In the late 1990s, I used to work for a CEO named Joe, who was brought in to turnaround our struggling, sleepy-old telecom company.
The first thing he did was produce and distribute 10,000 pocket-sized plastic cards for every employee. Emblazoned on the front was "Customers First." Printed on the back were eight customer commandments he wanted every employee to follow.
Joe and his executive team traveled around the country preaching the "new" gospel of customers. They would randomly spot check employees to see if they had their card, then quiz them on the commandments.
If you couldn't answer the questions, you had to pay the boss $5.
The executive team didn't get a pass, either. They had a steeper penalty of $100 for any missed commandments when quizzed by the CEO during meetings.
While some may view that type of shtick as cheesy or gimmicky, it worked. Within months, Joe's simple tactic helped transform our culture and our business by refocusing our commitment to customers. The eight commandments Joe pushed into every crevice of the organization supported the following three things that every customer still wants today.
All too often organizations develop products and services, without first considering the wants and needs of customers. That's backwards. The first step is to engage customers and find out their greatest point of pain and work to alleviate that pain.
A great place to start is by asking them a simple question, "What keeps you up at night?"
Their answer to that question, and subsequent follow-ups, provides a good opportunity to convey the solutions and benefits you can convey via the features of your products, services or solutions.
Once they agree you can help, it's up to your team to deliver on the promise to the client and "Wow" them with your results that exceed their expectations.
Every business leader knows that keeping customers is easier and less expensive than getting new customers. The key to that retention is a constant adaptability to their changing needs.
In fact, the best product and service providers are attuned so well they anticipate their clients' needs. They offer solutions that address budding problems or nascent pain that might not yet be perceived by the customer.
Simply stated, adaptability breeds customer loyalty. It doesn't take a PhD to understand these basic customer needs, but it does take a renewed customer focus.
The grind of day-to-day operations can lull us into an internal focus such that your customers become an afterthought.
Perhaps, the most important customer commandment that Joe instilled in us was that, "If we don't meet the needs of our customers someone else will."
That statement is as true today as it was back then.