Customer Obsessed Leaders Ask Different Questions to Create a Differentiated Company

If there is one thing I have learned over time is that the questions you ask are usually more important than the answers. Leaders know what questions to ask and when to ask them so they can get their people to come up with the best solutions. They know that their people often times have the best answers if given the opportunity to figure it out. Customer Obsession isn’t any different… except that you have to know what questions to ask.

But how do you know what questions to ask if this isn’t your area of expertise or experience? How do you know when to ask certain questions along a specific journey if you haven’t been on that journey before? And how do you come up with the right questions to ask so you can get the right answers and support from the other leaders and managers in the organization? Let me help you out with this… at least as it relates to being Customer Obsessed.

Customer Obsession is putting the customer FIRST in everything you do.

Leaders in a non-Customer Obsessed organization find there is the need for some education that preempts their ability to ask the right questions. Part of this education is the realization that Customer Obsession isn’t the same as just “liking” and “supporting” your customers. Since Customer Obsession is so much more than this, there is always a learning curve they go through before they can start asking the right questions.

As a side note, every business cares about their customers and wants the very best for them… this goes without saying. This isn’t Customer Obsession. Everyone likes their customers… they are, after all, the ones that write us checks for our products and services. What’s not to like. What it comes down to is how companies interact with their customers. In most cases it is great, but it isn’t usually awesome and obsessed.

Being Customer Obsessed means the customer is at the center of everything you do… they come FIRST in everything you do as a business. No decision is made until we understand how it is going to impact your customer. No decision is made until we understand how it is going to help your customer improve their life or their business. And no decision is made until we understand how we can deliver the experience to the customer that will blow them away and cause them to say, “WOW, you treat me like I’m your favorite customer all the time.” This is Customer Obsession.

Customer Obsession has an entirely different set of questions.

As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the things that makes great Leaders is their ability to ask great questions so their people can come up with some incredible answers and solutions. Here’s where the dilemma comes into play. How can a Leader ask great questions if they don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish? They can’t.

With regard to being Customer Obsession, how can a Leader ask the right (and great) questions if they don’t understand where they want to go with the answers. For example, if your organization is “product or service centric,” it’s much easier for a Leader to ask specific questions with regard to new products, or product development, or even new services they feel might fit into the mission of the company. They are in sync with these questions because this is the focus of the company.

But since most leaders are not “Customer Centric,” how can they ask the right questions of their people to get great answers? They can’t. If a Leader decides they want to be Customer Obsessed, they have to start asking the “right” (or different) questions to get the answers that will help them move forward with being more Customer Obsessed.

So how do you know what questions to ask?

There are many different questions and they can be very specific to your organization. I won’t attempt to dive into this level of detail here but allow me to give you some guidelines you can follow. If you are Customer Obsessed, you want to focus on questions in these different areas…

  • How does this new product or service help our customers?
  • How does this new product or service impact the life (or business) of our customers?
  • If we make this modification to our product or service, what impact will it have on our customers?
  • How many customers will this change impact?
  • What will our customers say if we make this change?
  • How do we know if this product will help our customer improve their life (or business)?
  • And many others…

You get the idea about the mindset and focus from an organization that is Customer Obsessed. They start by asking about the “impact” this will have on their customers before they ask about the impact it will have on their business. The first questions change from “internally focused” to “externally focused.” For companies that are Customer Obsessed, they don’t care if it’s a good idea for them internally (driving more sales or cutting costs) until they know that it will add significant value to their customers. Only then does it go to the next level of figuring out if it is a good opportunity for them as a business.

Customer Obsession is the culture of the company so everyone thinks and acts this way, it isn’t the exception, it is the rule. It is “who they are” and it’s “how they operate” as a company. This is very different from product/service centric companies. Since it is a cultural (or DNA) issue, it permeates the company in every department in every employee.

When it is the culture of the company, it now allows the leaders to ask the employees different questions. And now these questions aren’t something that is unexpected by the employees because they are already thinking about potential alternatives or solutions to address the leader’s questions. For example, if a leader asks what impact a new process would have on their customers and the employees come back with anything other than, “it will help them save time and/or money,” then the idea probably won’t see the light of day.

It is critical to be honest with yourselves and not to do something that will work against your areas of focus. If you aren’t Customer Obsessed (yet) then you don’t want to ask these questions of your employees because they aren’t trained to know how to answer appropriately. If you want to ask Customer Obsessed questions, then you need to start with the process that will help you become Customer Obsessed.

What to do next…

The first step is education… learning more about why being Customer Obsessed could completely differentiate your organization. Once you see how this works, then you can determine if this is the focus you want for your culture and the DNA of your company. If this is interesting and something you feel would differentiate you from your competition, then you will be more open to learning how you would go about making this a reality in your company.

While there is a lot of information available, it can be a bit daunting to dive into it since it is fragmented and discussed in a variety of ways. If you want to save some time and get to the core of it quickly, let me know and I can help. My passion and charter for WOM10 is simple… help make every business “REMARK”able by being Customer Obsessed.

The only question that remains is, “Are you ready to be Customer Obsessed and become “REMARK”able?”

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