We have all heard a lot about “customer focus” in our work. But what does it really mean? How much has “bringing customer focus to the organization” helped you change the culture and improve the long-term performance of the business? What has been your customer’s response to it?

Lean Six Sigma has brought more concrete meaning to “customer focus” collecting voice of the customer, deriving critical to quality characteristics, identifying value streams, etc.

However, I still feel that most organizations where Lean Six Sigma is deployed are still lacking customer focus, not measured by their words but by their behaviors. I measure the behaviors by asking “What actions under what circumstances represent customer focus or the lack of it?”

The word “focus” or “priority” implies that there are multiple, equally viable choices or alternative decisions. “Customer Focus” to me means making the choice for the benefit of the customer despite competing or conflicting goals. When there are no other viable choices, there is nothing to focus. They did it just because it’s the only obvious choice.

It’s the special circumstances where customer interests and our own conflict that show me whether we are customer focused. For example,

  • Would you continue to provide free services when competitors are charging a fee?
  • Would you help a customer even if it is not your or your organization’s responsibility?
  • Would you meet customer’s needs at the expense of your short-term profits?
  • Would you challenge your management if their decisions to cut costs compromise customer value?

Someone said “Discipline is what you do when nobody is watching.” I would say “Customer focus is the choices we make to maximize value, measurable only by the customer.”

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