Many organizations identify customers through a narrow lens – only those individuals and organizations that purchase products or services. Within a wider framework, customers are defined as any person or organization that the company engages with, whether employees, partners, vendors, suppliers, and more.
This broader view helps establish a different organizational perspective on how to engage, communicate, and serve those they engage with. Traditionally, customers are perceived as most important to an organization, defined by the revenue they provide. Other audiences, such as employees and partners, fall down a rung on the hierarchy, with suppliers and vendors often at the bottom.
When constructing a customer-centric organization, it is critical to be holistic – specifically because core behaviors and purpose should not change, whether a vendor or a key customer.
For example, the simple act of responding to a request for information in a prompt fashion should be a basic standard of behavior, not just exclusive to customers or upper-level management.
When everyone is treated “like a customer,” it becomes simple to identify core behaviors that support the organizational customer mission. In addition to developing a strategy driven by the needs of each customer segment, it will help you effectively translate those needs into processes to improve engagement and differentiation.
Employees as Customers
One of the customer groups a company serves, their employees, holds the key to creating and sustaining great interactions with external customers. Many organizations don’t utilize ground-level employees feedback to identify external customer needs. Instead, they conduct a series of customer interviews, surveys or high-level leadership discussions with VPs and C-Suite leaders, who often rarely interact directly with customers (or at the very least, select ones).
There is also a strong positive relationship between employee satisfaction and external customer satisfaction. When employees know what their employer stands for, what their role is in the organization, and they see day-to-day proof that the company lives it, it inspires them.
Organizations that understand the critical role employees play truly understand “customer experience”. Get employee experience right and they will, in turn, create a better experience for your customers, and keep them coming back.
This is why identifying customer needs begins with the organization viewing each audience group they serve as a “customer.”
About the Author
Andrea Belk Olson has a 20-year, field-tested background that provides unique, applicable approaches to creating more customer-centric organizations. A 4-time ADDY® award-winner, she began her career at a tech start-up and led the strategic marketing efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. In addition to writing, consulting and coaching, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations around the world on how to craft effective customer-facing operational strategies to discover new sources of revenues and savings.