I wonder if you can’t quickly check true customer focused leadership by simply looking for tangible evidence — the initiatives, projects, metrics, etc., designed to deliver more value to customers. Without such initiatives underway, does a company deserve to call itself customer-focused?
These tangibles might be corporate but should be especially found within customer-facing processes or functions and strategic account teams. In each department it should be asked, "Where are the new projects and goals that will help earn customer commitment?"
I worked with a client some years ago that sold mission-critical equipment to businesses and was a global market leader at the time. They were very business development-oriented in their growth strategy. The feedback from buyers indicated a huge strategic opportunity for this company to enhance customer service, because salespeople didn’t do much account management — users were directed to call customer service with questions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always evident to the customer who to call or how to get their questions answered.
So this client made customer service a priority for improvement. And this was new thinking, because we found that despite having 100+ formal quality improvement projects underway company-wide, they had zero projects active within the customer service function, the number one customer-desired area to improve. This was shocking, but did lend urgency to making changes. They dramatically enhanced staffing and call software in customer service, made changes to the post-sale servicing approach, and have maintained their dominance in their global markets.
One lesson is in knowing the priority of your customers and doing something about it, but there’s a bigger picture here. Customer listening should relate to the tangible initiatives underway in different departments and teams. As customer due diligence, the existence of those should be observed along with customer experiences.
The adage should probably be, "Without customer initiatives; we don’t have customer focus."