Part #5 in a Series: What Our ISO Certification Means to You
As regular readers know, I’ve been talking periodically about the things we do here at Superior Business Solutions in order to maintain ISO standards, and how those things have a very direct and positive impact on you and your business. Each post will feature one of the key content areas listed in the requirements for certification.
Today, I’d like to take a closer look at what the ISO standards call “customer focus”. I find this one particularly intriguing, because most business owners are “Type A” – the kind of people who really like to take control and dictate things, right down to the smallest detail. But unless they’re able to listen as well as talk, their businesses won’t be as successful as they could be. And they certainly won’t earn ISO certification.
Naturally, every business owner or manager appreciates the importance of customers. But those customers are most often thought of as a “target audience” – a group of people on the receiving end of marketing efforts, and the people with the money we believe should be shelled out for our wonderful products. But we should regard them as business consultants.
Customers Are a Source of Information, Not Just Income
Businesses that really maximize their opportunities in this day and age don’t just speak at customers and prospects, they speak with them. The products and services they provide to those customers are informed not just by what the company is capable of making, but by what those potential buyers are really looking for.
To meet ISO standards, the process of learning what your customers need and expect isn’t to be done on the fly, as an after thought. You need to provide mechanisms by which you solicit customer feedback, gather it, and use it in a meaningful methodical way to enhance your ability to satisfy them. The information gained can lead to changes in the product, the delivery system, the guarantees and warranties – almost any aspect of the business itself.
Those customer wants and needs must then be communicated to all the people in your company, so everyone is on the proverbial “same page” when it comes to pleasing those people, on whom your success and livelihood depend.
Here’s a Crazy Idea: Ask Them!
Some companies believe that their extensive experience or historical track record tells them all they need to know. But according to today’s marketplace (and ISO, for that matter), organizations not only need to remain open to ongoing feedback, but to consciously solicit that feedback. ISO standards dictate that the organization document the process through which it does so, and regularly measure the degree to which customer needs are being met.
As a part of the process, organizations are charged with evaluating the quality of their relationships with customers and the degree to which they have earned and acquired the loyalty of those customers. It has become accepted business wisdom in recent years that it is far more efficient and profitable to satisfy and retain current customers (and perhaps earn even more of their business), than to convert new prospects to replace them.
Our Focus Never Changes
Fortunately for us, Superior Business Solutions was already pretty well positioned in the area of customer focus. Our entire business is built upon our ability to provide printing supply chain and promotional product management options that best meet the needs of each customer. The many vendor and supplier relationships we maintain are critical in our ability to choose the very best match for each individual customer project. While other companies have to stretch to meet this standard, it’s the essence of our business model.
If you’re a customer we hope you have already experienced it. If not, and you’d like some examples of how we track customer wants and earn their loyalty, give me a call. Maybe I can suggest some ways in which you can help build your business by turning some of the decisions over to the real experts: your customers.