Raising the Dead

3. Make "Customers" the Focus

Examined a little differently, "customers" can be taken to include everyone involved in your business-not just those who buy your goods and services. This includes salespeople, operations staff, designers, suppliers, shareholders and so on, because these people ultimately serve each other as well as the traditional customer. To achieve great "customer" service, owners and managers have to get out of the ivory tower and walk the business's front lines-listening, learning and formulating improvements from this new angle. Think about these questions in that light:

  • Are all your products, services and systems designed with the wants and needs of everybody, from traditional customer to shareholder, in mind?
  • Is the business concentrating so hard on one market (or department) that other potential markets (or departments) are being excluded?
  • Do all employees share the attitude that service is everyone's job and nobody is too busy to help?

The most effective business interactions come from employees who feel they're part of a team and managers who set a good example. In other words, don't force your will; you'll just end up losing-and no business runs at peak efficiency until the employees are happy working within its systems. The same goes for paying customers who take their business elsewhere if things aren't done their way. In a nutshell, revenue comes from the people who support your company, and all those people must be earned (i.e., sought, listened to and serviced).

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Raising the Dead.

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