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More Lessons From the CEO

The Dell direct model is a complex business model that is obviously difficult to duplicate. Still, there are many ways in which your company can become more customer-focused. Here are a few ideas.

  1. MAKE A COMMITMENT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS. Meet with key customers as often as it makes sense to do so, and make sure that all the people in your division do the same. Incorporate this sort of behavior into the regular culture of the business.

  2. WHEN MEETING WITH CUSTOMERS, MAKE SURE TO USE THE TIME WISELY BY GETTING SPECIFIC FEEDBACK ABOUT THEIR NEEDS, PREFERENCES, ETC. Prepare for the meeting ahead of time by writing a short list of questions. (Remember: Customers will appreciate your interest, and they will appreciate it even more if you respect their time.)

  3. IF YOUR COMPANY DOESN'T ALREADY DO SO, PLAN ON CONDUCTING AT LEAST ONE CUSTOMER SURVEY EACH YEAR IN AN AREA THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM INCREASED CUSTOMER KNOWLEDGE. Once the results are in, make sure that you use the information by incorporating this feedback into the appropriate parts of the company. If your company uses the Internet to elicit company feedback, and if you're confident that this approach paints a reasonably accurate picture, then an annual survey may not be necessary.

  4. KEEPING THE DELL MODEL IN MIND, TARGET AREAS THAT WOULD MOST BENEFIT FROM INCREASED CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT. Some examples are strategic planning, product development, and promotional planning. Focus on key products, key customer groups, and so on. Also, keeping Drucker's ideas in mind, you may want to devote resources to potential customers and customer groups in order to increase your market share in new areas.

  5. ONCE YOU DECIDE WHICH AREAS YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON, WRITE A BRIEF PLAN INCORPORATING YOUR IDEAS FOR INCREASING CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT. Share it with your manager and appropriate colleagues, and secure their commitment to executing the plan within a specified time frame.

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