What does it take to be a customer-centric enterprise?

What is it to be a customer-centric enterprise?

When I started my journey in the land of customer-centricity (2000), the answer to this question, according to the leading theorists and proponents, was this: an enterprise that organises itself by customer segments rather than products; and where one starts with the needs/wants of the customer segment/s and works back to the ‘products’ that meet these needs/wants.

There is another answer and it usually comes from those working in, or selling to those working in, the Customer Services arena. As far as I can see, an enterprise is customer-centric if it provides good/great customer service.

Today, I provide you with my point of view and it is informed by my recent experience with Bergli Books . First let me tell you my story.

I Order a Book From Bergli, I Never Get My Hands On It

I saw an add on Facebook for a book on Switzerland. I ordered that book by clicking on that ad and paid by credit card. Then I waited for the book to arrive. It didn’t. And, after some four weeks I contacted Bergli via email. The folks at Bergli looked into the matter and told me that the book had been delivered weeks ago. And, asked me to talk with my neighbours – to see if one of them has taken delivery. I responded that I have 15 neighbours and I was not going to chase all of them up on the basis anybody who has the book and didn’t hand it over to me is not likely to own up to have ‘stolen’ a book meant for me.

The folks at Bergli were great as in they agreed to send me another copy. And, the told me when it was going to be delivered. When I did not receive the book I emailed the folks at Bergli. Once again, they were polite and responsive. They looked into the matter and told me that their distributor had delivered the book. And, provided proof. Given that I had not received the book, they told me to ask my neighbours.

What is being communicated here by Bergli? Is it not something like, “Hey, you ordered a book, we sent it out, our logistics partner states that the book has been delivered. So over to you – it’s not our problem but yours if it was delivered or taken by one of your neighbours. And, don’t bother us as we have done our job!”

My definition of a customer-centric enterprise

I say: “A customer-centric enterprise takes the customer’s problem, makes it it’s own, and solves it in a way that leaves the customer happy and grateful.”

Allow me to illustrate, there is huge chasm between my experiences with Amazon (in the UK) and Bergli. If I had been dealing with the folks at Amazon they would solved my problem as in made sure that I got my hands on the product that I had ordered. If a second delivery had failed to make its way into my hands, the Amazon folks would have gone all out to make sure that the third delivery did end up in my hands.

What does it take to be a customer-centric enterprise?

What would have happened if Bergli had sent me an alert (email, sms) to let me know that the book had been despatched? Another one to tell me when the book was being delivered? And, one when the book was delivered? As I have been working from home for months, I would have gone downstairs to my postbox and retrieved the book.

Alternatively, what if Bergli books had allowed me to choose the day/date that I wanted the book to be delivered? There are online operations in Switzerland that do just that: I place the order on the website, and in the process of checking out I choose which day I want the item to be delivered. And, I always choose the day when I know I will be at home. This way, I have never missed a delivery.

Why did Bergli not allow me to choose the delivery date and/or provide the alerts? I suspect that Bergli has not put in place the requisites: the technology infrastructure; and choosing a delivery partner that has the requisite technology infrastructure. One that holds my customer details. One that tracks the progress/status of the delivery. One that sends out timely alerts as the delivery makes it way to the customer.

Which brings me to this conclusion: if your enterprise wishes to show up as customer-centric (as perceived by your customers) then it is essential that effective use is made of digital technologies.

Please note that effective use of digital technologies is necessary but not sufficient.

Customer Experience Lessons From The Cafe Hotel Greinwald

You travel on business and your expenses are covered such that you can choose to stay at  a 5* hotel (with swimming pools, jacuzzi, sauna, various bars, three restaurants, fantastic lawns outside) or a family owned/run restaurant that is less than half the price and doesn’t have the look/feel nor the facilities of the 5* hotel.  Which do you choose after you have sampled them both by staying there?

Without hesitation I chose, and continue to choose the family owned/run restaurant: The Hotel Greinwald (www. hotel-greinwald.de) – a hotel in Marktoberdorf, Allgau region of Germany.  Why?  In one word: Family!

