Customer Is King!

It was a pleasant afternoon on Sunday, the 3rd of February 2019. As a part of a year-long part time Harvard Business School program which I was undergoing, I had reached at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai on that day. Later that evening, the 3rd module of the program was to start. This module required me and my peers to be staying at the hotel itself for close to 2 weeks. We would be imbibing knowledge from renowned Harvard faculty during this module. As I was completing the hotel check-in process, there was an inner feeling that not all was well with me. Suddenly, I had developed a common cold and a sense of uneasiness was creeping in. 

With each passing moment, through that Sunday afternoon, the fever strengthened it’s tentacles around me. Although I was able to attend the classroom session later that evening, within a matter of a few hours to put it bluntly – I was unwell. The thought of missing the rest of the sessions that week or going back home was agonizing. Realizing that I was ill, the Program Manager from Harvard Business School, checked in case I needed any assistance. I informed her that I would be going to a nearby pharmacy to purchase medicines later that evening.

On being back at my hotel room, I was surprised to find a hamper on the table with a Vaporizer Steam Inhaler, Eucalyptus oil, a few over-the-counter medicines and a hand-written “get well soon” card neatly tucked into it. Turned out that the friendly Program Manager had informed the staff at the Taj about me being unwell and they immediately sprung into action. The steam inhalation provided me with quick results and supplemented the medication really well. I was on the road to recovery!

However, what struck me the most was the customer-centric attitude of the hotel staff. For the next few days until I had gotten well completely, early each morning and every evening, a senior hotel staff member kept visiting me and checking on how I was doing. In case I needed any help? Fresh bottles of Eucalyptus oil were placed each day, even without me requesting for this. I was able to complete the entire module without any issue. 

As a student of Marketing within my postgraduate studies, I came across this aphorism – “Customer Is King”. This superlative experience at the Taj, surely made me feel that I was treated like a King. On sharing my experience with peers within the program, I was informed that many of them had similar experiences with the Taj Group of Hotels in India and abroad, at different points of time. These testimonials truly makes the Taj Group a customer-centric organization.

However, a point to analyze is – why is being customer-centric so difficult? What are the reasons due to which many organizations fail miserably in ensuring customer delight? How do certain organizations achieve  the status of being able to put their customers at the focal point of all their initiatives? As per my research, the 4 key reasons for this exquisite customer focus exhibited by some organizations are:

1.Listening To Your Customers:

Customer focused organizations consistently listen to their customers and seek their feedback proactively. This enables them to improve upon their products or services on the basis of what exactly their customers want. In the year 2011, FMCG major Hindustan Unilever started a project referred to as “Voices From The Street”. This involved setting up a phone booth at the company’s Mumbai corporate office. With a telephone and headset installed, this small room was a medium for the company’s managers to listen to feedback – both positive and negative – straight from their consumers. Several product improvement decisions were subsequently taken as a direct result of these inputs.

2.Putting Yourself In Your Customer’s Shoes: 

Empathizing with customers plays a pivotal role within any customer-centric organization. You have to think and feel like how your customers would do, in order to maximize their satisfaction with your product or service. Business communication platform, Slack Technologies, requires it’s Customer Experience team members to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, while responding to them. Solving customer queries in the most effective and sensitive manner has made Slack a valuable company as well as a customer-driven one.

3.Customer’s Success Is Our Success: 

Customer focused entities strongly believe that in the success of their customers, lies their own. Hence, “helping customers succeed” becomes their chief motto. Each task is executed maintaining the customer’s victory in perspective. US headquartered banking and financial services organization, Wells Fargo, is a prime example of this. It closely works with its clients especially small businesses and offers them with in-depth training as well as support in all dimensions of growing their business in addition to providing banking services. 

4.Hire Them Right: 

How do customer-centric companies exist without customer-centric people, right? The ethos of every organization is reflected within the people who are a part of it. Hence, getting the right people on board goes a long way in building an effective customer focused culture. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, goes to great lengths to ensure the same. The company does its very best to ensure that only candidates with an exemplary customer focus are selected. It does this by conducting multiple rounds of interviews with different Zappos leaders and through psychometric assessments, with a view to understand the customer-orientation of the individual. They ensure that they recruit the very best from the perspective of this acumen. At the same time, in case Zappos realizes that a hire does not fit into the company’s customer-centric culture, they do not even hesitate to fire the concerned employee. They are that stringent.

Even the best of class customer-centric organizations realise that it is always a journey of continuous improvement. Since customer centricity revolves around a blend of people, processes and product, they are aware that nothing can ever be taken for granted. Creating an organizational culture around the customer and their needs is always evolutionary in nature. No organization can claim to have mastered this craft and hence the unceasing quest for perfection to ensure that “Customer Is King” continues…

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  • This article was really helpful. As an entrepreneur, I am always seeking ways to make my things perfect and I have a lot of clarity about my next steps to make my company a “customer centric organisation”. All thanks to John for such great insights and the example of Taj Hotels was really amazing.

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