Year of the Customer

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January 2017

Year of the Customer

Often these communiques are influenced by what I am experiencing with my corporate clients. In the delivery of needs-meeting solutions I am sensitized toward specific areas of organizational impact and tend to write about them. You could say I am WUI (writing under the influence). But this particular Edge is not so much instigated by my client engagement as it is by my own recent experience as a client.

Here is the drastically condensed back-story that leads to our discussion. We have been engaged in a home construction project and the original builders failed miserably. Enter Lee, former SunTrust executive and owner of a construction company in Greenville, SC. Lee is one of the most heads-up people with whom I’ve ever been engaged as a client. If you’ll pardon some colloquial phraseology here, we’ve gone from hades to heaven in no time flat. My new client experience has been enjoyable and satisfying.

This experience has caused me to wonder what would happen to organizations if 2017 were “The Year of the Customer”? A business heading for enterprise success, like a train, must pass through the station of client experience excellence if the business is really going to get anywhere. Most of my corporate clients highly value the customer and it is foundational to their success. But what if organizations re-doubled their commitment to put the customer at the center of everything? What if leaders’ creativity were unleashed to recognize and generate numerous ways to learn about and better meet client needs? If that were the case, below could be a few idea-starters:

Listen – Listen – Listen (with intent to listen some more)
Monitor your social media (social listening)
Identify where your clients are most dependent on you then ratchet-up your excellence
Schedule “ride-alongs” to introduce non customer-facing talent to customer need(s)
Sponsor key client feedback/perspective focus groups at offsite location
Discover ways to observe what your customers do (versus what they say)
Conduct no planning meetings without the client symbolically present in attendance
Establish customer journey coaches or facilitators
Was included in an executive planning session a few years ago and the meeting was briefly interrupted by an urgent client issue. One of the key executives said, “Oh those doggone clients, getting in the way of our planning!” The executive was kidding, being completely facetious. But it served as a humorously dry reminder that keeping customer focus at all levels of the organization is always the point.

Your customers are depending on you. Your competitors are trying to catch up to you. And the leader who keeps the client at the center of everything displays unbeatable excellence.


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