What I miss most when I travel on business (especially when I am staying away from home 4 nights a week is the feeling of being at home amongst family. And, this is the very feeling that I got from the moment of arrival to departure – every single week.  I would be greeted warmly usually by Gabi; Gabi and Eric, wife and husband, own and run the hotel with help form their son Martin.

Every encounter with the people who work there was a positive. For example, I got to know Quiran – the young man who often brought me cooked breakfast. Or Katerina, one of the waitresses who was such a delight to talk to.  And, not the only one – all the waitresses were.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names, though I do remember their faces, our conversations, and their kindness.

If you travel on business, then I ask you this: How many hoteliers have you reached out to since the start of covid=19, just to say “Hello, I wonder how you are doing given covid-19, I miss you and I hope to come back and stay with you as soon travel is possible!”  Zero, is my guess. Well that is the email I wrote and I addressed it to Gabi.

What happened? I got such a wonderful reply from Gabi’s son Martin as he is taking over from Gabi so that Gabi and Eric can do less.  He was delighted to hear from me.  He told me that Gabi and Eric are doing well. The financial impact of collapse of bookings. And the hope that things would get better soon…. And, I continue to think of the folks who own/run, and staff the Hotel Greinwald.  Every time I do, I find sheer gratitude present. And, I wish each/all of them well.

Hotel Greinwald Offers Six Customer Experience Lessons

What is it that makes The Hotel Greinwald excellent? Let me give you some of the moments that stand out:

1-The Welcome. Always greeted enthusiastically. Recognised as a returning customer. Told (and I can see it is meant) something like “I/we are happy to see you again!”

2-Catering for my preferences without even being asked.  There are something like 22 rooms, I stayed in many of them, then I found my favourite. And, I told Gabi about my favourite. From that moment on, I am given that room if it is available. Fantastic – I didn’t ask for it, yet it happens, and I am grateful.

3-The people who work there.  I cannot ask to be greeted by and served by a more welcoming and helpful people. My German is poor. All the staff switched to English to make me feel comfortable. I was greeted with genuine warmth/smiles. They remembered my preferences without the need for any CRM system (there isn’t one!). They danced with me when I opened up a conversation beyond the role. For example, when I asked Katerina about her personal situation. And she told me that she is, divorced  and thus a single mother, with children.

4-The quality of the rooms. The bedrooms that I stayed in were excellent. Yes, there was a bed and a table to work at. And, there was more: comfortable sofa and/or lounge chair to sit in.  The bedrooms were spacious. The bathroom/toilet/shower area was spacious. And, everything was clean.

5-Generosity. When I stay at hotels I have to pay ridiculous prices if I am thirsty and want a bottle of water or a soft drink. At the Hotel Greinwald, this didn’t happen. A fridge on the 2nd floor was stocked with a range of drinks, and we, the guests, could go and help ourselves. No charge. Just a gift from the owners.

6-Exceptional care, going beyond the expected. One evening, I was downstair in the cafe/restaurant. I was with a group of people. We ordered.  The starter came, and we ate them. Unfortunately, it happened to be a Monday evening and every Monday 8pm I have a call that I do not miss because it is with a very special person in the US. As the clock hit 7:50, I left instructing my colleagues to ask Gabi to put the meal, for all of us, on my tab.  Whilst I was up in my bedroom, on the call with my friend, I heard knocking on the door. I opened it to find Gabi holding a tray with my meal on it. Surprise! Delight! Gratitude!

Recommendation

If you happen to be visiting the Allgau region of Germany, then I wholeheartedly, and without reservation, recommend staying at the Hotel Greinwald.  I have yet to come across a better people, a better experience – I have tried a number of hotels, and none comes close.

Finally, My Take On Where Corporates Are Going Wrong With The Customer Thing

Much of that which I see in the CX arena occurs as misguided to me.  Put bluntly, you can:

  • invest all you want in technology (e.g. CRM systems), and it will not make any real difference customer loyalty;
  • spend a lifetime designing and redesigning processes and you can keep an army of consultants busy/happy yet not make a dent in customer loyalty; and
  • change the organisational structure, play around with people’s job description, tinker with the performances etc and this will not make a dent in customer loyalty.

