As an organization gets larger, there is a tendency to start to focus more on overhead and profit and less on customer acquisition, and even more important, retention. My friend and customer service colleague, Steve Digioia brought this up and asked the question, “What are the causes of this change and how do you keep this from happening?”
My first response was that yes, this does happen, and then there’s a realization that the company has to get back to focusing on the customer, playing catch up to replacing defecting customers and making up for lower sales as a result. This is the opposite of what they wanted to achieve.
And, and sometimes it’s even purposeful. Leadership may decide to purposely change their mindset – and even their company culture – from being customer-focused to bottom line focused. That may look good on paper for a short while, but long term it is a mistake.
So how does a company prevent this from happening? First and foremost, if the company has a culture and vision in place, every move they make should always bring up the question, “Is this in keeping with our vision?” Assuming the answer is yes, then the focus needs to move toward employees.
For those that are interested in staying focused on the customer, it is more important than ever to hire the right people that fit into your customer-focused culture. Training is also essential. And, as the company grows, it is important for leadership to be aware if any part of the company (departments within the company, people within the company, etc.) is going out of cultural alignment.
So, how can this be prevented? Here is a simple answer to a complicated question: Keep focused on the people. Constant reinforcement of the importance of customer service is key to sustaining the culture.
A good example of this is Amazon.com. As they grew and added different areas to their business, they always put the customer first. The first question they always asked when rolling out a new program was whether or not was this was going to be right for the customer. The second question they asked was if it was going to be right for Amazon.
Remember what Dr. Ted Levitt of Harvard business school said: “The function of a business is to get and keep customers.” The goal is to make money. If you don’t focus on the function, you might not reach your goal.