Customer-focused Strategy

Earlier this morning, Glenn from AllBusiness CS sent an email to several customer service bloggers (including me) asking us to define “customer-focused strategy.” It’s an interesting prompt and one worth talking about.

Most simply, I would define “customer-focused strategy” as a view on business that puts customers at the center of business decisions. It’s a long term view and not a short term goal or phase. Essentially, all decisions revolve around the ever important question of “how does this affect our customers?” Companies that make customer focus a part of their competitive strategy (I think of companies like Nordstrom, The Ritz Carlton, etc.) value the customer experience above almost all aspects of the business. They also are likely to adopt the view that shareholder value will follow customer satisfaction (as opposed to always trying to appease Wall Street or other investors).

I think the most important aspect of what makes up “customer-focused strategy” is the thinking of making decisions with the betterment of the customer and the customer experience in mind. In practice, that means having the flexible return or cancellation policy, empowering employees to take ownership over issues, and rewarding employees who provide great service and continue to make the experience better for individual customers and the majority of customers.

Companies with a “customer-focused strategy” are constantly, and actively, seeking ways to improve their customer service. They have people whose sole responsibility is improving the customer experience, they are hiring consultants, looking at themselves from different perspectives, encouraging customer feedback, and making use of that feedback. They respond to the good and bad and make sure that opinions are voiced and are taken to heart.

I’d actually like to argue that “customer-focused strategy” is more about implementation than actual strategy. It’s as much as a cultural aspect of any particular business as it is a strategic aspect. If it’s reduced to a buzzword used solely among the upper echelons of management, it won’t be effective. If “customer-focused strategy” is something that a particular company lives and breathes, if a company is constantly asking itself “how does this affect our customers?”, then they’re onto something great. And that something will likely result in success.