Hands down there is nothing more frustrating than to have manufacturing or operations make a mistake on the very first customer order or interaction. Despite the effort and investment to attract a new client, it only takes a minor error to completely destroy the customers experience and erase and positive impressions they might have had.
In business, individuals in marketing or selling have an outward focus placed on identifying and capitalizing on that which the customer values. Those in operations or manufacturing however have an inward focus centered on productivity and efficiency. Explained another way, the responsibility of Sales is to attract and close new customers while Operations delivers the customer’s product or service as fast and efficiently as possible, minimizing costs along the way. These opposing viewpoints result in what I call the Customer Value Disconnect, or C.V.D. for short.
Fortunately to close the C.V.D. gap is not as difficult as you might think and is somewhat counterintuitive to conventional thinking. The key is in shifting Operational perspectives around what it is that customers value.
There are a few critical questions that can support diminishing C.V.D. and bring about a broader perspective on what it means to satisfy customers. Here are the three most critical:
1. Who are your customers?
No, this isn’t a trick question. You see, most people engaged in managing operations see “sales” as their end customer, but this isn’t correct. The companies and individuals who pay your invoice are the customer, each of whom has a name, a voice, a specific need, and a reason for doing business with your company. Help Operations put a face to the name to form the makings of a deeper and more meaningful connection.
2. What do your customers value?
Value is truly in the eye of the beholder. Each and every customer has unique needs for your product or service to fulfill. Are your Operational folks familiar with why your customers engage your services or buy your product? Are they able to clearly define what it is that your customers value? If Operations can connect their activities with delivering value to customers whose names they recognize, they’ll no longer feel as if they are “satisfying customer demand;” they will recognize the value they are delivering and the purpose it serves.
3. Every customer is unique
Today, as you know, calling upon each customer with the same message or approach just doesn’t work. Every customer is and wants to feel unique and special; more than just a number. Operations are typically the most disconnected from your customers, so they don’t understand how each customer is unique. By bringing those from Operations into customer meetings and forums, you create a deeper connection. This helps Operations make the connection with how each customer is unique, and how they can better support each unique customers needs.
If you are struggling with an underperforming or underwhelming operations or manufacturing team, help them connect with each of your customers, and you will find a greater commitment to customer satisfaction and ultimately a higher percentage of retained, happy customers.
Shawn Casemore is the Founder and President of Casemore and Co Incorporated, a management consultancy focused on helping companies build businesses that their customers and employees value. For more information you can visit his website at www.casemoreandco.com or follow Shawn on Twitter at @ShawnCasemore.