Defining “Customer-Focused Strategy”
Posted by Becky Carroll on May 14, 2008
My blogging friend Glenn Ross has put forth the following challenge to some of his fellow Customer Service bloggers (including me): How do you define “Customer-Focused Strategy?” Great question, Glenn! Glenn has posted his definition of a customer-focused strategy, and has included ideas and definitions from other excellent customer service bloggers, including ServiceUntitled, CustomersAreAlways, and CustServ. There are many good ideas there, and I encourage you to check them out.
Customer strategy is the main focus of this blog as well as what I do (and have been doing) for a living. I still like the paragraph I wrote on customer strategy last year at about this time; here is the excerpt from the post Rockin’ Our Customer’s Experience Online:
Does your organization have a customer strategy? Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy. Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy. Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers! Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition. Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?
In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy. A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch. In other words, we make each impression with the customer count. Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road. How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question? The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals. Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.
In other words, a customer-focused strategy is a planned approach to how we handle our customers at every touch point. It is more than just giving great customer service. It is more than marketing with certain customer buzzwords. It is more than a great customer experience. It requires a strategic plan to be put in place to address all of those areas, plus the metrics to ensure the success of the strategy.
I have been part of creating a customer-focused strategy for several clients, and this is no small undertaking. It requires agreement and consistency across all functional areas in order to be most effective. No silos allowed! The customer doesn’t look at a company as individual departments, so we need to be “one brand” to the customer. The customer-focused strategy helps make that happen.
Glenn also asked for examples of companies who do this well. There are a few competitions out there for this type of award; a great one is coming up from the team at Peppers and Rogers Group and Gartner. Called the Gartner and 1to1 Customer Excellence Awards, it will be showcasing those companies that “get” customer strategy – and how to execute it. (By the way, the contest is open until May 23, so if you are reading this and want to submit your company, you can go here and enter.)
At this blog, I have listed several examples of companies that are doing customer strategy well. They include FreshBooks and their customer roadtrip, Bungie and the way they are fans of their customers, Element Fusion and their web concierge, Disney and customer delight, and Xerox and their dedication to customer experience, among others. I don’t think any one of them is perfect, but each of them do many things well across several areas.
OK, out to you, readers! How would you define “customer-focused strategy”? Do you agree with me or am I missing something? Who is doing it well?
(Photo credit: redbaron)