Think customer — customer orientation

Good managers understand their customers. They understand the impact of the work on a customer's business. They understand how the work being done may benefit or may harm a customer's business. After all, customer benefit is the underlying theme of all work being done.

From a very simple perspective, everything that an organization does is meant to eventually deliver value in shape of products or services to the end customer. The customer pays for it and must get what he/she needs from the products an organization is selling. Customer orientation is a key competency for any organization, and almost all managers get evaluated on this. Unfortunately, many a times, customer orientation tends to get lost in the layers of the organization.

Managers are expected to understand who their customers are. Customers can be internal or external.

In the product development organizations, the end customer may not always be visible, but internal customers should be. Sometimes, organizations choose to use the word consumers instead of customers, especially in the case of product development teams that are responsible for building framework or infrastructure that other higher-level products may use. For internal support organizations, like network support, other internal organizations, which are users of the network, are the customers. In services organizations, the end customer is the client people are working for, but there's also the client's customer that needs to be kept in mind. In BPO organizations, like telephonic support for a PC maker, the employees are the closest to the end customer. In outsourced BPO operations, the customer is the client and client's customers.

Typical expectations from managers on customer orientation are as follows:

Understands who customers or consumers are

Understands the customer scenarios

Works to understand the customer needs and maps them into the work being done

Prioritizes work based on customer impact

It is often not easy to know what will eventually have the most impact on the end customer, since the eventual impact on the customer is a combination of many things that an organization does, it is extremely important that managers understand the impact their work can or must have on the eventual customer.

A very typical example is the way User Interfaces get designed in a software product. A simple "Order Entry" form may have many fields that are laid out in a single form. The layout of the fields is extremely critical to the productivity of a user. If an operator is taking the orders over the phone, the layout will be very different than the order being filled out online, directly by the buyer. A smart manager would think about the usage of the product and not only try to create a form that simply lays out all the details of the form, as listed in the requirements document.

Any discussion on managerial competencies would be incomplete without understanding emotional intelligence. While the concept of emotional intelligence was being researched and talked about for a long time, it became a big topic of interest after the publication of the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and the subsequent bestseller book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.

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