Developing a stronger customer focus
A Corus case study

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Page 5: Barriers to change

Corus 6 Image 4Corus has been seeking to create high performance teams within its business units in order to improve performance and particularly to build stronger relationships with customers. While it has been pursuing this strategy it has been faced with an external environment which contains many hostile factors.

The major hostile factor has been the strength of the £ and the weakness of the Euro which has made it particularly difficult for UK manufacturers. Corus is one of the UK’s top ten exporters; its aim is to retain regular customers’ existing orders and to win new ones in a competitive market place, which is not helped by the weakness of the euro.

One of the major difficulties faced in the early days of introducing the change was the sheer volume of learning that needed to take place, as individuals had to take on board a lot of new information and ways of working. Another difficulty was that while the objective was to get account managers to create account development plans, talk to customers and develop an awareness of their customers’ strategies, they were often unable to do this until the nitty-gritty operational activities such as handling enquiries and entering orders had been effectively carried out.

In simple terms the account managers were having to carry out administrative tasks within the organisation. Corus therefore realised that it had to make new appointments at clerical levels in order to ensure that account managers could concentrate on more defined management tasks. 

Another barrier to change was that of 'invisible walls' that existed between people within the unit. Previously contact had been made over the phone between people at different locations and dealing with different products. Now these people were working in an open plan office at the same location in Scunthorpe but at first there was still a reluctance to share ideas and to develop common systems - many people wanted to continue working with the old patterns.

A key part of the process of change was therefore to develop a teamwork approach so that everyone in the business unit could start to work as a high performance team member. In addition common systems needed to be established to create a consistency of approach so that for example there would be standardised approaches to handling orders, dealing with complaints from customers, etc.

Corus | Developing a stronger customer focus