At the center of a Lean culture and key to success is customer focus. Many companies do Lean for internal cost reasons rather than external and customer-focused reasons. The focus of Lean is on providing the customer with more value sooner. Without customer focus, Lean management techniques are difficult to employ.
For any business the customer is the lifeblood. Every process and every action internal or external should ultimately result in the value addition to the customer and the customer’s delight. Therefore it is essential that the customer needs, wants and expectations are identified before you embark on a Lean implementation.
Since the customer is the only reason you have a job, if you are not willing to satisfy the customer…then you might as well go home; you are not needed. Remember that perception is reality with customer service. If your customers don’t see your organization as one that engages in customer-focused behavior, then you are not providing exceptional customer service. Treating your customers as valued individuals is often more important than price.
Focus on the customer means all systems and processes require continuous improvement. These businesses think about what they can do to make customers happy (as opposed to get the most money out of them, signup the most accounts, etc.) all the time and think about how they can make the customer experience better.
In a customer focused organization, Leadership, Processes and People are customer-aligned. This requires that:
- Every action is shaped by a relentless commitment to meeting and exceeding customer expectations regarding product and service quality.
- Customer touch points and supporting internal processes are constantly evaluated and improved to meet or exceed those expectations.
- Every employee understands what he/she must do in order to maintain and add value to every relationship with both the paying customer and those within the organization that rely on them for the work they do.
Customer focus and service excellence is everyone’s responsibility, not just those that have direct contact with them. Organizations that are recognized as exceptional providers of customer service are the ones that have incorporated these customer-focused behaviors into their daily operations.
Customer “satisfaction” does not simply happen; it is an effect. Quality is one important cause of the customer satisfaction effect, along with price, convenience, service, and a host of other variables. The more our daily actions and long term plans are driven by meeting customer expectations, and the more we evaluate our work based upon these expectations, the more we improve customer loyalty and advocacy. This relentless focus on the customer is the path to sustained growth and profitability.