Without people, organisations simply do not exist. People form the cornerstones and the foundations of your business, creating your products, delivering your services, serving your customers on a day-to-day basis, and ultimately, delivering shareholder value.
They are the ‘oil in the machine’.
Except that, in the post-industrial age, most companies can no longer continue to operate successfully on such a mechanistic basis.
In the information age, the best managed customer-centric companies function on a much more fluid, dynamic basis, allowing people to interact more freely, grouping and forming new, ad-hoc team structures organically as and when required.
Dynamic teams deliver great customer value
Organisations that support a dynamic, adaptive culture foster a more creative and satisfying working environment, which in turn enables the development of more diverse internal relationships that can yield great benefits for both the people and the organisation – and more importantly for the customer.
This applies to most types of businesses and at all levels in those organisations. Dynamic teams can form as part of a formal process – say, for an internal project to implement a new computer system, or informally – say, around the desire of the employees to improve the customer service they provide, or to enhance and improve ways of working.
For the moment, we will leave aside the special case of ‘project teams’ and focus on the more informal teams. Project teams will be examined later in another post.
Front-line staff have better customer insight than management
People working at the ‘coalface’ day-in and day-out develop a tremendous insight into:
- what customers actually want
- where the real problems are – as opposed to the problems identified through the collection of inappropriate metrics
- what works and what doesn’t work
- which approaches (ways of working) are better/easier/more efficient/more enjoyable
- how to fix situations when things go wrong
Listen to the Voice of the Employee – and reap the rewards
Yet all too often, these people do not have a voice – risk-averse ‘management’ and the widespread acceptance of the status-quo keeps them working in the same tired patterns that fail to deliver the excellent customer experience needed to keep customers happy and engaged – and buying.
Front-line employees can pool their collective experience to identify common problem trends, explore different approaches for resolving them and make recommendations regarding potential solutions. Front-line employees are also in a great position to spot niche-trends (opportunities) in customer needs.
Agile organisations provide better customer service
The agile organisation that can respond quickly to these surfaced needs by developing new features, products and services, is able to provide a superior customer service whilst generating additional revenue, and retaining more customers.
Enabling teams to drive customer-focussed change makes everyone a winner
Management should therefore be supportive of these self-forming teams – perhaps encouraging people who show interest and potential to take the initiative to start things off. In a shop-floor environment for example, this might extend to giving participants extra time (and providing refreshments) for a working lunch.
Providing an environment where employees are listened to, where they feel safe to raise new ideas and where some of those ideas can be implemented can benefit the customer, the employees and the company alike.
Inspiring, supporting and enabling your staff to make ‘grass-roots’ changes to better serve the customer ultimately provides a win-win-win situation.
What do you think? What other elements of your Customer-centric strategy can your people play a part in?