Is Your Business Customer centric?

Customer centric businesses serve all stakeholders
Customer centric businesses serve all stakeholders

Customer centric firms are primed to create value for all stakeholders. How about your firm? Is it customer centric? The late management guru, scholar, and author, Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Therefore, no customers, no business; no students, no school; no sports fans, no stadium! It’s that simple. But many firms don’t believe this. If they did, we would experience better customer service more often.

Oligopolies are not Customer centric

In Canada, two key industries, banking and telecommunications, are oligopolies. They are not customer centric. Yet, consumers accept the lack of effective competition, and are complacent. Often, firms in these industries provide poor services while hiking fees often. Ironically, when the government wanted more competition in telecommunications recently, companies played the patriotism card successfully.

Though cleverly disguised, in Canada, we pay to receive calls on our cell phones, to boot! Besides, the service from some of these firms is pathetic. Certainly not customer centric. Poorly trained staff operate in silos and pass you from one section to another to solve the simplest issue. It took over two hours and four different people for Sasktel to tell me how to use the service I paid for, but was not available as they promised. The solution was simple, but they complicated it.

Banking is a solid oligopoly. It’s not customer centric. Fees proliferate. Some accounts with large balances get no interest. Yet, a one day overdraft of a small sum in that account attracts an interest charge. Then again, it’s a challenge and time waster for the ordinary person to reach a properly trained human to answer a basic question.

These firms, like government departments, aren’t customer centric. Employees operate in their own spaces. They aren’t keen about serving customers. They are the wrong people, poorly trained, but doing jobs that should provide proper service to the public.

A service attitude comes from hiring the right people, putting them in the right slots, training, and empowering them. Ideally, building needed positions around them. It’s the attitude we see at Southwest Airlines, Apple, and Amazon. It means a commitment to putting people first.

Customer centric Businesses put People First

When firms hire the right people and commit to them, these people will be the basis for a solid business that leads to steady profits. Look at Southwest Airlines! It has shown a profit for over 40 straight years in one of the worst industries. What is its secret? Its commitment to employees on its website tells all:

“We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. … Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.”

Despite major economic turmoil caused by the 9/11 tragedy and the Great Recession, Southwest Airlines did not lay off one employee. Instead, it chose to absorb the financial shock to respect the covenant with employees.

5 Steps to become Customer centric

I believe firms can take a few simple steps to create a customer centric business where people will want to work:

  1. Know your employees and customers and be open with them. When you select employees of character and are open with them, they will commit to the firm. In turn, they will provide great service to customers.
  2. Value your employees. Show them you care about them. Be alert to relieve stress levels. This shows you care for them and are interested in them as individuals.
  3. Love your employees equally, but treat them uniquely. People have special needs that need special treatment. Be fair, reasonable, and apply the golden rule always.
  4. Empower employees. Allow them to use their skills to rewrite jobs to improve customer service. Allow them to make mistakes, but teach them to learn from them. Let employees apply common sense and be creative to help achieve the mission. Get rid of stupid rules.
  5. Train employees to put doing the firm’s mission before bureaucratic procedures. This might mean going outside their assigned job descriptions to satisfy customers. Therefore, stress to each person that the job is just a path to the bigger picture of serving the customer and doing the mission.

Is Your Business Customer centric

Almost 50 years ago as a student in London, England, one summer I worked at Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. Before allowing me to sell in the store, I had to attend a one week training program that drilled in me this simple slogan that they follow today: “The customer is always right.”

People are valuable. People create and sustain value in firms. Therefore, treat them right. Respect them, and so, start the customer centric journey in your firm.

Why does Air Canada linger in technical bankruptcy, while West Jet flourishes? It’s all about how each company treats its employees and its customers.

For more on small businesses visit Managing God’s Money™, small businesses page.

© 2015, Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of seven books — including his first children's book published in 2022 — speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money™ and Stewarding God's Resources.

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