Customer-Focused Business vs. An Operations Focused Business

All businesses have rules and policies governing the way they do business. While some are strict in enforcing them, others like a customer-focused business has more of a relaxed approach.

A customer-focused business gives employees flexibility, and allow them to take risks to help push their performance above average. They are entirely focused on understanding potential customers, and hire and train employees to deliver the best customer service.

In contrast, ‘Operations-focused’ companies (as the name implies) focus on operations. They place more emphasis on processes that affect the running of the business like budget, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Their strict adherence to the rules limits flexibility in the working and decision making of their employees.

Although both kinds of companies have the same processes, their approach to business decisions differs substantially.

Customer-Focused Business Empowerment

A customer-focused business empowers employees to make decisions that are for the benefit of the customer. Customer satisfaction is their number one priority; they allow employees to bend the rules – as long as it isn’t illegal, ethically wrong nor harms the company’s reputation – in taking care of the customer. They have guidelines instead of rules and encourage employees to think outside the box and take risks. Moreover, they even allow employees to spend dollars on keeping a customer happy (but in an amount which does not give the company any loss).

In contrast, employees in operations-focused companies always require the manager’s permission to pursue anything stretching out of their policies and the way of normally doing things.

Hiring for operations

Hiring people who fit the company’s culture is vital to a customer-focused company. They select individuals who have personalities and core values which align with the company’s vision and mission. When hiring a person for the job, managers look beyond skills. They search for people with a thinking style that integrates into the work environment.

An operations-focused business will hire for skill, filling a position with technical strengths. They search for people who have the best skills, knowledge and capabilities for the job. They are not as diligent about whether the personality of the applicant fits the corporate culture or not.

Operations training 

A customer-focused business spends time and money training for soft skills, such as relationship building and customer service, alongside technical skills. They realize that to excel, employees must not only be good at their job but should also be good in interacting with people, both in and out of the office. They are concerned with sharpening both soft and technical skills of their staff.

On the other hand, operations-focused companies spend most of their money and time on training the technical skills and product knowledge of their employees. The questions are: do they have the skills to do their current job? and are they learning skills to do their next job within our company?

Leadership of operations

Leaders of customer-focused businesses set the vision and mission of the firm and then lead by example. Watching their leaders in action, inspires and motivates the workplace to follow their lead.

Leaders of operations-focused companies also set the vision and mission of the culture, however, they won’t necessarily follow it themselves. Their “Do as I say, not do as I do” approach makes employees confused. They are left demotivated when they observe that the behavior of their leaders is incongruent with what they preach.

People first in customer-focused businesses

A customer-focused business knows the importance of putting people first- specifically the employees. They cultivate a culture of happy, successful and fulfilled employees that ultimately deliver a better customer experience. Customers like happy employees and will continue to come back.

An operations-focused company develops a culture focused on systems, procedures, and the bottom line. These things are important to every company’s success. But, solely focusing on them stops them from considering people as more than just cogs in a machine. It is difficult for an employee to learn to put the customer first when they feel the company continually puts the employees last.

Customer service is a priority in a customer-focused business

A customer-focused business looks at customer service as a philosophy to be embraced by every employee of the company. They recognize that there are both external and internal customers. Every employee in the company is seen as being responsible for sales. Operations-focused companies instead see customer service as just another department.

It can be a bit challenging to put customer service first. This is because focusing on operations is typically the first thing you think of. It is often easier to save $10 than to make $100. At the same time, there is a ceiling to the impact you can make in bottom line savings. There is no ceiling on the impact you can make to top line sales. The content and point is not that you don’t need the basics of operations. It is the basics that can help drive a customer-focused company.

We at Cerius recently did an assignment where the biggest change we made in the organization was removing the silos of sales, marketing, operations, etc. to the mindset of everyone in the organization in sales. Whether you are customer facing or not, everything you do can impact the customer.

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