…are we deluding ourselves by thinking we understand our customer's needs?
It's funny how we think we know what our customers want, but equally spend quite a bit of our time complaining that companies we use don't really understand what we want. Can this really be? How many of us wish we had a hot line to other organisations so that we could tell them, knowing that the only way to find out what your customers want is to get their views. But do they have production department with different views and priorities from sales departments?
So many companies have reflected these issues, that we developed a package to provide a platform for developing customer focus. We called this unique package 'ACE' (©Leading Edge Management Consultancy Limited) and it stands for an Audit of Customer Expectations. The idea behind ACE is that it identifies for you what your customers expect from your company and how they perceive you compared with your competitors. It is structured to focus on what is really important to your customers. It identifies the factors that are critical to a company's success and then explores them in an interactive way. It also measures how accurately staff understand the customers' expectations.
This creates the platform on which you can build a customer focus programme with presentations to staff, internal task forces to measure performance against specific 'moments of truth' and set new performance targets. Working parties may be needed to establish if it would be cost effective to change processes or invest in a new IT system.
Each audit package is company specific and can be carried out again at a later date to see what progress has been made with developing customer focus.
Also, you can join one of our ACE-user groups. The idea of getting together with other non-competing companies in the same position to share ideas is very popular. The group shares thoughts on how the issues raised by the audit can be successfully implemented into working practise. As well as benchmarking and informal networking, ideas can be shared to prevent users re-inventing the wheel.
Keeping your existing customers costs up to one tenth of the cost of finding a new one. By understanding them better, you can make them into ardent supporters. There is no-one so powerful as a customer who will tell others about how good you are.
Case Studies – Customer Focus
One of the companies who undertook an ACE project found that front-line staff had a much more accurate view of customers' expectations than the directors and this was leading to a lack of management focus on some key issues.
Two of the companies we have worked with recently thought that their delivery performance was good, but we found that customers didn't think so. It turned out in both cases that when a goods delivery was going to be late, the company measured its performance only against the time re-negotiated with the customer, not the original time. Yet the companies thought they had delivered their goods on time! But the customers remembered the original promised time and were disappointed. They felt they had been let down. Promises had been broken once and so could be again! Even worse, one of the two measured their delivery performance against the time when the lorry left the factory, not when it arrived.
What our clients have said when using us for Customer Focus consultancy
"Immediate grasp of our objectives and industry problems with unrivalled professionalism"
"Understanding of the construction industry and of strategic issues we face"
"Responsive; quickly grasps the problem; sees the strategic implications of the research and has an opinion"
"Clearly identifies what needs to be carried out to achieve best in class market position."
"I would have no hesitation in recommending Leading Edge to other non competing organisations and was very pleased with the end report and briefing in what turned out to be a very difficult respondent group."