Delight Your Customers through Focus

September 2, 2011

Great vision and mission statements are geared towards defining and communicating how an organization intends to succeed. When crafting these, an organization’s values come into play. A strong component of those values needs to focus on delighting the customer. However, this doesn’t mean at all costs.

No organization can succeed at trying to be all things to all people. If you try, at best you’ll end up being mediocre at many things, but great at nothing. In their book The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema advise us to choose from one of three fundamental strategies – value disciplines – that successful companies adopt to command leadership in their markets:

Operational Excellence. An operationally excellent organization delivers a combination of price, quality and ease of purchase to its customers.

Product Leadership. Product Leadership organizations deliver the best product or services to its customers, period.

Customer Intimacy. Organizations that are intimate with their customers understand the needs of each and every customer and provide the best total solution for each specific customer.

Choosing one does not mean disregarding the other value disciplines. What The Discipline of Market Leaders advises us is that companies must choose to excel at a specific dimension, but maintain threshold standards in the other dimensions.

Maintaining threshold standards in the other dimensions cannot be ignored. All the innovation in the world won’t help you if you can’t provide that innovation to market at an attractive enough price point to actually have customers, for example.

What dimension does your organization exceed at? If you can’t answer this one quickly, use that as a signal! If you still having trouble, take a step back and examine some characteristics of each type. (Yes, these are broad generalizations, but they might help surface the kind of organization you really are, which can be contrasted against what you think you are or what you want to be.)

Operationally excellent companies are well organized, valuing stability and predictability that are captured in efficient and effective processes – all geared towards providing the customer with that “ease of doing business at a low price” experience. These organizations tend to be risk-adverse in comparison to product leadership organizations.

Product leadership organizations are willing to push the envelope, to explore the boundaries into the realm of the unknown to deliver the best product or service. These organizations don’t just identify the current needs of the market; they look to the future needs of the market and work like mad to get there first. This brings a sense of urgency to the organization along with risk because these organizations are striving to meet needs that customers do not realize that they have. These organizations seek challenges where creativity and innovation are rewarded, and tend to have less formal structure compared to operationally excellent organizations.

The customer intimate organization is a friendly, caring organization where relationships and teamwork are highly valued. These organizations build bonds with their customers and are not viewed as simply a “vendor,” but as a trusted advisor by their customers. These organizations remain flexible and responsive to changing customer needs, seeking to build a long-term relationship with their customers.

Keep these value disciplines in mind as you consider the core purpose of your organization; this sharpened focus will significantly impact the execution of your organization in realizing the vision and mission to delight your customers.