I read a phrase in an SBA (Small Business Administration) post titled Marketing 101 that struck a nerve, “All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.” Most of my career has been in sales and marketing. Customer service hasn’t only been important to me; it’s been critical to my success. A few years ago, as Operations Manager of an organization, I was able to apply my beliefs in customer service, company-wide. The team embraced customer service, and we won the BBB (Better Business Bureau) Torch Award four consecutive years, but the truth is, even then not every policy was directed toward  complete customer satisfaction.

What Gets in the Way of Satisfying Customers?

Silos – When individuals or departments place themselves above the whole they create silos. When segments of the organization believe they’re more important than the entire team, customers become second or third fiddle. Tear Down Your Silos.

Accounting –Improving profit margins by reducing product quality places company procedures above client needs. Don’t get me wrong, the bottom line is important, it’s why folks are in business. However, improve the bottom line by pricing correctly, and being more efficient not by offering inferior products.

Over-promising – Most businesses have done it because they wanted to win a contract. But in the long run, it hurts an organization more than it helps. When a company over-promises and under-delivers it not only places the relationship with that customer in jeopardy, it tarnishes the businesses reputation.

Not Understanding the significance of Customer Service – If we asked C-staff, sales, marketing, and customer service the importance of serving the customer they’d most likely all have a good understanding of its urgency, but do all employees? Do production, installation, and shipping understand that every action they take should be preceded with the question, “How does this serve our customer?” Does the entire organization realize without customers they wouldn’t have a job, benefits, or opportunities for growth?

Lack of Accountability – When employees are allowed to circumvent procedures, break policies, and disrupt systems the results are passed on to the customer through inferior products, lack of follow up, poor service, price increases, and sometimes all of the above! The customer feels the pain of poor management.

Lack of organization – Without systems and procedures in place, which are continuously trained and followed, the results will be inconsistent at best. If an organization is not striving for continuous improvement, they’re not serving their customers to the best of their abilities.

Are you serving your customer or yourself?

I mentioned earlier my commitment to serving customers, but even so, at one time or another, the companies I managed made most of the mistakes listed above. Creating policies to help your customers is only the beginning. Those procedures must be continually trained, held accountable, reviewed, and improved. If not, your company will come before customers and eventually you’ll have no customers to come before.