A number of reports have declared that 2007 is ‘the year of the customer’.  For many it is because every year is the year of the customer.  For others, it is because they are jumping on the latest fad. 

Being customer focused is a challenge, but many have succeeded.  In the blog post I’ll reveal ten lessons from companies that have achieved award winning Service Excellence.

The CEO of training provider Achieve Global states “After years of talking about efficiencies and cost-cutting, consumer-focused businesses are once again turning their attention to the customer rather than the product or service. Many are now placing renewed emphasis on customer experience management, too

Corebrand echo Achieve Global’s view. According to Corebrand, “Customer experience teams and enhancement initiatives have emerged everywhere, and companies of all shapes and sizes are now dedicating themselves to identifying, isolating and managing their customer interactions, both to improve satisfaction and to retain their most valuable assets: their customers.”

So is 2007 the year of the customer? 

For many companies, it is because every year is the year of the customer.  Companies like First Direct, Innocent and Tesco place the customer at the heart of their business.  Every year is like the last – an unerring focus on what customers want and a determination to deliver what they want better than the competition.  From board room to back office, customers are front of mind.  Customer satisfaction is reflected in rewards and bonuses and systems for measuring, reporting and improving the customer experience are embedded in their management regimes.  They recognise the financial value of true loyalty and build organisations to deliver it.

It is also the year of the customer for another group of companies – the fad surfers.  Looking for this year’s pet project, this group of companies will utter the right platitudes, set up a project and tinker at the edges.  They will try hard but fail because they are not willing to make some of the tough decisions that real customer focus requires.  Tesco spent a fortune building the Clubcard data that underpins the insights that drive up revenues and profitability.  HSBC invested heavily in building First Direct from the ground up as a new sort of bank.  Too many companies are unwilling to tackle the cultural change involved in real customer focus. 

If you want to make 2007 and all the years that follow the year of the customer, take a leaf out of the winners of the UK’s Service Excellence Awards.  Now in their twelfth year, the Awards have amassed a wealth of data on how companies succeed at customer focus. 

Here are their top ten lessons…

1. Master the three basic customer questions:

  • Who are our chosen customers?
  • What are their needs and expectations?
  • How well are we doing in meeting those needs and expectations?

2. Understand how customers think. Recognise that almost all decisions have an emotional element.

3. Trust your people.If you have hired the right stuff and given them the right tools and information, let them get on with it.

4. Work for people who get it. Don’t waste your time with people who don’t believe – life’s too short!

5. Master the art of organisation design. Every organisation is designed to deliver the results it does, so if you’re not customer focused, take a look at how your organisation is put together; with an emphasis on the ‘soft stuff’.

6. Make the link to the bottom line. If you want the investment, show how loyalty and advocacy improve financial performance.

7. Make everything a little better every day. Get everybody improving everything all the time, focusing on what matters most to customers.

8. Learn from your mistakes. You will let customers down from time to time.  Fix it quickly both for the customer and address the root cause.

9. Understand that the future will be different. Customers’ needs change as do the ways they can be delivered.  Get there first in what matters to customers.

10. Make it easy for customers. Last but certainly not least.  You might have the best product but if getting is a pain, they’ll go elsewhere.

So what’s stopping you making 2007 the year of the customer.  Remember, if you don’t, your competitors just might!


Dave Jackson –

Clicktools Ltd.