Why? Because your and your organisation are ‘in love with’ just about everything (revenues, profits, KPIs, strategy, processes, technology etc) but with those that truly matter:

  • your people – those who are vital to co-creating the customer’s experience; and
  • your customers – by this I mean the flesh & blood human beings (not customer segments, not personas).

Last but not least, you as in you and your organisation lack Soul.  I say Soul is decisive. If Soul is present then customers will forgive hiccups whether due to people issues, process issues, technology issues, or a combination of these. Without Soul, you can do pretty much everything correctly, and make no connection with the human heart – the basis of all loyalty.

I thank you for your listening. I wish you the very best.  Until the next time…

 

What’s The Real Challenge That Lies At The Heart Of Customer Experience?

Monday 14th Jan19: My Story, My Experience

It’s Monday 14th January 2019. It’s the day I am due to meet up with ‘my’ NHS oncologist to learn whether I continue to be cancer free, or if cancer has returned.  So its an important day for me.  I leave early as finding a parking place is always an issue except at night time.

I arrive at the relevant unit, housed in a part of the hospital that has seen much better days. It’s old, it’s drab. I approach the ‘receptionist’ and wait for her to acknowledge me. After a minute or so she looks up and says, “Name.” I hand over my appointment letter. She ‘plays’ with her computer and then says “Take a seat.” I look around and there are plenty seated in the waiting area. Thankfully, there are some empty seats. I sit and start reading the book I brought along.  This is the only way I have found to deal with unpredictable waiting that always occurs.  These folks see you when they see you irrespective of the time slot they have given you; the time slot is there to enable them to turn you away if you do not turn up on time.

Someone calls my name. I respond, “That’s me, I will be along in a minute.”  In a minute I find myself in an unfamiliar room with an unfamiliar person.  He tells me that he is Doctor…. and asks if his colleague can sit in as a part of the training.  I say “Yes.” Then I ask “Where is Nicola, my oncologist?”  This is when I learn that I will not be seeing ‘my’ oncologist today.

This doctor dives into jargon. The only thing I understand is that there is something unusual in the results. That he is not ok with this. And is sending me over the X-ray unit to have an ultrasound performed in my neck.  He hands me the paper that I have to take with me.  I ask “Where is the X-ray unit?  How do I get there from here?”  He tells me to go ask one of the receptionists…..

Thankfully, the signage in the hospital is good and I happen to arrive at an entrance/exit where this signage is present.  I use this to make my way to the X-ray unit, hand over the paper to one of the receptionists, and then make my way to the next waiting area.  I get my book out again.

After waiting for about an hour, a young woman comes out of the main X-ray room and says, “There will be a delay of an hour…..”  As she is about to go back I ask, “What does this mean for me?  By what time can I expect to be seen? This information is useful to me as it allows me to determine if I can go for a walk, get something to eat, need to top up the parking meter.  Telling us that there is an hour delay is not helpful.  So by when will you be ready to do my ultrasound?”

She looks at me, almost as if she is in shock.  It may just be the first time that anybody has talked back to her and asked this kind of question. She recovers and then proceeds to tell me that there is an hour delay.  I respond by telling her that I heard her the first time. And that her answer does not give me the information that I asked for – the only information that is meaningful/helpful.  She says, “I’ll go talk to the doctor and come back to you soon.”  I wait. It becomes clear to me that her understanding of “soon” is different to mine.  I put my book away, get up, and make my way back to the original unit handling cancer patients.

I approach the receptionist, and when she looks at me I tell her that I did not get the ultrasound done as I am not willing to wait around for the rest of the day. And, that I am going home.  She tells me to wait. Then she takes me to the doctor and tells him that which I told her. What does the doctor say? This: “I got it wrong. After you left I took another look at your case history and I can see that……So there is nothing to worry about.  You can go home.”

