How to Become Truly Customer Focused

By Heather Baldwin

Your company professes to be customer focused, but is it really? Bill Brendler is astonished at the number of organizations that claim to put customers first, but have no idea what their customers want or think about their company. The CRM and change management expert is working now with managers at three companies, all of whom are anxious to buy a CRM application, and none of whom have spoken with customers in the past 30 days. “They all said when I walked into the room that they were customer focused, but they hadn’t talked to a customer in a month!” says Brendler, president of Brendler Associates Inc., in Wimberley, TX.

If that sounds a little like your organization, you’ve got some changes to make before you start shopping for a CRM vendor. Number one, says Brendler, is to change your mindset and truly start caring about what customers think. Talk to your customer service reps. Talk to your customers. “If you sell B2B, get the VP of marketing or ops to go talk to top executives at your customer companies. If you’re B2C, set up some focus groups and observe what your customers have to say about your product or service,” Brendler suggests. That’s what he commanded his three clients to do and “they all came back with their mouths open. They thought they were doing great and found out their customers were unhappy.”

Step two, says Brendler, is to gather a large group of employees who are critical in the CRM link and bring them together with a representative sample of customers, suppliers, partners and top management for a multiday workshop. In small mixed groups, your company will learn what it’s doing well, what could be done better and what’s simply not working. It is then crucial to get the entire group’s agreement on where changes will be made and a strategy for putting CRM in place. “When your employees leave, they’ll go back and become evangelists to promote change in their corner of the organization. And if that takes place, you can speed up a CRM implementation by six months,” says Brendler. Without this groundwork, CRM technology is likely to do nothing but drain your bank account.