September 2, 2014

Defining “Customer-Focused Strategy”

Focus on the customer My blogging friend Glenn Ross has put forth the following challenge to some of his fellow Customer Service bloggers (including me): How do you define “Customer-Focused Strategy?”  Great question, Glenn!  Glenn has posted his definition of a customer-focused strategy, and has included ideas and definitions from other excellent customer service bloggers, including ServiceUntitled, CustomersAreAlways, and CustServ.  There are many good ideas there, and I encourage you to check them out.

Customer strategy is the main focus of this blog as well as what I do (and have been doing) for a living.  I still like the paragraph I wrote on customer strategy last year at about this time; here is the excerpt from the post Rockin’ Our Customer’s Experience Online:

Customer Strategy

Does your organization have a customer strategy?  Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy.  Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy.  Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers!  Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition.  Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?

In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy.  A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch.  In other words,  we make each impression with the customer count.  Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road.  How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question?  The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals.  Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.

In other words, a customer-focused strategy is a planned approach to how we handle our customers at every touch point.  It is more than just giving great customer service.  It is more than marketing with certain customer buzzwords.  It is more than a great customer experience.  It requires a strategic plan to be put in place to address all of those areas, plus the metrics to ensure the success of the strategy. 

I have been part of creating a customer-focused strategy for several clients, and this is no small undertaking.  It requires agreement and consistency across all functional areas in order to be most effective.  No silos allowed!  The customer doesn’t look at a company as individual departments, so we need to be “one brand” to the customer.  The customer-focused strategy helps make that happen.

Great Examples

Glenn also asked for examples of companies who do this well.  There are a few competitions out there for this type of award; a great one is coming up from the team at Peppers and Rogers Group and Gartner.  Called the Gartner and 1to1 Customer Excellence Awards, it will be showcasing those companies that “get” customer strategy – and how to execute it.  (By the way, the contest is open until May 23, so if you are reading this and want to submit your company, you can go here and enter.)

At this blog, I have listed several examples of companies that are doing customer strategy well.  They include FreshBooks and their customer roadtrip, Bungie and the way they are fans of their customers, Element Fusion and their web concierge, Disney and customer delight, and Xerox and their dedication to customer experience, among others.  I don’t think any one of them is perfect, but each of them do many things well across several areas. 

OK, out to you, readers!  How would you define “customer-focused strategy”?  Do you agree with me or am I missing something?  Who is doing it well?

(Photo credit: redbaron)

Comments

  1. Meikah Delid says:

    Good discussion going, Becky! I agree with you when you say that a customer-focused strategy takes time, a lot consultation and interaction with both external and internal customers. Thus, it’s more than customer service, it has to be a way of life for the organization.

  2. Thanks, Meikah! I like what you said: it has to be a way of life. That is the essence of this. However, it doesn’t become a way of life by accident; it takes determination to get it done – and keep it going.

    Rock on, Meikah!

  3. Great discussion! I just posted an entry into my blog about this, as a way to extend just one inch the definition. I like your approach to this, but to answer the question you posed at the end of your entry – i think there is something missing… often missing from every single solution. It is one of those things that is usually assumed, but that I discovered through time that it is better said that implied.

    Check out my blog at http://evergance.wordpress.com

  4. Thanks, Esteban, I agree with you. When I stated that each customer touch has to add value, I meant that the value needs to be to the customer (they need to get what they want/need) and to the business (they need to grow their business). But I didn’t state it explicitly – so thank you!

  5. Graham Hill says:

    Hi Becky

    I read Glenn’s definition. And yours too. Both seem to be stuck in what you might call the ‘being nice to customers because, well, because…’ camp. Almost as though ‘profit’ is a nasty word, even if it comes through mutual value exchange.

    No customer-focussed strategy will EVER work unless it profitable for the organisation developing it. So all definitions need profit or some proxy for profit in them

    Just a thought.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  6. glennross says:

    Becky, Thank you SO much for creating this post. Not only did I listen and act, but I also heard your commenters. Here’s the latest version:
    http://www.allbusiness.com/company-activities-management/operations-customer/10206589-1.html

    Regards,

    Glenn

  7. Graham, I am actually very against any “be nice to customers just because” ideas, so thank you for pointing that out. A different perspective always helps! Customer focus should be a strategy – and strategies include clear metrics and ROI for both customer and company. Great feedback.

    Glenn, glad you got what you needed from this set of conversations! I like the direction you are heading.

  8. Lyndon says:

    I agree that a good customer strategy is very important for success. Customer focused companies stand out from the rest.

  9. Lyndon says:

    Thanks for the links to the examples. Great to look at how different companies deal with a customer focused approach.

  10. jessie says:

    This post right here got me more focused on taking care of business
    I thank you for the information.

  11. Zaineb Usmani says:

    Good article and very well written. Enjoyed reading it (plus informative!)

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