The most likely response to “Who is your customer?” is “The One who pays for our products and/or services”. So typically, the ones that come to mind when we are reminded to ‘keep the customers happy’ are the paying clients. Yes, keeping paying customers happy is of utmost importance as repeat sales and referrals are key to business growth. No wonder many companies evolve; even engaging third parties for various functions: Marketing, Sales, Customer Relations, et al. Yet, think about it, every dealing in a business organization require an optimum level of “customer satisfaction.”
Customer satisfaction at every level of the organization is dependent on the quality of one’s work and on how one relates with others. One has to deal with bosses, subordinates, colleagues, suppliers, affiliates, partners, support staff and finally, all clients. Everyone in the organization is a customer and has a customer to please. It is about giving the best you could and being the person everyone wants to work with. After all, everything works as a system and everyone relates with individuals who are integral to the process. Even management must consider their employees as “customer” -- keeping valued employees happy, so they decide to stay.
What is gained when customer satisfaction is espoused at every level in the organization? A culture of excellence at every level of the business operations.
Imagine if there are gaps in the system... Take for instance an FMCG company that is known for excellent products and service delivery. Yet is notorious for not paying its suppliers on time. Can you also imagine a good brand being given defective finished goods by its suppliers? ( E.g. mobile phone with defective batteries; a car with defective seatbelts.) When an accident happens, it is not the supplier who gets the blame but the manufacturer. Sales suffer.
What about a bank with a security guard who feels he is not duty bound to assist clients in the parking area? Then you’ll regularly have a pissed off client before he even steps into the bank. Then there are third party suppliers with backlog in deliveries because of inefficiencies in system. These are just a few examples to illustrate that all transactions and dealings have a way of affecting the whole “food chain”.
To minimize gaps in the system:
1. Third-party partners who are integral to business operations must share your corporate values. They are extension of your company.
2. Keep good partners and you can be assured of consistency in being supplied quality materials and excellent service. Recognize their business needs and goals. For instance, keep your credit terms reasonable. “Days Payables”is now a barometer of efficiency in running a business.
3. Develop a desirable corporate culture. One that challenges and motivates. One that allows people to grow and have a sense of ownership for their contribution. Encourage camaraderie and team work by empowering people to be part of the solutions to issues and concerns. Reward and recognize performers, especially those with initiative. Chances are, when you have a passionate work force, you’ve got low employee turnover rate and an increase efficiency levels. (Hardly any learning curves).
4. Develop a sense of accountability for employees. However, ensure they are equipped for the job. Train, empower, motivate.
5. Make every employee, including support staff, embrace the culture of excellent service: secretaries, procurement officers, security guards, receptionists, telephone operators, et al. are at times overlooked.
Yes, everyone matters as everyone is part of the chain. Everyone is a customer with needs to be satisfied and everyone has customers to satisfy. So, key to keeping your customers happy is delighting people with the quality of your work and relationship with them. Delighting customers means exceeding their expectations in all aspects of your relations with them.