This paper seeks to prepare a critique of the article entitled “Best practices in achieving a customer-focused culture” by Bartley, B. et al. (2007). The nature of the critique to be applied is literature critique and an evaluation on the authors’ ideas, methods and results. The framework to make the evaluation is to whether the conclusions are supported by evidence, whether the methodologies and assumptions used have basis, whether statements made are consistent with premises laid down by the authors and whether the authors could accomplish their purposes in making the paper.
2. Analysis and Discussion 2. 1 On aims, methodology and approach of the research article The aims of Bartley, et al (2007) in writing the article “Best practices in achieving a customer-focused culture”, include the following: to provide practical insights into how organizations can become more customer-focused and to share with the researchers and organizations a framework that can be used to research “customer focus culture”. These two aims can be assessed to depend also on the validity of the results or conclusions of their paper.
They also aimed to assess an organizations’ level of customer focus; to describe how New Zealand’s first consortium approach to benchmarking was managed so that others interested in planning a consortioun study can learn from experience. To assess the level of customer focus in an organization requires the use of a framework or hence the success and validity of such assessment will depend on the validity of the model. Describing the the approach to benchmarking could be assessed whether it has provided sufficient information to convinve readers that the researcher have applied the necessary means to accomplish their purpose.
Bartley, B. et al (2007) explained that the study involved the use of the benchmarking body which was conducted by member organizations from the New Zealand Benchmarking Club (NZBC) and facilitated by a doctoral student from Massey University’s Centre for Organizational Excellence Research. Their methodology involved the need to conduct an extensive literature review to help them in identifying national and international best practices in customer focus. They also developed a survey that was completed by 32 potential best practice organizations, and selecting seven of these organizations for best practice list.
Conducting such a literature review for the purpose used appears logical because the works of previous researchers were considered and analyzed to get the common characteristic of those that were successful with customer focus. It appears that researchers indeed have used sufficient number of researchers whose works appear mainly in academic journals signifying previous publication and this observation must lend some degree of confirmation of the literature review conducted by the authors. 2. 2 On literature review made by authors
The authors asserted to have found a framework for the examination of customer-focused culture via the literature review made. It may be noted that the study included only a survey of 32 potential best organizations as identified by the reseachers and they may not necessarily represent the broader characteristics of other organizations in New Zealand and even in the world. They have indeed accepted a limitation of their study that benefits would have been gained if the study has extended to a larger international group.
The limitation of the samples use is material into the validity of the survey on whether they represent the real value of customer focus culture to the organizations. In discussing the background of the study, Bartley, et al (2007) cited the the strong link between an organization’s culture and its performance which they claimed to have been widely recognised by practitioners where they cited the work of Basch (2002) and academics where they cited the work of Kotter and Heskett (1992).
If organizations desire to have enduring relationship and loyal customers, they must be equipped with an effective customer-focused culture which will make it easier for these companies to have successful product and service delivery. To support their statements they cited the works of Macaukay Clark (1998) and Martin (1992). For the authors customer-focused culture was almost as good as survival in the long-term. These findings from literature review prompted the authors and the the 18 organization-members of the NZBC to asks for the componets and charateristics of a good customer-focused culture.
For which reason, NZBC was formed by the Massey University’s Centre for Organizational Excellence Research (COER) in partnership witht the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation to achieve the ambitious vision of becoming world-class performers of its members and to adopt excellent business practices within New Zealand. To measure the improvements by club members, they have agreed on a criteria for excellent performance on annual basis.
See Figure 1 of their report and is made part of Appendix 1 of this paper. It appears that their agreement on criteria of performance excellence was just not a result of a tests or even a previous study. By merely agreeing and not conducting any test which are the factors there is basis the criteria may be just based on opinions. The results of their literature review resulted to their having identified six characteristics of organizations having performance of good to best practices. Bartley, B. et al.
(2007) made use of same six characteristics as an analytical framework. They found the importance of leadership and used the works of Brooks, 1997; Whitely, 1991, Galreath and Rogers, 1999 which found that customers drive organizational direction and actions, to support the characteristic. They also included listening as characteristic where the views of customers are actively sought to have ease of contact/conduct of business where they cited the works of Scheuing (1999) and Plymie (1991). Bartley, B.
et al (2007) also included analysis and understanding using the works of Brooks (1997) and Wikstrom (1996) which found that need to understand customer expectations. Further included is integration and deployment where the authors cited the work of Martin (1992) which could the need to act upon customers’ expectations. Still include is is people after citing the work of Kennedy, et al, (2002) which determined that customer-focused culture is understood and integrated in the whole the organization. They also included the need to review and improve where they cite the work of Alam and Perry (2002).
