Customer Focus is no longer a choice. Learn from an expatriate. A simple approach that can build an organization-wide customer-focused approach.
Quality Fable: Customer First, Always.
How often have we seen posters in organizations shouting messages such as “Customer First” or “The Customer is Always Right”? How often, as a customer, have you actually experienced this claim?
I wish to share a story of an expatriate, in India, who actually made it happen.
In the mid-1990’s, India had graduated from a license raj regime to becoming a relatively more liberal economy. Policies had changed that permitted foreign organizations to hold more than 50 per cent shares in the pharmaceutical sector. This is a classic story of an organization that had been led by Indian executives for decades but was now to be led by an expatriate, since the multi-national European parent had opted for 51 per cent foreign ownership in India.
The person appointed to lead was of South American origin, who had earlier postings in North Africa and South East Asia. He had never before set foot in India. The mandate given to him by his HO was “Transform the Indian operations into a customer-focused one in 1000 days”.
I met this executive (let’s call him Victor Fernandez) in his second week on the job. Victor looked relaxed in his office that overlooked the Arabian Sea. Torrential monsoon rain lashed the windows. After the professional formalities, he explained to me his 1000 days’ mission and what he had already accomplished. He said he had already achieved his goal! How?
Victor taught me the importance of execution. He also taught me the power of simplicity. His prescription was:
Victor explained the first round had been completed. He was going to execute the second round that week. And the next week he would request the executives to cascade the same process down to the next level. He would request them to audit the performance of their respective managers, and he, in turn would audit their ability to audit! Quite simple.
Victor underlined the simplicity of his process. He made me understand the Plan-Do-Check-Act theory underlying his approach.
But that was not all. There was another by-product to this approach. The whole organization learned from the grapevine that Victor spends his time reviewing deliverables to customers. He is customer-focused and walks his talk. Victor had faith in the grapevine for communication – efficient and effective.