In today’s complex business world, customer demands change faster than most companies can keep up with. Therefore, keeping your finger on the pulse of what your customers want, need and request today is as important as sensing and anticipating what your customers might require in the future.
What it takes for an organization to turn from a profit-oriented to a customer-oriented company, is a process that cuts deep into the organization design, and thereby right into the heart and DNA of your organization. Some believe that it is primarily the culture of your organization that needs to change in order to re-focus on customer orientation, but if your change initiatives stop after the culture transformation team has left, all your hard work may be lost.
A customer-oriented culture is carried and supported, one might even go as far as to say made possible, by putting procedures in place that guarantee the following:
- The empowerment of your people: To respond to your current customers’ requests to their satisfaction, you must create procedures that allow your employees to act, react and interact flexibly and yet controllably with your customers.
- Prompt implementation of feedback: To get your hands on what your customers think is one thing, but to insure that the feedback is used to help your organization thrive and rise to the occasion is another. It is important to understand how your organization can not only retrieve important customer feedback, but also how to integrate it effectively into your current procedures so that you can actively learn and advance as a result of the feedback given.
- The ability to learn and innovate: To anticipate what your customers will want in the future, requires the flexibility to adapt to today’s ever changing business demands. What is needed is an environment where leaders learn to deal with complexity, realize that they cannot know as much as they used to, understand that there is more than one approach, and recognize that what they know today may be outdated no later than tomorrow. With such a leadership culture in place, you can create structures that allow for the organization to learn as a whole.
- The ability to create the future rather than fear or react to it: To stay a step ahead of the game or maybe even to create a new game, it is crucial to design procedures that support the complex interaction between your organization, its people, other organizations and the society your customers are a part of. These are procedures that at best should be addressed and created collectively within your organization.
- A double-loop learning process: For an organization to grow and renew itself it needs to learn how to learn. Procedures need to be put into place that support a healthy information and feedback flow: one that guarantees that the information can be processed quickly and that allows for mistakes to be embraced and learned from collectively.
Once these five crucial structural factors are in place, a customer-oriented culture has a chance to thrive and survive. On an even better note: Should your structures, goals and cultural set-up all be in line to not only satisfy your current customers’ needs but also future customer needs, the path is cleared for true and renewable innovation—over and over again.