All organisations like to think they are customer focused, but there’s one simple way to find out if that’s real or just a delusion. Look in your inbox, you’ll find the answer is there right now.

No, you haven’t just been spammed and sent an email telling you your organisation isn’t customer focused, the answer is in the emails that are in already in your inbox, and more importantly in your sent items. Take a few minutes to quickly run through the last 100 emails you sent, ask yourself: are they internal or external, and are they about you working in the business or on the business.

In the Business, or On the Business?

Imagine you are a business designer, you design organisations for a living, you’ve got this amazing application that simulates a business and you are adding, moving, and changing bits of the business to make it work better. If you’ve ever played The Sims, Transport Tycoon, SimCity, Rollercoaster Simulator or any of that ilk of game you’ll understand. There’s a mode in which you play “god” and you build/change the thing you oversee, that mode is working on the business.

Then once you’ve built your simulated rollercoaster you click the run button and go from working on the simulated rollercoaster, to riding in it. It’s the same in business, you are either working on the business, changing, designing, building it, or you are working in the business, doing the day to day stuff that happens when the business is running.

Working in the business is what most of us fall into the trap of doing every day, its all the things that soak up our time and attention and are related to running the business as it exists today. That’s not a bad thing, someone needs to do these things or there won’t be a business. But as a leader of your business you need to ensure you don’t end up spending all your time in the business, and not enough on the business.

Working on the business is where the value comes from, it’s about setting the strategy, driving change, leading the business forward. Although this is by far the most important part of a leader’s role, it’s often the part we pay the least attention to when things get busy in the business.

Internal or External?

The bigger an organisation gets the easier it is to fall into the trap of existing within its own world and forgetting that customers are the only reason it exists. Have a look at your emails, are they to a customer (or at least about a customer), or are they internal and exist within your own organisational bubble?

Monthly reports, approvals, resource requests, escalations, in-fighting, and compliance are all examples of internal emails that are more focused internally within your organisational bubble than externally on your customers.

Visualise the Results

Now that you’ve scored your last 100 emails in those two areas, draw the results on the chart below. If it roughly lines up with the numbers shown you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this is where most business leaders spend their efforts. What does this tell you about your organisation? Can you honestly claim to be a customer focused business if 77% of your emails are focused internally, and more importantly, can you change this if 90% of your emails are focused on running the business rather than leading it forward?

Change Starts at the Top

If you want to drive a customer focused culture and have your organisation as a thought-leader in your industry, have a careful think about the next email you send. Is it internal or external? Is it on the business or in the business? Ask yourself if that email is the best use of your time right now, chances are, that exec update you are about to write isn’t the most important thing you could be doing. Instead try sending a quick email to a customer telling them about your vision for your business, it shouldn’t be difficult as your vision should be clear and easy to communicate.

Just try that and see what happens. Do it often enough and who knows? Hopefully next time you look at your last 100 emails you’ll get a very different picture.

Score Yourself

Just for fun work out your Customer Focus score and let us know how you did. To work our your score add 100% of the On/External count to 50% of the On/Internal count, and 25% of the In/External count.

In the example above that makes 11.5 (3 + 7 x 50% + 20 x 25%).

See how you score and post it in the comments.

Posted by Mike Bullock

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