So the truth is not forgotten. This is what Arnon’s Chief Customer Officer, Mikko Mäkinen, had to say about the view from his office out to the production facilities at the Tampere site. A whiteboard stands out from the scene. It has a list of some of the company’s customers, including some major exporters. All of the names are confidential, so we can say no more about them.
We are here to discuss Arnon’s new way of working with its customers. There is a long list of questions about customer intimacy, an approach that has taken the world by storm in recent years. It is about much more than just customer orientation, a term that has seen much longer use. How is Arnon doing things differently today than it did before? Mäkinen springs a surprise on your correspondent.
– Nothing has changed! Without even thinking much about it, we have instinctively been working like this for a long time. Now we have a framework for it. Customers have always been at the centre of what we do, and we have always looked at things from the customer’s perspective, he says.
Eyes to the customer
Arnon is satisfied with this policy, and intends to continue with it and refine it further. Above all, customer intimacy at the company manifests itself in the form of commitment and listening to the customer – not trying to force products onto customers. Mäkinen can put himself in the customer’s position, and his personal experience working for major international companies on the other side of the negotiating table has prepared him well for this.
– I have seen companies working closely with customers but still staring at their own feet. We do not just look to the customer – everything we do is reflected from the customer’s perspective. The customer is the lens through which we look at the world, he says.
Hmm… Not that simple after all. As a small company, how can Arnon understand the world of its major customers and their needs, restrictions, opportunities and challenges?
– The only way is to be deeply involved with customers: call them and meet them frequently, ask them questions and show genuine interest, introduce new perspectives to discussions and inspire them. And ask questions: have you thought about this? Do you know about this?