A key to success in business or almost any organizational endeavor is alignment, and by alignment I mean everyone on the team being tuned to one objective, a common goal. In sports, it is typically winning, and more specifically winning a championship. I can’t imagine any sports team that wouldn’t list that as their ultimate objective. Imagine, though, being the fan of a team whose stated objective is to make as much money as they can off of their fans whether they win or not, would you want to root for them? Well, in the business world, there are innumerable companies who essentially do just that and I believe they are missing the boat entirely.
In business, like sports, I believe there is really only one ultimate objective, but many, many businesses, unlike sports teams, seem to have lost the plot somewhere. What is this plot you ask? Well, think about it, why does a business exist in the first place? There’s only one real reason, to help people (customers) achieve something. If you’re a customer and you go to any business, you go there for help, whether that help is convenience, or because you don’t know how to do something, or you just want someone else to do something you don’t want to do, or….the list goes on, but I think you see my point. Business is in the business of helping, or serving, people and that means a “win” in business is whether you helped customers achieve their goals or not. However, how many businesses do you know of who don’t even register that as their mission?
Take Spirit Airlines for example. Their mission is clear; here is the first sentence – the rest of the paragraph continues in like vein.
Spirit Airlines is committed to offering the lowest total price to the places we fly, on average much lower than other airlines.
But buyers beware. With this mission as their prime objective, helping customers is not a goal in the least, in fact, customers are only a pawn in a nefarious scheme of self-interest.
In commitment to their objective of low price, Spirit has dedicated a lot of effort to confusing customers with a barrage of separate fees. Spirit has mastered the art of marketing what appear to be low prices and then, in sneaky ways, obtaining additional money. Their business model depends on customers getting hit blindly before they can really do anything about it. For example, the airline boasts about its low fares and charges $45 to check your bag at check-in, which is about $5 less than everybody else except for Southwest who don’t charge at all. However, if you are unaware and don’t check the bag, a carry-on mind you, when you get your ticket, it costs a mandatory $100 at the gate. Sneaky, huh? I got hit with this the one, only, and last time I traveled on Spirit. Oh, and if you want to complain, Spirit will charge you to call customer service too.
As surprising as these practices may seem to you, how many businesses have you experienced who, while maybe not as boldly self-motivated as Spirit seems to be, make it clear that helping customers is really the furthest thing from their ultimate mission?
Hopefully, your business is not in this boat, but if it is, it is time for an about face. It is time to put the customer at the center as your ultimate objective. It is time to make it clear that the only reason for business is to help others, your customers, and to do that, every employee from top to bottom has to understand how they contribute to that objective.
Start by posing and answering these questions.
- What specifically do customers come to your business for help with?
- How do you contribute to your business doing that? What is your role in ensuring customers get the help they need?
- If you’re not customer facing, how can you be more helpful to those around you, all in the ultimate goal of helping customers achieve their goals?
Once you have some answers for yourself, begin the dialog around these things in your workplace. If you’re a manager, ask these things of your team members. Try to get them aligned to the goal of helping customers achieve. From there, talk to others in the organization and get the buzz going everywhere. Don’t settle for being a nefarious, self-centered organization, go out there and make your organization a game changer, one where a win is a win for customers because customers aren’t auxiliary entities, they’re really the most vital members of your team and making them successful will make you and your business successful.