Customer First, Always
Victor Fernandez, a South American, was appointed by a multi-national pharmaceutical company, to lead the Indian operations. The mandate given to him by the HO in Switzerland was: Transform the Indian operations into a customer-focused one in 1000 days.
I met Victor in his second week on the job. He looked relaxed in his South Bombay office, overlooking the Arabian Sea. After the professional formalities, he explained to me his 1000 days mission and that he had already accomplished his goal!
Victor taught me the importance of execution. He also taught me the power of simplicity. His prescription was:
- I called all the senior executives to the board room on my second day at work.
- Next, I asked each executive to take a foolscap sheet of paper and to list their customers on the left of the sheet. Of course, each executive listed the dealers and chemists.
- I corrected their perception of customer and defined it as the person who receives the output of your work. Each executive listed more customers than the others in the room. It seemed a status symbol.
- A moment of truth followed…”What do you deliver to each customer?” There was silence in the room. “How do you measure your performance with each customer?” Not a clue.
- “When did you last meet your customers?” Prompt came the answer…. “Daily. In the car pool and / or cafeteria!” “No, no” I said, “when did you last meet your customers proactively? ” Heavy silence.
- “Never mind”, Victor said, “”let’s make a simple plan. I would like you to list your ‘A’ category customers. I would then like you to meet each customer for 10 minutes at their desk, weekly. The agenda for each meeting will be: How can I improve my offerings to you? Next, I would like you to log what you have agreed. I will come and audit the log and action, weekly.
Victor had completed the first cycle.
The grapevine whispered that Victor spends his time reviewing deliverables to customers.
- What are the Best Practices you have harvested?
- What should Victor do next?