If your career involves serving clients or customers, then you undoubtedly know that customer focus is essential to maximizing value creation, engendering loyalty and growing your business. Putting the needs of customers first is also increasingly necessary for differentiating your organization and yourself. Simply put, learning how to create alignment across your entire team around your customer’s needs is essential to driving your organization’s success and keeping your professional prospects bright.
We know that having a shared purpose and common objectives is the foundation for any team’s success. But the magic sauce that can dramatically impact the degree of that success is the team’s orientation around customer needs. Having the right mindset and intention can make all the difference. For example, it’s easy to fall into using language that reflects our world view from within our company’s walls. With the right mindset, this is easy to correct. When talking to customers, use outside-in language that reflects their perspective. Remember, they don’t see the different teams inside your organization. They see your organization and its products and services from outside your walls.
When we talk about alignment at RallyBright, we examine a team’s alignment with its customers, internal and external stakeholders, and the organization’s overall strategy. In order for teams to be truly aligned with these audiences they must be plugged into the needs of these groups. They must be able to sense, adapt and respond to data and insights that drive mutual success. Along with market understanding and cross-functional collaboration, customer empathy and customer focus are the key ingredients of alignment. Teams that successfully focus on customers have a shared view of both their customer’s needs and how to address them.
Examine Your Perspective and Deepen Relationships
As you think about your team’s perspective, consider these questions:
- Do you know of an instance where an inside-out orientation was detrimental to your team’s success? What really happened? Why?
- How has that affected the team’s dynamics and morale?
Aligning around your customers and their needs first requires identifying who your customer actually is. The next step is to then develop a system to gather deeper and more illustrative insights over time. This is often best accomplished by actual face-to-face interactions, though it can be done virtually as well. You may have heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg traveled to all 50 states of the U.S. in 2017 to meet a few of the social network’s billions of customers. You may have seen this commitment in practice within organizations by servant leaders who practice the “management by walking around” method.
At its core, getting to know your customers requires a genuine interest in what is best for them. It requires a willingness to not only listen, but also to hear what they are telling you. Face-to-face interaction provides direct personal and emotional knowing of who your customers are. This is invaluable because it’s not a knowledge explained to you by others, or interpreted from marketing segment data. Instead, it’s one that is experienced and therefore more fully understood.
If you feel for your customers you can better understand and serve their specific needs. If you can take this even further and develop R.E.A.L. relationships (reciprocal, empathetic, authentic and long-lasting) with those customers, you can establish a level of respect and trust that not only helps your team to find greater success, but also enables you to feel a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from your efforts.
Make Empathy Intentional
As you reflect on how empathy shows up on your team, consider these questions:
- What are the ways in which your team learns to empathize with your customers?
- What are specific instances in which you or your team members demonstrated that empathy? How did this make you feel afterward?
When an entire team aligns around customer focus instead of internal concerns, we create a powerful team dynamic. That dynamic guides us in the right direction. increases our connection to each other and improves decision making—all resulting in greater success.
Strong alignment with customers helps teams achieve long-term outperformance. Find out how your team ranks on alignment and the other four attributes of resilience when you sign up for a free demo of RallyBright’s Resilient Teams™ assessment.
Chris Heuer is an Ecosystem Architect who brings both a humanist and a systems view to organizational design and development. As an Anchor Mentor in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator, he coaches leaders from global startups, bringing a holistic perspective to their business strategy, purpose to their employees and a mindful approach to stakeholder relationship management.