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Serving the true purpose of a customer

April 26, 2010 1 comment

There’s quite a famous quote from business guru the late Peter Drucker that is often used by customer service people.  He said: “The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.”   And I don’t think there is much to argue with there.   In many businesses I have seen managers spending far too much time worrying about themselves, their meetings and their processes and as a result are often deflected from what they should be striving to achieve – the satisfied customer.  

Interestingly though I have often seen Drucker misquoted as the “purpose of a business is a satisfied customer.”   There is a lot of customer service chatter in which we compete with each other to state how committed we are to customers and how passionate we are about service and this misquotation is a product of that zealousness.   

There is a big difference between result and purpose: a result is a completed outcome while a purpose is an ongoing goal.   A business without satisfied customers is unlikely to succeed that’s true but just having satisfied customers is not going to pay the bills.

The purpose of a company is something quite different.  The purpose of a company is to deliver value to shareholders. 

So then the  first question is what kind of value are you to deliver:  is it going to be long term, short term, capital growth, dividend etc etc?  How the company then fulfills this purpose is its strategy.  No doubt service and customer experience management must be at the heart of that strategy.   But it should be recognised that satisfied shareholders are the true purpose of the business while the buyers of product and services are a means to that end.   

Obviously profitable buyers are crucial to a business, and the right culture is essential and so is the effective use of efficient processes, people and technology.    Experts have been telling CEOs for years that they have to adopt a service culture in their business and I agree with that whole heartedly.   

But the rest of the team – managers and workers – have to recognise that service is not some blind faith where the customer is always right.  Good service has a purpose and they need to adopt a business perspective what that is and so to understand the purpose of their organisation and why they are being asked to do what they do.   Call centre agents, front of house staff even the back office teams can get mushroomitis where they are kept in the dark and fed an unpleasant diet. 

As a result of such employee engagement, of them seeing the big picture, of treating staff like intelligent people,  performance will surely improve.