thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

The Soul of the Customer

By on November 25, 2009

As we near the end of 2009 and enter the holiday season, all of us should be thinking about people who are not our customers--particularly the underserved in the communities where we live. The purposeful work that we do for these non-customers provides a valuable model for the relationships with our actual customers.

Most business leaders do not see the connection between their generosity for the community and being customer-centered. The motivations for corporate actions, however, should go far beyond being perceived as a good citizen by your customers. There is a "line of sight" between the outcomes that we deliver for community needs and how a customer-centric organization should be touching the soul of its customers. We are not simply giving something to them; we are, no matter how small, designing a more positive future for them. That same approach will help us connect with the soul of the customer.

Gift2The lessons of helping and contribution that we learn during the holidays should translate into a more purposeful mentality about serving customers. In Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success, Leonard Berry writes: "Generosity [is] not only an outcome of success; it is a critical input. Performance-selling companies must win the hearts of the performers [employees] to win the hearts of their customers. Selfish companies cannot serve." Companies that embrace this philosophy will ultimately earn the respect and loyalty of their customers. The work for their customers will take on a deeper meaning.

The universal spirit of abundance and sharing empowers employees to become more customer-centered. Their work becomes more meaningful and they are energized by the effort to contribute to the quality of life for their customers when the culture is built around the congruence between what the company is accomplishing and what people value. The positive behavior that is represented by community work during the holidays becomes authentic and long-term and a powerful model for the work being done for customers every day of the year. As a leader, show that line of sight to your organization. As University of Michigan management professor Kim Cameron notes, employees will find their work purposeful when it is focused on positive outcomes for their customers.

There is a sense of fulfillment in doing work that connects with the soul of the customer--because it offers the human impact that everyone feels when organizations give to the community during the holidays. Reflect on the work you do for you non-customers and bring those positive behaviors back into your organization year-round for your customers. It will elevate your performance. It will be rewarding. It will make you more customer-centric.

What are your plans for serving the underserved non-customers in your community? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

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