For a long time, I have argued the contractors should define the term client as "someone under the protection of." At the heart of that definition is the idea that contractors must focus on the client. But how does one do that? In other words, what are skills and attitudes required to achieve to be a customer focused contractor? I recent read an article by a colleague of mine; Shep Hyken titled "Six Differences Between Customer-Focused Companies and Operations-Focused Companies" that answers those questions. Since the typical contractor is operations focused, Shep's article offers some sound advice, there with Shep's permission his article follows.
Some companies really understand customer service. They know how to hire for it, train for it and deliver it. Other companies claim to give customer service, but in reality, they are grounded in an operations mentality with rules and policies that allow for little flexibility, preventing them from being anything more than just average or satisfactory. Here are a few observations of the differences between customer-focused companies versus operations-focused companies:
Empowerment: A customer-focused company empowers employees to make decisions that are for the benefit of the customer. They have guidelines versus rules and take the approach that if it isn’t illegal, immoral, won’t cost the company money (although sometimes that’s still okay), and won’t harm the company’s reputation, then consider doing it to take care of the customer. The operations-focused company requires a manager’s approval for anything that is outside of their policies or typical way of doing business.
Hiring: A customer-focused company hires people who fit the culture, which means they have the personalities and core-values that align with the company’s vision and mission. Certain jobs may require skill, but skill alone won’t get the applicant hired. An operations-focused company will hire for skill, filling a position with technical strengths. The applicant’s personality may or may not fit with the corporate culture.
Training: A customer-focused company spends time and money training for soft skills such as relationship building and customer service. The company recognizes that it takes both, technical and soft skills, to break away from being average. The operations-focused company spends most of their training dollars and time on technical skills and product knowledge.
Leadership: The leaders of a customer-focused company set the vision and mission of the culture, and then they lead by example. The leaders of an operations-focused company sets the vision and mission of the culture, but sometimes will have the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach. Sometimes their behavior is incongruent with what they want to achieve, often leaving the employees confused and less than motivated.
People First: The customer-focused company knows the importance of putting people first – specifically employees. They develop a culture of happy, engaged and fulfilled employees that deliver a better customer experience. Customers like this and continue to come back. An operations-focused company develops a culture focused on systems, procedures and the bottom line. While this is important to any company’s success, they miss the culture part of the equation.
Customer Service: The customer-focused company looks at customer service as a philosophy to be embraced by every employee of the company, recognizing that there are both external and internal customers. The operations-focused company sees customer service as a department.
by TED GARRISON
Ted Garrison, president of Garrison Associates, is a catalyst for change. As a consultant, author and speaker; delivers his Construction 3.0 Strategies that offer breakthrough solutions for the construction industry by focusing on critical issues in leadership, project management, strategic thinking, strategic alliances and marketing. Contact Ted at 800-861-0874 or [email protected]. Further information can be found at www.TedGarrison.com.