maybe you are known for going above and beyond to solve customers’ problems, even when they’re not directly related to your product.
Whatever it is for your company, you have to be more than just a commodity. And standing out in the crowd comes back to Customer Focus. You have to focus on your customer so intently that you know what they want before they do. Focusing on their needs and their wants will help you create the product they want and then deliver it in the way that they want. You’ll be able to anticipate changes in the market early. This is the core of Customer Focus. Being so in tune with your customers that you can anticipate their needs.
Improving Customer Focus is simple: Focus on the customer.
One way to shift your focus to being more customer-centric is to make an intentional effort to improve the experience for your customers. Starting with their first interaction with your company all the way to their last. Stop to think about the “track” your customer follows to get to their buying decision. Is that an experience that you would want to be part of?
Look at each step of the process and brainstorm ways to make it smoother or more enjoyable for your customers. What obstacles might they face along the journey? Where are the sticking points that might cause them to choose a competitor? Find all the ways that your process might not be ideal and fix them. Make it easy for customers to say yes to your company.
And remember you will be judged by what you do, not what you say. You can say that you put customers first, but people will quickly see through that catchphrase if it’s not true. And as I mentioned earlier, they will tell others about their experience and whether you lived up to your promises.
Customer Focus is a way of life.
Building your Customer Focus shouldn’t be a flavor of the month type of activity. It needs to become ingrained in what you do. If you want to be truly great at Customer Focus, you can’t turn it on and off. That is a serious mindset shift for some people. But the good news is that if you build your company and its processes with your customer in mind, you will create raving fans. People who will follow your brand anywhere. And who will spread the word about your company like evangelists.
Great Customer Focus takes a lot of up-front work and intentional upkeep, but it will help your company succeed in the long run. It will differentiate you from your competitors. And it will bring you not just customers, but true company loyalists.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Customer Focus skills, download our Customer Focus Rx PDF here.