Customer Focus and Integration: Learning from Local Wisdom

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Customer Focus and Integration: Learning from Local Wisdom
Nunu Wisnuaji, Member, Student (University), Indonesia

Local wisdom has its role to play in a strategic planning.

Focus on customer, as the essence of the shift from product-driven to customer - driven paradigm, is not a new thing to us. Albeit orally and informally taught from generation to generation within family context, the old saying ‘Customer is the king to serve’ has yet been stocked in mind to those who begin with a small scale-business, be it of goods or service, either in their own place of origin or others, they migrate for a new living. The view is even attached long before the business starts up. Simply the saying means customers can do no wrong. Customers can leave the product offered at anytime and choose one from competitors when satisfaction is not fulfilled. Another yet similar meaning is to give customers the best products or services to meet their needs and wants in order to just build and strengthen silaturahim (Islamic word for caring and tending in brotherhood to the cause of trust). This implies that more trust to product providers is reinforced when customers’ needs and wants are fulfilled. Both emphasize the urge for the providers to satisfy the customer through understanding their needs and wants. When all is well-developed and maintained, it is believed that income gained will improve towards a competitive and sustainable business.
Right decisions in the planning
Linked to the above view is a question on how the producers traditionally provide the customers with the right products in the right market. Ethnically, most people of Minangkabau being popular for their culture in doing business refer to their local wisdom, what so called Alam tak kambang jadi guru (Learn from the unfolding nature). The cultural philosophy, which basically teaches a balance and harmony living with nature and humankind as well in the cause of peace and prosperity, places the importance of making the right decisions in planning. When one expects to get healthier fish, for example, one, first of all, needs to conserve rivers and waters and then go fishing in the area of their habitat where they need plankton to live in sustainable manners which will bring no harm to the waters, plankton and the habitat as well. Another wise example is in land use by which careful decisions are made by a teamwork consisting of ketua adat (village chairs) and usually those who are thought to be the experts in the land use and development. Not to build in the area of water absorption would then be one of the right decisions to avoid floods. Such steps in adopting the wisdom are also applied in doing business. They carefully listen to customers’ voices on the product delivered in order to improve the quality required and satisfy the customers. Frequently, customers are addressed with repeated requests from the employees to let them know if the products or services consumed are not satisfying.
Translating the customers’ voices
The customers’ voices collected in various ways during and after sales are translated into decisions on how appropriate product and process requirements should be built by a cross functional teamwork involving the upper management within a business organization. In modern management the team typically includes marketing, design and manufacturing personnel for hardware products and work to “adequately collect and interpret input on the needs of customers, customers’ perception of the company competitive standing, and the company’s technical assessment of its product compared with competitors products”, and understand both technical and psychosocial relationship among customer needs and the means to satisfy them, and then - integrate the significant factors into a winning product design and effective production and delivery process.
Quality dimensions used in decision makings typically include functional quality that is traditionally used by us for our efforts to understand the satisfaction level of the users’ choice for quality which describes what the customers’ meaning of value is. Within these attributes involve functionality, usability, reliability, price, and delivery. Another is the strategic quality which is the effort on part of the management and the company to understand where to sell the products or services.
The overall objective of doing this cooperation at work by upper level and mid-level managers is to make the right decisions for product development in order to avoid market flaws, that is, product that fails to win enough customers in the competitive market place and to improve the speed and efficiency of the development process. All decisions enter the four planning phases: 1) product planning that is customer requirements to technical requirements, 2) design planning, i.e. technical requirements to part characteristics, 3) process planning, i.e. part characteristics to process characteristics, and 4) production planning, i.e. process characteristics to production requirements.
Customer integration as part of strategic planning
The urgency to use strategic planning has long been well recognized. A research conducted in 2001 by the Daniel Group, for example, found out that 54 companies in the US that use strategic planning had improved their financial performance. Thus integrating the customer needs and wants into all company decision-making early in the process as part of strategic planning is an important business strategy for a company to overcome such critical interrelating problems and business issues as market share is being lost to competitors; product development takes too long and is too costly, and new products are not exciting for customers that all yield in negative profit.
Albeit it is not a science, local wisdom possesses uniqueness on how people interact with their surroundings, including how they manage their businesses. Such uniqueness comes from their learning from balance and harmony of the surrounding nature. Thus, it has yet its role to play in strategic planning which will lead to the achievement of customer satisfaction as a basic requirement for developing and maintaining a sustainable-competitive-advantage business. *)The author is a PhD candidate at the School of Service Management, Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia

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