Craig Cochran
North Metro Regional Manager
Georgia Tech Economic
Development Institute
Atlanta, Ga.

But it's all too easy to inadvertently neglect them. With so many brands just a mouse click away, potential customers could choose any company. You have to give them a good reason to choose yours. How? Focus all your attention and efforts on — you guessed it — the customer.

Here are a few insights:

  • Play "follow the leader." Good leadership drives customer focus. Leaders set the tone for everything, good or bad, that takes place within a company. Leaders should stay focused on the customer, rather than be distracted by such nonproductive activities as internal politics and ego gratification.
  • Remind employees of the company mission. Leaders must sincerely and regularly remind workers why they have jobs. A quick daily meeting can be a source of inspiration for companies of any size.
  • Shine a spotlight on employees. One of the best ways to improve all-around customer service is to give employees the attention they deserve. After all, they are the ones who ultimately interact with customers.
  • Recognize outstanding service. One of a leaders' most important jobs is to honor individuals who go beyond their job descriptions and truly delight customers. Identifying exceptional workers in a dignified manner sets the pace for coworkers to follow.
  • Realize that mistakes are inevitable, but smart organizations learn from them. Management must be honest and open about mistakes with customers and employees alike. Equally important, management should outline clear action steps to fix the problems and prevent them in the future.
  • Consider a focus group. The power of a focus group lies in its ability to leverage multiple channels of communication and thought. Exploring the many facets of a possible innovation helps management make more informed decisions.
  • Keep customers in the loop. When an organization innovates and improves its services, these actions must be communicated to customers. After all, they are the ones you are doing it for. Conversely, when customers don't realize there have been improvements, effectively there are none.

In my experience, organizations that follow these basic guidelines will thrive and be rewarded with loyal customers.

Craig Cochran is a Certified Quality Manager, Certified Quality Engineer, a Certified Quality Auditor through the American Society for Quality, and is certified as a QMS Lead Auditor through the RABQSA. He is author of "The Continual Improvement Process: From Strategy to the Bottom Line," "Customer Satisfaction: Tools, Techniques, and Formulas for Success," and "Becoming a Customer-Focused Organization." www.edi.gatech.edu