In an interesting article in the December 2013/January 2014 Inc. Magazine, Jason Fried discussed marketing to new customers versus existing customers. At the conclusion of the article he said, “Sales take care of themselves when you put out a great product and treat your customers with the ultimate respect. Or to put it another way: If you take care of your existing customers, they will take care of your new customers (Fried, p. 116).”
Every business owner and everyone within the business must be constantly asking, Who is my customer? This customer focus drives everything within the business to achieve the ultimate goal of satisfied and happy customers which continues to drive the business forward. The systems, controls, and processes within the business are not ends within themselves, but are used to ultimately deliver the best and most efficient product and service to the end customer. Let me illustrate with a couple of examples from my business experience.
- I was once a controller for a company many years ago that had a large and varied customer base. One of the goals of the company was to review the financials in great detail from month to month comparing reasons for profit increases/decreases and variances with the budget. This sounds like good control and is, in fact, something I encourage management to scrutinize. However, in this case, the numbers became an end within themselves. Management begin to spend all of their time pointing fingers as to why actual numbers varied from budget trying to cover themselves so they could explain to their managers up the ladder. The overall picture could be easily seen but detail and finger pointing took over. I watched in amazement as management haggled over this while large customer needs were ignored. The company actually lost one of their largest accounts from pure neglect, consumed with internal issues.
- Sometimes the end customer is indirect, while your direct customer is within the company. Let me explain. In my last corporate job, the CEO made a lasting impression on me and the finance/administrative staff when he took the time to explain that our customer was all of those people within the company who had direct contact with the outside customers. In other words, one of the primary tasks of the internal staff was to support the sales and marketing team. In effect, the sales and marketing team was their customer. If they were taken care of ( with timely information, ready answers for product availability, making sure travel needs were met so there were no distractions, etc) then they could ensure the outside customer was taken care of, and everyone would benefit.
It is of the utmost importance for everyone in a well run, efficient organization to always be answering the question, Who is my Customer?
*Fried, Jason, Inc. Magazine, December 2013/January 2014