The fact their literature review is supported by published works of other researchers on the basis of being mainly taken from academic journals and other published works, will lends some degree of validity of the summary of characteristics made as part of their analytical framework. 2. 3. On submitted figures as support to analysis Based on literature review made by the authors, they asserted the requirement for organizations to have customer focus culture must be made. Since the purpose is better performance for the organization whether financial or otherwisel, customer focused culture must be present in the whole organization.
Bartley, B. et al (2007), did argue about the proven connection between customer focus and performance of organizations in individual and operational areas as in terms of service quality, customer and employee satisfaction and well as profitability citing the work of Appiah-Adu and Singh (1998) and Agarwal et al. (2003). The researchers had set six categories from which its decided which is the most effective way for its members organizations to improve and they stated to have voted to which customer focus issues were most important. Bartley, B.
et al (2007) detailed which were the most important customer issues but they did not show what were the other choices of the respondents in the survey aside from those listed in Table I in the their presentation, which is not part of Appendix 4 of this paper. In the absence of the list of other choices, an inference of a predetermined result of survey may asserted and which will cast dount at to validity of the surbvey. Moreover, the nature of questions asked were neither presented nor discussed and it could be that the questions asked from respondents are leading and which again which cast doubt to result of the survey.
Bartley, B. et al (2007) also argued that the decision to work on the study was supported by the results of club’s annual assessment against criteria for performance excellence. They stated that the resulst are shown in Figures 2 and 3 which are considered as Appendices 1 and 2 in this paper. Upon deeper investigation, it may be found that Figure 2 had it horizontal axis for customer focus results while the horizontal axis has financial and market results. This graph in Figure 2 would mean that independent variable was customer focus results while the dependent variable was the financial and market results.
Since Figure 2 shows a signifant relationship of two variable as shown by graph, the researchers are saying the the higher customer focused results the higher would be the financial and market results. Since they did not show how they segmented each variable it would appear that the had measured the degrees of customer focus results in the vertical axis and that every increased in the same would give higher results of financial and market results which are not also explained in detail.
In other words, in terms of the segmenting the degree of customer focused results the following question remain answered: How much additional degree of customer focused result would produce additional higher financial and market result? The graphs as shown in Figure 2 may seem to answer by merely viewing the same but from the minds of this reseacher , the results could in questionable because of the failture to define the meaning of degrees of customer focused resutls. Would it mean more time given to the customer?
Moreover the financial and market resutls in the vertical axis or what may be called as dependent variable in Figure are not also explained. How come that financial and market resutls are combined? If it is financial it may be referring to profitability. Since profitability of the respondents may be best measure by the amount of dollars earned per amount or quantityf of customer focused results, it is difficutl to contemplate how the researchers have mixed financial and market resutls together. Does market resutls imply increased revenues in dollars and increase in market share?
In the absence of a clear explanation the result of the researchers work could remain questionable and may lack the validity and use for decision making purposes. Figure 3, which is considered Appendix 3 in this paper, also uses confusing variables in the graph by making this time, horizonal axis to represent the Customer and market focus as independent results and making the vertical axis to represent the customer focused results. If Figure 3 is related to Figure 2, it would appear what was previously assumed as independent variable has now become a dependent variable.
Since the researchers did not explain the graph, the most logical inference to find consistency with the what they have concluded is to assume that the more that respondents would have to increase customer and market focus, to have higher of the degree of customer focused results, which as explained earlier were not explained how were they segmented into degrees to afford appreciation of change in the degree. In other words, the confusion is not clarified by redundantly using a variable without explaining the composition and significant of each degree or level of focused results.
As in Figure 2, the use of Figure 3 did not help to support the claim of the researchers and that their conclusion could utmost be considered as surmises or conjectures without sufficient evidence. In addition, the use by researchers again of the customer and market focus as the independent variable appears to be predetermined because of their failure to show convincing proof that it was the most influential among the criteria for performance excellence under Figure 1 of their paper, which is Appendix I of this paper.
They have of course asserted that the choice of the customer and market focus as most controlling contributor was based on the response of the respondents in the survey. As to how much more important the criterion to other criteria was not also explained; hence it is possible that the results of the claim of increased profitability because of the criterion of customer and market focus may not be safely be taken with high level of confidence, statistically speaking.