22 July 2013

The Customer in Focus

Written by Juha Wallius
Published in , Oil products

Already today, the leading companies measure their market position very much based on how valuable customers they have. Why? Because as already known, customers are the only reason companies exist. I wrote about this topic in my blog post earlier this year. The customers are usually named as valuable asset on the balance sheets of these types of companies. This directly means that the focus is on leading and developing common business, trying to maximize the mutual benefits of the co-operation, and growing together.

The role of a customer is far more than just buying one's products and services. The role also includes stepping forward with the expertise related to their own business field and supporting the supplier in developing the offering further. This means that a good dialogue and practices are needed when the parties start to co-operate in a more open and trustworthy way, i.e. operating on the terms of the customer relationship.

Despite of an established and possibly long business relationship, the organizations need to dig deeper into the ground of their common field of business and operations. It is for the supplier to understand the customer's main processes, the problems that these processes may include and to identify the opportunities to tackle those challenges in order to support the mutual growth. Only by sharing that knowledge, a true added value can be created in transactions between the seller and the buyer. As a concrete outcome of that, the seller is able to introduce a value proposal, which includes true benefits for the customer. Those benefits can commonly be listed in areas like decreased working capital, lower business risk, increased sales and profitability, and decreased total costs.

To keep the ambition level high the customer focused companies often follow three areas of resources: the share of wallet, the share of heart and the share of mind. The meaning of the share of wallet is obvious; the more you get out of the customer's purchases is of course an elementary thing. The share of heart instead is based on a feeling, how keen you are to keep the relationship alive. It means basically trust. If there is no trust, you usually need a lot of actions to ensure the business, ultimately things like cash in advance. Not a very progressed level of partnership and definitely not a basis for good customer loyalty. And when the times get harder, the loyalty and business continuity is what you need. The share of mind arises from the customer experience. How positively we can respond to the customers' expectations and how much value we can generate into the business (see above)?

Neste Oil's vision, to be the preferred partner in clean traffic solutions, challenges us to have the focus and do well in all areas of customer work. That is the core of our work and we are happy to face the challenge!

Juha Wallius
Manager, Customer Focus Program