The road towards sharp customer-focus goes via people management - part 2

Eric Fraterman

This is the second of two blog entries on this topic. For Part 1 please click here.

Developing a sharper Customer Focus for a sharper competitive edge is a means for sustainable competitive differentiation and thus a profit strategy. In a previous blog entry here, called People>Service>Profit Chain , I emphasized the critical importance of People in achieving a sharp Customer-Focus. In this entry I am pointing again towards the importance of People Management. By way of context, let’s define Customer Focus first: It is an aligned whole-organization approach to customer satisfaction and service, leading to loyalty and advocacy.

In a Customer Focused organization, Leadership, Processes and People are customer-aligned. In broad strokes this means that:

  • Every action is shaped by a relentless commitment to meeting and exceeding customer expectations regarding product and service quality
  • Customer touching and supporting internal processes are constantly evaluated and improved to meet or exceed those expectations
  • Employees are aware of their role in maintaining a valued relationship with their external and internal customers

But what exactly does that mean and how do you do it?

There are a number of pragmatic building blocks of a Customer-Focused culture. As you will see, several of them deal with aspects of People Management; this is a clear strand that runs through these components.

In my first entry of this topic I covered:

  1. Define Customer-Focus
  2. Make a business case
  3. Set goals
  4. Make Customer-Focus everyone's business

Here are the remaining four building blocks:

5. Cultivate competencies that drive Customer-FocusIdentify the competencies that support strong Customer-Focus, and communicate these to employees. Then assess every manager and employee's demonstration of these core- and role-specific competencies and put development plans in place to increase everyone's proficiency. Make sure you translate them into observable and measurable behaviors, so managers and employees clearly know "how" they are expected to work. The assessment of these core- and role-specific competencies should be a key part of your performance appraisal process and forms. Managers should be accountable for leading by example and supporting and coaching their employees in this. That is how an organization ends up Walking the Talk!

6. Develop Customer-FocusThere are lots of learning programs and activities that aim to increase Customer-Focus. Not all of them are effective. I personally like the Customers for Life framework offered by The Training Bank, either through in class or online delivery. They include activities and tools to help define the competencies you have defined as important to Customer-Focus and make them available to employees and managers. Measure the impact each training resource has had on employee performance. This way, you can identify and maximise use of the tools and programmes that are truly effective and eliminate those that aren't.

7. Reward and celebrate Customer-Focused accomplishmentsRegularly assess every employee's performance of their goals and Customer-Focus competencies. Performance appraisals are a great way to do this, but employees really need ongoing feedback and coaching from their managers in order to develop and improve their performance. Employee performance management should be an ongoing, two-way dialogue between managers and employees, not a once-a-year task. Where opportunities for development are identified, managers should work with their employees to identify appropriate learning activities. And strong employee performance and demonstrated Customer-Focus should be acknowledged and rewarded through formal and informal means. Especially sincere celebration is a key ingredient of success. This has to be celebrated discontent, though. Yes, we celebrate success, but we cannot rest on our laurels – good is never good enough - what’s next...

8. Communicate, communicate, communicateThis last building block is often forgotten. Communication needs to become a forethought, rather than the afterthought it often is. Communicate the core competencies that support the organization's focus on customers. Communicate the organizational goals related to Customer-Focus. Communicate organizational progress of these goals. Communicate milestones and results as they are achieved. If you want to build a Customer-Focused culture, you need to keep Customer-Focus at the forefront for all employees. Reinforce that with constant communication about its importance and relevance.

Building a Customer-Focused culture takes time and effort — but the payout for your organization, customers and shareholders is significant. There is ample empirical research that provides evidence of the linkage between sharp Customer-Focus and above average and sustainable profitability. As you can see, a key ingredient is leveraging your People Management processes (like hiring, performance appraisals, employee development planning, and compensation and rewards) to help focus everyone in the organization on demonstrating Customer-Focus and achieving such organizational goals.

PS: A good and practical read is the book That’s Customer Focus by Ray Miller.

Eric Fraterman is a Customer Focus Consultant with a wide and deep experience in more than twenty industries and six countries over 25 years. He helps organizations create a Customer-Focus advantage for gaining and retaining business through exceptional customer service and experience.He can be reached at eric@customerfocusconsult.com Website: www.customerfocusconsult     LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/440216ericfraterman


Seven steps to creating a winning team culture

Gregg Gregory

A winning team culture includes great teamwork, strong collaboration, amazingly talented employees, sound leadership, effective planning, and consistent decision making.

Read More


Wanting To Make a Difference To Someone’s Life? Di...

Drake Editorial

Disability Support Work is a growing profession that has experienced a significant increase in terms of jobs over the last 20 years. The healthcare and community sector employs over 1.8 million people and is expected to increase to over 2.0 million by 2025. This fast-growing sector now provides a myriad of career opportunities that can be rewarding both personally and professionally.

Read more


The Positive Impact of COVID on our Environment

Drake Editorial

There is no question, we have endured major disruption over the last two years though with all bad, comes good and rather than focusing on the negatives, it is helpful to consider the positives. The global pandemic has changed the way in which we live and work. For many months, workers were subjected to either working from home (WFH) or a hybrid model working both from home and the office. Despite some discomfort being confined to your home residence, often 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, it had a vast, positive impact on the environment that became evident quite early in 2020. 

Read more


Why Wellbeing Programs Fail

Michelle McQuaid

Despite your best intentions and efforts are your wellbeing programs falling short of the long-term outcomes you hoped to achieve? With global spending reported to be now over forty billion dollars a year on programs targeting the physical, mental and social wellbeing in workplaces, it’s heart-breaking to realise that generally employee’s unhappiness and stress levels at work continue to rise. So what might your wellbeing program be missing?

Read more


5 Key Advantages of Diversity

Drake Editorial

It is becomingly increasingly understood that encouraging diversity and promoting inclusion is not only valuable, but a commercially astute business decision.


Read more


How would you best manage your workplace culture i...

Drake Editorial

‘The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit, is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse, beginning in early 2021, primarily in the United States. Possible causes include wage stagnation amid rising cost of living, economic freedom provided by COVID-19 stimulus payments, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, and safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.’ (Wikipedia, 2022)

Read more