Ultimately all the customer-centric talk comes down to this ONE question

When it comes to customer-centricity there is only ONE question

If you grapple with the Customer stuff for long enough you get past all the surface issues – data, CRM systems, processes, metrics, people etc- and see that it all comes down to one question:

“Are you ready to sacrifice short-term gains from your customers (‘bad profits’) for the sake of long-term relationships which some believe cannot be achieved?”

Yes, sacrifice is required and there are no guarantees.

How would you answer this question if you were the CEO?

If you look deeper at this question you will find that as the CEO (or Board of Directors) you are being asked to:

  • Give up marketing and sales practices where you mislead-manipulate-overpromise and ultimately disappoint customers. And instead be straight with your customers – set clear expectations that you can fulfill.  This is almost certainly going to cut your revenues and  your market share because your competitors are going to continue ‘fleecing’ customers – at least in the short-term;
  • Spend money to fix what is broken or is simply missing and thus gets in the way of you delivering a good/great customer experience.  This is likely to need capital investment and almost certainly going to increase your operating costs and further cut your short-term profit;
  • Embrace that you do not know if this investment will pay for itself, when it will pay for itself and how much the payback will be;
  • Be willing to instigate-face-deal with plenty of turmoil as you make major structural changes to your house (‘organisation) whilst you and your family (your people) live in it; and
  • If you are the ‘average’ CEO of publicly listed company then the ‘short term’ is likely to be most, if not the entire length, of your tenure as CEO of this organisation.

If you were the CEO how would you react when faced with that proposal?  Now you know why there are so few ‘Bold’ organisations in Shaun Smith’s latest book.

Looking at customer loyalty through the lens of ‘attachment theory’

If you take a look at attachment theory (John Bowlby, Harry Harlow) you find that the child’s attachment drive to the mother needs to be reciprocated by the mother’s care giving system.  What does that mean?

Put bluntly I, the customer, am likely to attach to you (‘customer loyalty’) if and only if I am confident that you will take care of me and not exploit me.  That is to say that you are a ‘secure base’ for me:  I can count on you when I need you.  And that is exactly what most customers cannot do with most companies.  Why?  Because the Tops within these companies are not ready to sacrifice short-term gains  for the sake of long-term relationships which some believe cannot be attained. And that is the underlying reason behind the failure of the bulk of Customer projects to deliver loyal customers.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

2 thoughts on “Ultimately all the customer-centric talk comes down to this ONE question”

  1. Maz,

    Only just started looking at your blog and I think that this post is a gem and gets to the heart of why so many organisations talk about the customer and so few act decisively.

    I will stay tuned.

    Peter

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    1. Hello Peter
      To be human is to be social and for some of us, like me, encouragement is highly valued. Thank you for taking the time to offer me that encouragement. I wish you well and hope to hear your voice on this blog. If I can contribute to you then please do let me know.

      At Your Service
      Maz

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