Monday, October 8, 2007

Today, customers are last in line

My blog readers : You always get to read it first. My blog article : Customer Service : Quo Vadis got published in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle today. I had to tweak it a little to get it down to the 450 words limit and it got a new title . Here's the published version :

Today, customers are last in line

Deepak Seth Guest essayist
(October 8, 2007) — As the leaves begin to turn, the first Christmas trees have started making their way into area stores. The Big Holiday Shopping season is surely round the corner.
What lies in store for the customer? The last year can be described as an "annus horribilis" as far as customer experience is concerned. Long lines, airplanes stranded on the tarmac, numerous recalls ranging from toys to hamburger patties. Why is it that, when there have been tremendous advancements in technology, logistics, communication and others, there has been a steady decline in the quality of "customer experience"?

First, the pendulum has swung too far in corporate America's drive toward enhanced productivity (revenue per employee). Now, it seems to have reached the stage where increase in productivity is being accompanied by a decline in the quality of customer experience.

Second, many companies seem to have outsourced their responsibility for the health of their brands, in addition to outsourcing the manufacture of their products. It is easy to blame other countries for shoddy workmanship or hazardous components. However, the customer is paying good U.S. money to a good U.S. company for what he or she perceives to be a good product.

What can corporate America do to enhance the customer experience?

  • Develop, monitor and report on standardized measures of customer experience. "What's measured, gets managed." These measures in addition to the other indices like profitability; productivity, etc., would be true indicators of the corporate health and viability. Declining customer experience measures for a company with high profitability would be a sure indicator that the good times are not going to last long.
  • Consolidate all "customer experience"-related functions under a high-powered Chief Customer Officer. This officer can be tasked to be the voice of the customer at the board level. This new role would ensure that the voice of the customer does not get lost.
  • Take firm control of the supply chain process. Retain ownership of establishing and enforcing the design, manufacture and product quality standards irrespective of where the products are made.

Maybe it's time for all companies to reiterate this customer-focused pledge, coming from a person very few would recognize as a management guru, Mohandas Gandhi: "Customers are the most important visitors on our premises. They are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them. They are not an interruption of our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders to our business. They are part of it. We are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so."

Board of Contributor members advise the Editorial Board and write occasional columns.

1 comment:

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