Don't kid yourself; every business is a service-focused business. To remain competitive, customer satisfaction must come first. That said every interaction that a customer or prospect has with you...counts! The customer's experience is framed by you. It is the combination of all of what goes on in the shopping, selecting, purchasing and servicing that determines the experience - and, it's the experience that determines whether customers come back or look elsewhere.

To optimize the customer experience, your work environment must be redesigned so that staff always keeps the customer in mind. Indeed, all work activities that contribute directly to customer satisfaction should be optimized, and, those that don't should be reduced or eliminated, whenever possible.

After all, most businesses have some form of a "meet or exceed customer expectations" messaging dropped on top of their cultures. But, many businesses haven't done the work needed to have that mantra fully interwoven into the way work is done. Clearly, the focus must shift towards delighting the customer and away from the blind performance of pro forma work activities.

If you think your firm can benefit from a work process overhaul aimed at improving customer satisfaction, here are some things to consider:

1. Take inventory of past efforts: Any work already done through previous work improvement activities should be leveraged to the greatest extent possible to jump start any other customer-focused reengineering effort that will follow.

2. Embrace a New Approach: Clearly, processes will need to be re-engineered. A process optimization methodology, which promotes a customer first attitude, must be selected and adopted.

3. Institute the Improvement Method: It will take effort to institutionalize the selected optimization methodology. Be prepared to properly, train and pilot the approach to ensure long-term success.

4. Broadcast Early Results: As business processes are redefined, communication vehicles should be developed to promote and facilitate communication among these process stakeholders. Additionally, you'll want to celebrate early victories to encourage others in your company to undertake change, too.

5. Formalize A Promotion Campaign: An awareness program will be necessary to expose all of your personnel to this new "let's always delight the customer" value and commitment to re-imagine the way work is organized and performed to live it. By promoting customer-focused change, you will inspire additional change.

6. Provide Continuous Leadership: This new work model represents a dramatic departure from the current work paradigm (that, typically, promotes functional boundaries as a way of partitioning and managing work). So, management must be prepared to provide the coaching and support that will be required by their staff members as they make the transition.

To close, this is a simple 6-part formula for optimizing the customer experience. But, when you follow it; you, too, will be on your way to exceeding your customer's expectations -- that's the only true formula for encouraging customers to come back time and again.