Structure Your Processes and Policies Around Your Customer

If you look at most businesses today, you will notice that a lot of corporate policies and processes exist. Unfortunately, these rules are created to protect itself from potential wrongdoings of employees instead of setting them up to succeed.

Too many rules at work keep you from getting things done. In a TED talk, Yves Morieux, Director at BCG, said that “we pay more attention to knowing who to blame in case we fail, than creating the conditions to succeed.

They lose sight of what’s really important—winning. In business, this means creating more customers so you grow your revenues and profits, which you need to grow your business further, so you can continue serving more customers.

A Tale of Two Competitors: What to Do and What Not to Do

Early this year I got on a call with the customer support of a big tollway company. Let’s call them Company ABC. I called because I needed to update my credit card because my old one expired. After I hang up, I was literally cursing and shouting.

I emailed their customer care address about my credit card issue a few weeks before. I followed all the instructions on their website, downloaded the form, then sent my email. I followed up several times using different channels —email and contact form. No response. Not even an acknowledgement receipt of my email.

It was exactly 28 days since I first sent my updated forms. That’s when I called the hotline. When I asked the rep about it, he said, that’s their policy. If the submitted information was incomplete or wrong, they don’t say anything. No reply. They won’t even inform the sender.

Can you believe that? As a customer, how would you know the status if there is no communication from Company ABC?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not angry at the customer service rep. In fact, he was very helpful. He made me realize that this company he’s working for don’t care about their customers. And it’s reflected in their policy.

Let’s contrast this to my experience with their direct competitor, Company XYZ, which run the southern roads. I followed the same procedure as I did in Company ABC. I received acknowledgement and the entire credit card update process was finished in 5 days.

Both companies don’t have an online system where you can update the credit card information yourself. The only way is to either visit a satellite office and manually submit a form, or via email. Phone calls only tell you what to do. You can’t make any changes there either.

Lessons Learned from Two Companies with Different Policies

What can you learn from this story?

Never lose sight of the most important thing—your customer. As I mentioned over and over again, customer focus is what sets successful companies apart. Adding value to their lives is the most important thing you should focus on.

Creating customers is the real purpose of a business. Without them, businesses will cease to exist. The best way to focus on customers is to use the buyer utility map to map out the customer journey.

The main question you need to answer is this:

What policies do I have to make it easy for my customers to do what they need to do during the _________ stage?

Structure Your Business Policies Around Your Customers

Make sure your policies and other processes make it easier for the customer to do business with you. Here are a few examples of how you do that.

1. Purchase

What policies or processes do you have that help customers buy from you?

  • Do you have a system for helping customers solve their problems? Content marketing and social media fall under here.
  • Do you offer warranties, guarantees, returns and refunds to qualm their fears of buying from you?
  • How easy is it for your customers to buy from you? Can they do it on their phones? Do they need to create an account? Can they pay using credit card or online? Or do they have to physically visit your stores or go to the bank just to settle and payments?

2. Delivery

Some important questions to answer for the deliver stage are the following:

  • How much time and effort does a customer need to do to get updates on their delivery? Do they have to followup with you manually each time like sending an email or calling you? How long do you get back to them? Or do you have an automated and proactive way to communicate that status of their delivery?
  • What policy do you have for lost or stolen packages?
  • Do you have a promise like the 2-day delivery of Amazon Prime?

3. Use

What policies or systems do you have in place to help your customers get the most of your products and services?

  • Do you have a customer support hotline that people can reach if they need help to use your product?
  • What about a self-service portal where they can make changes to their own accounts? Or do your customers have to go physically visit a store in order to update their information?
  • Is there a dedicated support team to help your customers succeed?

4. Supplements

Supplements deal with other products/services needed in order to get yours to work. For most software companies, APIs and other integrations fall under here.

  • Do you have an API or integration with other applications to help your customers succeed? Does it have documentation? Or they need highly specialized (and expensive) skills to do so?
  • Do you have documentation on workarounds or alternatives about using your products/services with others?

5. Maintenance

How easy do you make it for your customers to maintain and keep your products at peak performance?

  • Do you offer maintenance services? Or do customers have to buy and replace their existing products with new ones if they break?
  • Can they take it to a repair shop/store that is easily accessible?
  • How easy is it to upgrade the product? For example, Apple Mac’s used to have swappable RAM slots, but newer models now are soldered directly, making upgrades impossible.

6. Disposal

What policies or processes do you have around disposal of products?

  • Can customers trade-in their products for some sort of credit or discount off their next purchase?
  • Do you offer recycling or drop-off points for waste products? Or do you pass this burden off to consumers? For example, this is what the bottled water/beverage industry does. Instead of having their own waste disposal and collection systems, they rely on 3rd party recycling plants and consumers to manage recycling.

Over to You

No matter your industry or business is, make sure that you structure your policies and systems and other processes around your customer. Always put them first and the rest will follow.

Don’t spend too much time crafting every imaginable scenarios for internal policies that don’t matter. All results are external the organization. If you focus too much on creating rules for your team to follow, you will lose sight of the bigger picture.

Instead of creating value for customers, everybody will start to focus on not making mistakes. This won’t help your business succeed.

What do you think? Do you have corporate policies that hinder you from achieving customer success? Or are your policies all geared towards helping them get the most value? Either way, I’d love to know.

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

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