Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Innie or Outie?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we could be caught navel-gazing. This is what happens when the company's goals are related more to its own performance for itself, rather than what it's doing for its customers. This can even translate into a company's apparent mission. Sure, there's a mission statement on the wall that says "we want our customers to be delighted through our superior customer service..." or some other blah-blah-blah. However, when you observe what the company does or analyze the decisions it makes, you'll find that it's doing things mostly for themselves and not for the customers.

In business, there's always a transaction. "We'll sell you our product or service if you give us money (or some other bartered thing)." Likewise, you might say that you're paying attention to your customers desires if your sales are increasing. You might even say that your goal of on-time delivery is customer-centric...but it depends on how you're measuring it.

Is it based on your promise date or their need date? Do they really know when they need it? Some customers order a bunch of stuff for the beginning of the month, only to consume them (slowly) over the next four weeks. They didn't really need all that stuff on the first day. They might demerit your performance but they didn't really suffer.

Your organization needs a true customer-centric measurement to create alignment and collaboration. This will help give you a competitive advantage. It will create enthusiasm akin to building a cathedral rather than just cutting stone. So what are those metrics?

It's a measure that based on helping them succeed. You can't be the sole cause to their success; they have to do their own marketing, technology development, skill development, high quality work, etc. You can make their work-life (or consumer-life) a little more effortless. You need to find out what are their key performance indicators and not just for the buyer. A corporate buyer is most often looking for Purchase Price Variance (PPV) i.e. the lowest cost. Consumers may be doing the same. However, the better buyers are looking for lowest total cost, which includes transportation, tariffs, taxes, inventory/cash balance, reduced obsolescence, carrying costs, opportunity costs, insurance, waste, scrap, hassles for managing shipments and payments, etc.

Why not measure yourself against the total cost of ownership? When they don't have stock shortages, you have a reduced cost. If it's a hassle to pay you or match invoice with packing list, you have an increased cost. How much you want to detail this depends on what you're going to do with the answers. However, look at your company's performance from your customers' perspectives.

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