Why customer efforts tend not to deliver what the customer wants

Many large organisations have been soaked by the waves of CRM and Customer Experience.  Money has been spent on CRM software, teams have been set up to change processes, call centres have been outsourced or brought back in-house, CRM teams have been set up and some organisations even have Directors and VP’s of Customer Experience.

Yet the divide between what customers expect and what they experience when interacting with large organisations continues to be a large – customers are not satisfied.  Churn rates are high in industries where it is easy for customers to change supplier. And many CRM and Customer Experience team leaders are burnt out and/or have become cynical.

This got me thinking on why it is so hard for organisations to become customer centred.  Then I thought about it differently:  why do must CRM and Customer Experience teams struggle to make a significant impact on the quality of the experience that the customer receives? The answer is quite simple if we use a computer analogy.

The possibilities and limits of a computer system, in the final analysis, are set by the operating system; computers are simply pieces of metal or plastic without the operating system.  That means that we cannot take a software application such as Microsoft Word and make it run on a UNIX operating system – they are simply incompatible.  That is what is just so.  Microsoft Word has been designed to work with the Microsoft family of operating systems e.g. XP, Vista, Windows 7.

Now the funny thing is that I have never come across an instance when someone has attempted to run Microsoft Word on a UNIX platform.  Yet that happens all the time in the world of business.  That is what many organisations are doing when they attempt to impose CRM and Customer Experience programmes into / onto the organisation.

Organisations also have an operating system that primarily consists of strategic objectives, executive mindset, culture (what we consider to be important, how we do things around here), organisational structure (typically functional), business processes and the technology infrastructure.

Many, if not most, organisations are running operating systems that are simply incompatible with CRM and Customer Experience programmes.  These operating sytems are used to talking at the customer not listening to the customer; ‘changing/moulding’ the customer to meet the organisation’s needs not changing the organisation to meet the customer’s needs; treating all customers the same not treating different customers differently; focussing resource on conquesting new customers rather than doing the hard work of building sustainable relationships with existing customers and so forth.

Which is why most CRM and Customer Experience teams and initiatives struggle and many fail to deliver.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

4 thoughts on “Why customer efforts tend not to deliver what the customer wants”

  1. Funny, it’s the second time in less that 24 hours that I hear this analogy! 🙂 A business associate of mine was just telling me how Symbian and Android remind him of different types of companies, an he also used the term ‘operating systems’ as an attribute of organisations.

    Perhaps it is time to consider this beyond the metaphor and beyond the established concept of Operating Models (tired and far from customer-centric).

    Some of the best efforts in advancing customer centricity have been at companies where ‘CRM’, ‘Customer Experience’ or a couple of other labels (they are not important) were seen as a strategic and radical transformation of the entire business. Where structured frameworks were used to understand, re-design and (re)build that elusive corporate ‘OS’. None of those cases were ‘quickies’, they took patience and persistence, meticulous and sometimes painful effort – and along the journey some of the impatient or unwilling-to-change jumped overboard… The results, in the long run, were worthwhile and in some instances are surprising even the optimists who started it all.

    Have these companies arrived at the destination? Well, not exactly. Some have slowed down in dull weather with no wind in their sails; others are struggling in stormy seas, determined to carry on despite slow progress. There are those who found a nice little island and decided this is the New World (it is not), choosing to stay, feeling comfortable there. And there were many who turned back, scared of the storms and the unknown – and are now back in more familiar 9if somewhat stale and stinky) waters… But the best companies carry on, nice islands are only milestones (and ‘base camps’) – along the never-ending Journey.

    Just like operating systems, to switch back to the other metaphor. There isn’t a perfect, or an ultimate one. Even the best version is followed by an improved release. What is is important is to keep improving. And it helps if we see things as a system – structured, consisting of interdependent components that function as a single organism for a common purpose.


  2. Hello Vladimir, once again thanks for taking the time to share your perspective.

    I am in agreement with what you write. It is quite clear that being customer centred – creating superior value for customers – is an ongoing and never ending journey. A phrase comes to mind: “integrity is always going out”. This is a phrase I came across on the best personal development programme I have participated in. It is the same for organisations: “customer focus is always going out”. That means that the organisation has to be mindful about its commitment and put in place an existence structure that counteracts “customer focus is always going out”.

    Seeing the organisation as a self organising adaptive system is also key. Anyone who seeks to change an organisation without getting that an organisation is a such a system is stacking the deck against himself and letting himself in for a very difficult time.

    The final thing that comes to mind is Be-Do-Have. Many organisational leaders are clear on the Have – they want to have the benefits of customer centricity. Specifically higher revenues, higher revenue growth, lower operating costs, higher profit margins and higher profits. Some leaders get the DO part – what action is needed to bring about the loyalty. However, few understand (intellectually) or get (as a total organism) the Be part. And the Be part is fundamental. I will leave that here as I will write a post on that.

    I look forward to continuing our dialogue. I wish you well. And come back soon.


  3. Hi Maz, nice seeing you keeping the flag flying!!! Great blog and I also very much enjoyed reading Vladimirs comment. My observation is not about an incompatible system as such. I believe any organisation can deliver benefit to its customers and receive back benefits. It is more to do with the culture in which that organisation needs to operate. You are right in saying that many organisations talk to their customers rather than listen. I think the culture needs to go further and not just listen but also engage with their customers. This is beyond Customer Centric. It is Customer Led. Organisations are increasingly collaborating with their customers in designing the products and services that customers want. To be able to do this requires a significant shift in culture for many.
    Therefore, those initiatives likely to fail are those where the intent may be right but the culture is not. Whilst I believe that culture can be changed, it is not as simple as some Change Management organisations have us believe. Like Vladimir, I agree that change is a constant and that changing culture should also be an ongoing process to continually keep “in synch” with the needs of your customers.


    1. Hello Nick
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your enthusiastic and encouraging words.

      As for your point-of-view, you and I are in agreement. You say that the culture needs to change. I agree – culture is a key component of the ‘organisational operating system’. And I am saying that if there is not a fit between the Customer project or programme and the culture then the project and programme is likely to fail.

      As for going beyond listening and engaging customers, I am in agreement with you. Yes, an organisation can do a lot better than just listen to customers. In fact I wrote a piece to that effect: ‘How to bring customers into the heart of the organisation’. Having said that I think that just listening – really listening – to what customers have to say is a big move for many organisations. Especially if the listening is with an open mind – a beginners mind in Zen.

      I wish you the best and I look forward to receiving more of your thoughts as I write more pieces.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and to share your point of view.


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