Make Your Business Plan Customer-Centric
There's a trend in business today for companies to become more customer-centric. Companies are focusing not only on their products and services, but also on their customers. Your company's objectives should highlight the quality of your product and the support of your customers.
Customer focus goes hand-in-hand with customer loyalty. More than customer satisfaction, customer loyalty extends to all customers in your business, from those who supply to those who buy. It includes your first customer too -- your employee.
Customer-centricity also plays a role in defining and guiding the customer's experience. Walt Disney was the master of controlling a customer's experience. Disney's theme parks today control what visitors see, what they smell, when those sights and smells hit them, the emotions they feel, and much more. Every tiny detail is attended to by park employees. Disney is now the yardstick against which other companies' performances are measured. There's even a term for what Disney does and others try to emulate. It is called imagineering, the engineering of our imagination and thoughts.
So, what exactly is a customer-centric company? It is one that recognizes the only way to add lasting value to the company is to value the customer. Nothing is as crucial to the success of your business as the values of your customer, since they are fundamental to your survival and success.
Customer-focused leaders Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. offer the following seven guiding principles of successful customer-based firms:
- Focus extensively on delivering value to customers.
- Forgo short-term results and look instead at long-term business value.
- Include senior level buy-in in your customer-based program.
- Share your customer-focused initiatives with employees, partners, and customers alike.
- Recognize that traditional measurement tools may not adequately track your customer values, such as emotions and loyalty.
- Incorporate employee (and contractor) training as part of the customer-centric movement.
- Identify internal stakeholders (owners, employees, partners, suppliers) and work to build support within this group.
As you write your business plan, consider how you may be able to work one, two, or even all seven of these habits into your daily work. Remember that your business plan is an evolving document. You can add these customer-centric initiatives incrementally to your plan and business.
This may sound a bit intimidating at this point in your business evolution. Entrepreneurs in the startup phase spend much of their waking moments focusing on their business concepts. However, it is important to focus on those individuals -- the customers -- who will make or break the business. Keep them in sight, if only on the periphery.
Take a moment and consider companies with whom you like to do business:
- Why do you like doing business with this company?
- Why do you return to it?
- How many other potential customers have you told about your positive experiences with this company?
- What part of this company's business operation can you emulate and use in your own business model?
- Are you loyal to this company? Why?
- As a customer, do you feel like an important part of the company's success?
There are many things to think about when planning a small business. While focusing on financing, business structure, and marketing, don't lose sight of the most important component: your customers. Without them, you have no business.
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