When I was a CEO, one of the lessons I learned over and over again, was that our business lived on the street, with the customers…not in our facilities.
While our Operations personnel made essential contributions to the success of the business, delivering on promises made by our marketing, sales and customer service folks, they operated primarily with established expectations and known variables around product, process, and due dates. They challenged the status quo to make us better, improving quality, efficiency and profitability; they generated data to accelerate decision-making, and ensured that we got paid. The business could not have succeeded without their commitment, initiative and consistently fine work.
But despite reliably meeting the multitude of challenges confronting them, their efforts were not the hard part of growing the business.
The hard part was, and continues to be, earning a customer’s attention and trust. It’s discovering what a customer values and why, and then appreciating that this insight evolves with time to meet their customers’ changing needs. It’s about recognizing our responsibility to earn their trust every day.
The hard part is navigating unclear expectations, unknown variables and rapidly changing circumstances to promptly propose viable solutions for the customer, and then helping them choose what will work best for them. It’s sharing customer needs and aspirations with our Operations associates to earn their support for a promise that must be made, and then delivered, deepening the organization’s awareness about how creating value for the customer also creates value for the business.
The hard part is sustaining a trusted, enduring relationship with the customer over time. It’s about remaining engaged to ensure that promises are kept, and then reminding how this created value for them. It’s about building a partnership in which the customer discovers our commitment to their progress, realizing that we’re more interested in helping them make money than we are in taking their money.
Doing the hard part is what keeps the business alive and growing.
How well is your business doing the hard part?
What can you do better?