Redefine “Customer” to Build a Great Business

Redefine “Customer” to Build a Great Business

Redefine “Customer” to Build a Great Business 2560 1707 Lis Hubert

If you build great customer relationships, you’ll build a great business.

This advice is even more important in a post-COVID-19 business world. Why? Because businesses who are human-centered and choose to connect with the people surrounding their business are emerging as clear winners. The connective tissue of these winners is great customer relationships.

The key to creating these relationships starts with your company extending its definition of “customer” beyond that of the end-user of your product or service.

Doing this you’ll recognize that everyone in your business, whether front-facing or not, has a “customer,” someone directly affected by their work. Then, you can help everyone in your company to identify who their customer is. From there, employees can extend your customer experience standards to the people they directly serve.

The result is a web of great customer relationships throughout your business ecosystem.

Everyone Has a Customer

Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Let’s say you are an executive of a hospital. You take customer experience very seriously, and your front line nurses, from the triage nurse to the room attending nurse, have all been coached on the patient experience standards your team has set.

Because of this attention to patient experience, survey after survey shows how patients feel taken care of and confident that their health needs will be secured by your nurses. Customer experience success!

However, your nurse turnover rate is through the roof. Because you can’t keep nurses on staff, you’re constantly spending on training to keep nurse-patient experience quality high. The numbers aren’t adding up, so you look deeper.

You begin conducting anonymous exit interview surveys for nurses. You find out the nurses are leaving because they don’t feel supported and rewarded by their managers.

For example, when nurses try to switch days off with other nurses, they are reprimanded. When they get a great survey response, no reward is given.

In short, your nurse managers aren’t treating their staff as Internal Customers. The amazing customer experience that nurses provide to the patients, your end-users, isn’t reflected back to them by their bosses. Because of this incongruence, they decide to take their talents elsewhere, along with the awesome customer experience training you provided.

The sad part is, this business misstep is not from a lack of customer experience fore-thought and training. It is a result of a lack of extending the hospital’s definition of “customer”, ensuring that the forethought isn’t fully utilized.

Why Redefining “Customer” Matters

Part of being a human-centered business is living the mantra that “everyone in my business has a customer.” As we saw in the example above, this is true even if an individual doesn’t interact directly with the end-user of your product or service.

Look at it this way. How you define the term “customer” is equivalent to how you define who is valuable to your organization.

If you define a customer as an individual who is being served by another individual, whether that customer is an accountant who is served by another employee’s timely receipts, or a food delivery driver who is served by the cook with a paid invoice, then you are saying that everyone who interacts with and for your business matters.

Because everyone in your organization is able to identify who their customers are, they gain clear direction on how to do great work to help their customers find success.

Better yet, employees are customers too! This means that everyone in the ecosystem is getting their needs met, resulting in that great feeling of being supported in meeting one’s goals.

Finally, when people know they matter, they want to work at or with your business because they know your business will support them in finding individual feelings of success.

Great customer relationships = great business.

However, if you only define “customers” as end-users, then you’re saying that the only people who matter to your organization are those that pay for your product or service. This practically guarantees that internal and partner relationships suffer because you disconnect individuals from making each other successful. This reinforces poor relationships, and the chain of success breaks.

Building Great Customer Relationships

When it comes to redefining “customer” to build a great business, Disney provides a perfect example.

The Disney philosophy is, “Cast members are treated the way they are expected to treat the guests.” This means that those behind the scenes are expected and trained to treat each other the way they would treat a park guest.

So, how do put the philosophy into practice?

1. The first step is creating a shared definition of “Customer.” This definition expands beyond your end-user to anyone who makes contact with your business. Once you have this definition, share it far and wide, just like Disney.

2. The next step is to define and set a high standard of Customer Experience for your organization. Train employees on what this means, create a shared customer-first language, and reinforce it with your own actions.

3. Subsequently, ensure everyone in your organization knows they have a customer, even if they’re not front-facing. Look at your business ecosystem and your org chart. Understand the interlocking relationships that are supporting your business. Ask managers and employees who their customers are and how they serve them currently.

4. Finally, make sure you are communicating your Customer Experience standards throughout your organization. Further, ensure that all those in your organization are equipped to serve those customers according to your standards.

Redefining “Customer” Means Great Business

Redefining the term “customer” means treating everyone who interacts with your business like they matter. By treating every person who comes in contact with your business as a customer, you foster customer loyalty throughout your business ecosystem. This customer loyalty is the cornerstone of human-centered businesses.

We’re seeing real-time examples of businesses who are living this mantra. The next time you hear of business success during COVID-19, dig a little deeper. How do they build customer relationships? How do their employees think customer-first?

Oh, and when you find these examples, send them our way. We’re itching to give them props.

About the author

Lis Hubert

Lis is an acclaimed design and strategy thought leader, writer, and speaker with extensive expertise in Digital Strategy, Customer Experience, Information Architecture, and Design Thinking.

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