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Will the real 'customer focused' company please step forward?

SCRTD - Del Amo Customer Service Center RTD_11...Image by Metro Transportation Library and Archive via Flickr

I ask business owners, managers, and sales people this question all the time. "Why do your customers do business with your company as opposed to one of your competitors?"

"It is our customer service!"

This is how far too many business owners, managers and sales people respond. But consider the logic. If five competing business all provide "great" customer service, the fact is that "great" is the new "average." Thus, if no one stands out on the basis of their "above average" customer service, no one can actually claim that their customers select their company (and de-select the rest) based upon customer service. The truth is that for most businesses, delivering good customer service is really means that they do their best to not deliver bad customer service.

So what does the REAL customer service company look like?

  • The company vision explicitly customer oriented.
  • The core values of the company are defined and congruent with a customer service focus.
  • Both the greater vision and core values are known and understood by everyone in the company.
  • In addition to past performance, these customer service oriented core values are key to all decisions having to do with hiring, firing, rewarding and recognizing.
  • The company is organized and structured around customer service.
  • Customer service goals are in place and are constantly measured and reported.
  • All the processes are designed around the customer, they are documented, and they are consistently followed.
  • Customer service guarantees are in place and honored.

Are these things true of your company? If not, it isn't a bad thing. It does not mean that you have abandoned the ideal of providing good service to your customers. It merely means that as a company, you have chosen on purpose or by default to differentiate yourself another way. Perhaps it is cheapest price, the best technology, the biggest brains, or the most choices.

If not customer service, to what does your organization have this level of commitment such that it is, or can be, the real reason customers choose to do business with you?

We would love your comments about what companies you think have clearly been able to distinguish themselves around customer service in Iowa.

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Becoming a customer-focused company is a never-ending story. So I doubt any leader of a customer focused company would say they have arrived.

Having worked along side the leadership teams of businesses in Iowa that are making that journey I would have to say I am biased.

That said, I would say Kreg Tool in Huxley is a very good example of an organization built around the "right customer" (Jack) and the "right customer experience" (What would Jack want?).

To discover how a customer-focused leader thinks and talks ck out Michael Hyatt's interview of Chick-fil-A 's president, Dan Cathy; http://michaelhyatt.com/an-interview-with-dan-cathy.html

Great post Jeff, even better challenge!!!

Keep creating...a brand worth raving about, Mike

This may be odd, but Iowa seems like a place that is lacking in customer service. Sure, Iowans are more likely to greet you on the street and say "hi" but when you are doing business with them, they are too casual.

Perhaps the idea that we are naturally friendly here in the Midwest factors into company decisions to NOT hire proper training. After all, we're all friendly here, we don't need the training that those crabby New Yorkers need. Alas, dear Iowan company executive, you do.

One company I can think of that has amazing customer service, isn't big at all. It's Bandit Burrito in Johnston. Their employees always greet me, and say thank you. They are very helpful and will customize anything to make you happy.

Sadly, the only others companies I can think of are chains or not based here in Iowa.

Mike, Thanks for your feedback and the link. If you liked Dan Cathy's interview, visit www.behindthesandwich.com.

Justin, Interesting that you would bring up a burrito joint. Fellow biz blogger Drew McLellan and I were having a conversation about a different, yet similar restaurant. The topic was about the "1000 yard stare" that you sometimes encounter from the person behind the counter. They are like robots taking orders but completely disengaged with the customers.

Perhaps Drew will write a fun blog post in the future given that he is all about "creating love affairs with your customers."

Take a look at Trader Joe's grocery. (Disclaimer: I work there part-time.) It appears that from the top down that the focus is really on the customer. What other grocery stores have a person designated just to walk around the store just to help customers; or where, if a customer wants to know what something tastes like, will open the package and let them sample it?

Joe, I love Trader Joe's. As soon as I walk through the door I feel like I am a part of something cool. It is the closest grocery from my home so I am in their fairly often to pick up an item, but I always see something I want to try.

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