With more and more companies struggling to achieve plan, investor’s targets, Wall Street expectations, etc, it appears as though companies are cutting costs (many times, focusing much attention on the “small stuff” such as $100 expense reports etc), asking employees to work longer hours and putting together other triage plans which typically aren’t delivering the results. I’ve found that reversing this trend can be much simpler than endlessly putting together all these complicated and stressful plans – focusing on the customer.

Delivering exceptional customer service can boost the revenue line, which will make a far more significant affect than cutting $1000 in expenses or diverting management’s attention to useless plans instead of focusing on customers. In the companies I’ve worked with, a few common themes have emerged for delivering exceptional customer service.

First, what does the customer value? Many times, companies focus all sorts of attention on what management thinks the customer wants (many times, it is whatever is considered the most interesting to the management team). Although this is admirable in that there is an effort to focus attention on the customer, it doesn’t address the true customer needs. The first key to success is to ask your customers. However, do not fall into the easy trap of accepting all feedback as gospel. Dig deep for what the customer values – and is willing to pay for. Of course, most customers would provide a long list of desired features, services etc.; however, the price they are willing to pay for them might differ significantly. Prioritize.

Second, focus all efforts on execution. Execution (delivering customer needs) is typically not seen as exciting and so many times, it doesn’t receive as much attention and follow-up as it requires. Using a daily shopping trip as an example, if the store has researched market trends and has designed the perfect pair of jeans for your needs yet doesn’t have them in stock due to poor execution – will you think you’ve received exceptional customer service? There are two important factors in execution – prioritizing the work (making sure the critical tasks associated with delivering the customer needs are prioritized on the top of the list regardless of how mundane they might seem) and focusing on consistency (I’ve found that most customers would prefer consistent delivery rather than promises of exceptional value accompanied with inconsistent service).

Third, continually incorporate feedback. The customer relationship is paramount. Continually ask customers for feedback, ideas, and suggestions – probe for detail, appreciate all feedback and make sure they know they have been heard. This key is important to keeping up with the market changes and staying ahead of the curve with your customers.

These techniques epitomize “profit through people” – through your customer relationships. It seems as though it is too easy to actually work, but it does. Just imagine if you could focus resources on increasing revenue by $1 million or on decreasing costs by $100,000 – which would you choose?