Bringing the Customer Deep into Your Organization


 Wouldn't it be great if you could physically lead your customers through each department of your organization giving each person the opportunity to hear first hand what the customer wants? Imagine how it would help to eliminate painful teeth-pulling sessions between marketing, engineering, manufacturing, sales, service, finance, and so on. You see it all of the time, entities fighting to protect their territory, interests, agendas, and opinions on who the customer is and what they want. All the time concentrating on their piece of the puzzle to such an extent that they are pulling in different directions, seemingly oblivious to one another and to the direction of the organization as a whole.

As a marketer it is your job to know the customer -- their wants and needs, what is important, unimportant, how they perceive value, etc. This information is the life-blood on which both short-term decisions and long-term strategic plans should be based. But nobody seems to be listening to you. What you need is a way of bringing "The Voice of the Customer" into the organization so that everyone can clearly see who they are and what they want. In short, your organization must become "customer-driven".

Becoming Customer-Driven

In order for any organization to be customer-driven it is necessary that they become aligned. The alignment process serves to unify the entire organization getting everyone pulling in the same direction. You should set up an organization in such a manner that the entities within the company compliment one another and work toward a common objective. In reality, people often have their own opinion of what the goals should be and they are not the same throughout the company. When this happens the organization is not leveraging its resources to their full effectiveness. Individuals begin to view their jobs with tunnel-vision, not realizing the true impact of their job on the customer.

In order for the organization to function effectively it is important that each group, and even each individual within those groups, thoroughly understands who the customer is, what they want, and how his or her job contributes to satisfying those requirements. When this happens the company will rise to new levels of success. The result of an unaligned effort is merely wasted energy. Groups and individuals may work exceedingly hard, but their efforts might have little value to the customer. Conversely, when an organization becomes aligned, an almost magical synergy envelops the entire organization. Like a laser-beam, their energy is harnessed and focused toward a common objective -- the customer.

How Do I Do It?

What if you had something that helped you to reach this level of effectiveness? What if it helped you to fully understand customer requirements, become familiar with the other departments of the organization, and incorporate the customer requirements throughout the organization as well as designing it into the product or service?

That something is a system for structured planning and design called ViewPoint. ViewPoint is a set of processes and structures that helps you get a clear understanding out of the complexity. This complexity can come from the customer, the product or service, the production process, as well as the inner-workings of the company.

ViewPoint helps you compare customer requirements with tangible measurements, and thereby reach a deep understanding of your customer's true needs. It allows you to understand the customer and to relate that insight to all your functions throughout the company. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ViewPoint aligns the entire organization and scrutinizes all activities against meeting the needs of your customer -- it helps you to be customer-driven.

How Does ViewPointSM Work?

The initial step is to assemble a cross-functional team. The team's duties are to gather and prioritize information and to make key decisions along the way. The team in essence is a microcosm of the company. While teams should not be large, they should, at the same time, consist of a good mix of those influencing the plan, and at least one person who is skilled in using ViewPoint to help facilitate the process. The team must be able to accurately hear all of the critical points of view influencing final decisions.

It is this team, and the ViewPoint process, that creates synergy throughout the company. This process helps each group understand other groups by identifying which variables influence decisions made by other groups. This enables the company to work as a team, with each group having a clear understanding of the other groups' points of view; why they do what they do, and what factors are important to them.

ViewPoint uses a simple list structure to represent each point of view. Various points of view are compiled and correlated in matrices. Matrices map one voice to a second voice to gain an understanding of the relationships between the points of view. For example you may map the customer's voice against that of engineering. Through this process the team will learn how each function of the company contributes to the product appealing to the customer. ViewPoint helps you to effectively communicate the voice of the customer to all disciplines in a tangible way that each group will understand. As a result, the entire organization moves forward to new levels of success as they truly come to understand the customer and how his or her job contributes in the company's quest to satisfy those customers.

New Levels of Performance

ViewPoint helps you to simplify all of the complexities of the organization, the customer, the processes, and decisions, allowing you to make sound decisions. By creating a customer-focused environment, great new visions open up. The team identifies new opportunities for synergy and better alignment of the company. ViewPoint compels us to examine why we do things the way that we do and to ask: Is there a better way?

The process creates many opportunities for major breakthroughs in new ways to satisfy customer needs; opportunities that we could not see in the past because the understanding wasn't there. An understanding that can only be provided by bringing the customer deep into your organization.

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