Did you delight your customers today?

I’d like you to take a moment to reflect on your typical workday.

What tasks and activities make up your average day?

Do you feel in control or swamped?

Do you have a clear understanding of how you are contributing value to your customers?   Or do you just ‘get stuff done’?

For many people, the typical response goes something like this:

“On the way to work, I’m already on email, getting across the things that I have to get done today.  The work comes at me and I do my best to get it done by the end of the day.  I often get interrupted (either with new work or with irrelevant intrusions), but if I push through, I usually manage to get it all done before I go home.

Did I create value for our customers?  I guess I must have, or they wouldn’t pay me to do this job, would they?”

For many of us, it’s not hard to relate to this narrative – not so much because of who we are, but because of the environment we work in.

Now compare the above response with this:

“My sole purpose at work is delighting the customer.  My friends used to look at me funny when I said this, because they know I work in Accounts – hardly a frontline, customer-facing role.  But because I know all my colleagues have the same purpose in their work, we get things done and have a great time along the way.  For us, the journey really IS the destination.”

Too often, the companies we work for try to create “pseudo-purposes” out of the intermediate steps we take in serving our customers, with metrics such as ‘percentage utilization’, ‘cost to serve’ and other seemingly harmless measures.  The problem is that these metrics completely hide the true objective of the enterprise, replacing it with sub-goals (often known as “business drivers”) that are neither inspiring nor necessarily optimal.

Small wonder, then, that we end up with silos, factions and people working at cross-purposes – if I’m trying to maximize utilization and you’re looking to keep someone free for a project that is important to your personal KPIs, we’re going to have a problem.

With a clear focus on the customer, however, these problems become the exception rather than the norm.  It’s no longer about “how much did I get done today?” or “I’d better meet my KPIs”, but rather “how many customers did we delight today?”  Even the use of “we” rather than “I” reinforces that we’re all in it together.

And how much more inspiring is it to constantly be thinking of how to delight customers than meeting arbitrary internal measures?

You may think this is an oversimplification or a fairytale – “it doesn’t work like this in the real world”.  But try to suspend disbelief for just for a moment and think about an organization that delighted YOU recently – what do you think was on the mind of the people who served YOU?