Keep your customer focus

It wasn't too many years ago that the customer was the focus of just about everybody in business. We talked about external and internal customers, customer satisfaction, customer surveys, customer service, etc., etc.
By Richard L. Dunn, Editor June 1, 2000

It wasn’t too many years ago that the customer was the focus of just about everybody in business. We talked about external and internal customers, customer satisfaction, customer surveys, customer service, etc., etc.

But more recently I’ve detected a shift away from customer focus to operations focus. By operations focus I mean focusing on just about everything other than customers. It’s an attitude that puts the highest priority on internal, rather than external, considerations. It’s the mantra that says satisfying my objectives is more important than satisfying your needs.

For example, a couple of months ago, I bought a new camera. It didn’t work right with the first roll of film. When I took it back to the store, the clerk said they could give me the address for the manufacturer’s service center; it was under warranty. Where’s the customer focus in that? I had to explain to the clerk that I expected the store to stand behind the products it sold, and that if they wanted to keep me as a future customer, they had better satisfy my desire to have a working product in exchange for the money I paid them.

Or how about this one? I’d had my plane ticket, assigned seat and all, for about 2 mo. My associate tried to get on the same flight 2 wk in advance and was told the flight was full. The day before the flight, he tried again. There had been cancellations. He got a seat. We show up at the gate together. He walks onto the plane. I have to wait because they’re not sure they have a seat for me. This kind of scenario has happened to me several times. I’m sure their procedures make sense to them, but I now avoid that airline like the plague.

When the money keeps rolling in, as it seems to in today’s economy, there is little incentive to worry about antagonizing a few customers. But, unless we stay alert, those small attitudinal changes begin to grow and spread like viruses. And before long, the customer is forgotten as we pursue our own agendas. When that happens, we destroy ourselves.

For the plant engineer, everyone in the plant is a customer or potential customer. And customer satisfaction is good for both you and your plant. Don’t get caught in the insidious drift away from customer service and satisfaction. Keep your customer focus.