A brief (personal) point of view on the state of customer-centricity

Is it possible for a man/woman to have a lot of wealth and do lots of stuff that generates wealth and yet for that man/woman to be ‘not wealthy’?  If you read that without pausing for thought you might say “That is nonsense, he’s gone nuts!”  I am not going to argue the point with you.  I simply ask you read that again.  Now I pose a related question: is it possible for a man/woman to have no wealth and yet be wealthy?  Before you answer “No!” I ask you think about the tales travellers tell about the remarkable hospitality and generosity of the poor – who happily share the little that they have.

Now I am ready to share my observation on customer-centricity with you.  As I look at the world of business and especially all things Customer I am stuck by the following:  just about everyone wants the fruits of customer-centricity (higher revenues, higher profits, higher profit margins) and plenty of organisations are doing lots of Customer stuff (customer insight, customer engagement, customer experience, CRM, customer strategy, customer marketing…) yet remarkably few are actually BEING customer-centric at the level of the organisation.

Does that matter?  Yes it matters a huge amount.  In zen there is the concept of “effortless effort” or “actionless action”:  being customer-centric (starting with the Tops) is the source of this “effortless effort”.  Does this strike you as a bit abstract.  Think about it this way: when you genuinely care that caring effortless expresses itself in the most appropriate way in the circumstances at hand.  On the other hand if you do not care then you have to go to a lot of effort to learn techniques to come over as being caring and hope that the other person does not notice.  The issue is that this tends to wear you out (pretense takes its toll).  Also the mask tends to fall off when you are under pressure.  Finally, the persons on the other end aren’t always taken in by the techniques – there is certain quality that comes across with genuine caring.

Take a good look at people like Chris Zane, Tony Hsieh, Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs – you might find that their BEING is or was the ‘difference that makes/made the difference’.  When I read about the transformations that Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs brought about in their organisations I am struck by their BEING – as human beings, as professionals, as CEOs and as leaders.  They bought a certain quality to their organisations that set their organisations alight – to create and deliver stuff that enriched the lives of their customers.  People who did not want to play that game left.  The people who stayed were the people who were up for playing the game that these guys orchestrated: customer-centricity, excellence, customer experience…

Incidentally, BEING customer-centric at the ORGANISATIONAL level is the source of superior performance.  I stress the importance of the organisational component:  think how easy it is to snap a twig, not put a hundred twigs together (aligned) and snap them – hard isn’t it.   Yet even this is sometimes not enough – sometimes change comes along (economic, regulatory, new competitors) that so changes the playing field that the dominant players stumble.  Think of it as the fire that tears through the forest and gives life to the dormant seeds.  Even Apple will one day lose its crown just like Tesco is on its way to losing its halo of invulnerability and customer-centricity through data mining. If you have not heard of Tesco then it worth knowing that Tesco has been the dominant grocery retailer in the UK for many years.  Its success was put down to the loyalty card and the way that data was used for segmentation, customer marketing and product selections at Tesco stores.  This Christmas Tesco has stumbled signficantly.

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.

5 thoughts on “A brief (personal) point of view on the state of customer-centricity”

  1. Hi Maz, I like the point that “pretence takes its toll”

    I was in a hotel this week. They had a notice up that said “We put the customer at the heart of everything we do”.

    If you walked into a hotel and the notice said “We believe that killing people is wrong” would you stay the night?

    Maybe you have to write things down if you are pretending, perhaps it helps convince people

    James

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    1. Hello James

      Your comment has me roaring in laughter. Are you sure you are not a zen master? The piercing insight of your observation and comment is simply beautiful.

      Thank you.

      Maz

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  2. Hi Maz,
    I would answer yes to both of your questions.

    Are you aware of an idea called The Law of Precession? Simply it states: “If an object is attracted to a second object and is moving towards it, another result will occur at a right angle. That result will be equal to or greater than the original attraction.”

    In this case, all of the companies and personalities that you mention were pursuing a goal of serving customers and delivering great products an services. In return the resultant and greater attraction was the monetary benefit that flowed from that activity.

    I believe that many boards are too focused on the short-term financial gains and until they solve that orientation then they will never see the benefits that they want.

    Adrian

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  3. Hello Adrian
    You educated me today (The Law of Precession) – thank you, I am grateful as I am for learning and sharing that learning.

    What else can I say except that it is clear to me that you totally get what I am getting at.

    Thanks for entering into the conversation and contributing.

    Maz

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