Unfolding plans 29 – customers are our core business

Account management can be difficult to justify, especially in these straightened times.  It is an overhead that we can ill afford.  When we are being asked to watch every penny and cut out all waste, having a team of people who work with the customer, both internal and external, can be seen as a luxury.

We need to focus on our core business and services.  Wait on though, customers are our core business.  All of our services and products need to be designed and delivered with them in mind.  Show me a business without customers.  There isn’t one.  Show me a business that doesn’t invest in contacting and maintaining a relationship with its customers and it soon won’t be here.

I always worry when I hear of organisations that have decided to outsource their customer service departments as if this was somehow divorced from their own purpose.  If you do not have customer service then you do not have a business.  Then why should this be any different for the private or public sectors?  The needs of our customers may be different, though this is arguable, and the client supplier relationship may be different but in essence they are both the same.

Working in ICT I could argue that every meeting I have is with either a provider or a customer.  Remember that nothing runs in the organisation without some sort of technology.  Putting that aside I try and spend as much time as I can with our customers.  Whenever I am with them the conversation is always about two things: they need the services that we provide for them today to be working; they need new products and services for the future.

Call it what you like, account management, business development or even sales, this is an essential part of the service we deliver.  Our customers are looking to us to support them with their service delivery and objectives, both now and tomorrow.  It is not a question of how do we justify expenditure on account management but rather how can we afford not to have it.  It is an essential component of our service offer and we need to be bothered as it’s what our customers are expecting from us.

Customer Services isn’t a department, it’s everyone’s job.  People will forget what we say to them and what we do to them but they won’t forget how we make them feel.  If customers can relate to what you stand for they will stick with you for as long as they can.

So where does that leave us?  I wouldn’t say it was an area that we ware particularly great at.  We’re not bad, perhaps good at times yet some way to go before greatness.  At least we are doing it.  We have people whose role it is to work with clients to identify need and opportunity and to try and bring solutions but it does not come naturally to us in the public sector.  It’s time to step back, have a think and try that bit harder.

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