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Planning to put customers first

6th Dec 2019
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It’s that time of year… No, not the one in which the Office Party looms ever nearer on the horizon. Nor is it the one in which you suddenly realise that everyone has booked the same family time off leaving the office dangerously undermanned. And we won’t even mention the warning from Companies House about the importance of forward planning if your accounts are due to be filed by the end of December.

Whilst all of those scenarios are eminently possible, there is another challenge which traditionally arises at this time; planning for the year ahead. Now I appreciate that you may have already completed your plans for 2020 but for those who haven’t it might be time to rethink the planning process.

Profit or people first?

Let’s start with a question. When you sit down to plan what comes first on the list? You might say that financials come first, anticipating cost increases and then looking to see how you have to change pricing or process in order to achieve profitability. In a competitive marketplace you might decide to look more towards product lines, identifying changes or innovations which just might give you a profitable edge.

These approaches certainly follow traditional models of planning. But in today’s marketplace should we still be working to a profit first model? Some companies would say not. In August 2019 the Business Roundtable, one of America’s most influential business groups set out to overturn the profit and shareholder first model. Signed by 181 CEOs, the new statement acknowledges that companies have an equal responsibility to all stakeholders.

Employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders all come in for a mention. So too do customers, with the first commitment within the declaration being that of: “Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

Planning for customer outcomes

With that in mind perhaps it is time to turn the traditional planning model on its head. Start by asking yourself what customer outcomes you would really like to achieve. Then take a look at all aspects of your organisation, identifying what you would need to do in order to deliver those customer outcomes and to meet or exceed customer expectations.

This gives you a model of your organisation which may look very different from the current one but which could act as a catalyst for real change. And just because you haven’t put profits first in your planning that doesn’t mean that profitability will suffer. For example:

  • Improved customer outcomes can lead to improved rates of customer return with your existing customers also acting as unpaid advocates for the business.
  • Great customer service can lead to an enhanced reputation which in turn can attract additional customers.
  • Identifying changes can lead to streamlined processes thereby saving cost.
  • A customer-focused business can improve employee engagement levels with benefits including an increase in staff longevity and more efficient use of resources.

Yes it is that time of year when planning for 2020 outcomes comes to the fore. This time will you be planning to put customers first?

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