Are You Really Customer-Focused?


Many companies that claim to offer good customer service in reality are grounded in an operations mentality with rules and policies that allow for little flexibility, preventing them from rising above anything more than average or satisfactory. The companies that really understand customer service have a different focus. Their hiring and training is focused on customer service, and they truly deliver it. Here are 6 areas that differ between customer-focused companies and operations-focused companies:

1. Empowerment

Employees in a customer-focused company are given the freedom to make decisions for the benefit of the customer. Instead of strict rules, they have more relaxed guidelines and are encouraged to find ways to take care of the customer. As long as they don’t do anything illegal or immoral, harm the company’s reputation or cost the company money (and sometimes that’s even OK), they are empowered to act with the customer in mind. In an operations-focused company, the employee must seek a manager’s approval for anything outside of their policies or rules.

2. Hiring

At a customer-focused company, skill alone won’t get an applicant hired. Potential employees must have personalities and core values that align with the company’s culture, vision and mission in addition to their technical skills. Operations-focused companies hire based on skill, looking only at education and experience with no consideration of how the applicant’s personality fits into the corporate culture.

Related: Why You Should Give Customer Service Guidelines, Not Rules

3. Training

A customer-focused company recognizes that it takes both technical and customer service skills to rise above being average and spends time and money training for “soft skills” such and building relationships with customers. At an operations-focused company, training for new employees mainly emphasizes technical skills and product knowledge.

4. Leadership

In any company, the leaders develop the vision for the company’s culture, and in a customer-focused company, the leaders live by that vision and lead by example. In an operations-focused company, however, the management may have a “Do as I say, not as I do” approach. If their behavior is inconsistent with the culture they say they want to achieve, employees will be less than motivated.

5. People Come First

The customer-focused company knows the value of its employees and puts them first, creating a culture of happy, engaged, fulfilled workers who naturally deliver a better customer experience. The customers are happy, too, and they continue to come back. An operations-focused company is based on systems, procedures and the bottom line, and the culture that develops does not ensure the best customer experience.

6. Customer Service

At a customer-focused company, customer service is everyone’s job. Whether serving internal or external customers, the philosophy is the same and is to be embraced by every employee. An operations-focused company relegates customer service to a department.

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Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is the Lecturer of Customer Experience for the Tarkenton Certificate in Entrepreneurship and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to