I say, “What about my next appointment – in six months time?  What about the blood test form that I get given each time? You do know that I have to get my blood tested about 4 weeks before my next appointment to see my oncologist?”  By his response, it becomes clear that he does not know.  Soon thereafter, I leave that hospital – the blood testing form that he has given me is not the one that I need.  And, I have not the patience to deal with novices.

The next day, I call ‘my’ oncologist’s secretary and leave a message along these lines: I turned up yesterday, the doctor who dealt with me did not know what he was doing.  He did not give me the blood test form that you give me.  And I have no confidence in anything that he told me.  Please ring me back as soon as you can.  As yet, I have not heard anything back.

Deconstructing My Journey: Why Is It That It Turned Out This Way?

I am clear that each unit of the hospital was operating as a silo. Each unit with its own agenda, priorities, constraints, people, tasks, practices…  These units just happened to be housed in the same physical location. And lumped under a label: X Hospital.  Further, it occurs to me that each person in a particular unit of the hospital was thinking in terms of his/her role: the work (tasks) s/he had to perform, the people s/he had to please, the priorities/constraints that had to be respected etc.

It occurs to me that nobody that I encountered on that day in that hospital was thinking in terms of the Customer (the patient – me) or the Customer’s experience. The doctor did not speak in a language I could possibly understand though we both spoke English fluently.  Neither the doctor nor the receptionist was concerned about how I would make my way to the X-ray unit.  The folks in the X-ray unit just assumed that I had all day to sit and wait.  Nobody was mindful that the clock was running down on the parking meter.  My oncologist clearly doesn’t get or doesn’t care that I am concerned about the accuracy of the information I was given by the ‘novice’ doctor.

Why Is It That Customer Experience Is So Poor In The UK?

How is it that an institution whose purpose is to provide care treats a human being like an object?  Let’s be clear I was treated as an object – to be processed according to the rules. I did not encounter any humanity at all. The people I encountered could be replaced by robots – the level of humanity would not be reduced one iota.

In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, the main character tells his traveling companions that his son has been diagnosed with mental illness.  Now lets following the dialogue:

‘What do the psychiatrists think?’ John asks.

‘Nothing. I stopped it.’

‘Stopped it?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is that good?’

‘I don’t know……..’

‘That doesn’t sound right.’

‘No one else thinks so either…..’

‘But why?’ asks Sylvia.

‘I don’t know why…..it’s just that….I don’t know…they’re not kin’…Surprising word, I think to myself, never used it before. Not of kin….sounds like hillbilly talk….not of a kind……same root…..kindness, too…..they can’t have real kindness toward him, they’re not his kin……That’s exactly the feeling.

Old world, so ancient its almost drowned out. What a change through the centuries. Now anyone can be ‘kind.’  And everybody’s supposed to be. Except that long ago it was something that you were born into and couldn’t help. Now it’s just a faked-up attitude half the time, like teachers the first day of class. But what do they really know about kindness who are not kin?

It goes over and over again through my thoughts……mein Kind – my child. There is it is in another language.  Mein Kinder…..

I walked away from my visit to the hospital thinking/feeling this: Nobody here cares whether I have cancer or not. Nobody cares whether I live or not. They are indifferent to my existence. And this is true for the society I live in.  Yet, here I am – the person who finds tears flowing down his cheeks whenever he remembers that one of his best friends is no longer due to brain cancer.  What a difference there is between how one is treated by kin, and those who are not kin!

Now ask yourself this: Is it any different in the business world?  I say that if you are truthful, you will see that which I see. And if you do see what I see then you will see the real challenge that lies at the heart of genuine customer-centricity, Customer Experience, and customer loyalty.

I thank you for your listening, and I wish you the very best.  Until the next time….

 

Maz Signature

 

DCX/CRM: Avoiding Failure (3)

This is the third of a series of ‘conversations’ centered on avoiding failure when it comes to Digital Customer Experience and/or CRM.  The first ‘conversation’ dealt with articulation-understanding-ownership of requirements.  The second ‘conversation’ dealt with the challenge of integration.  This third conversation deals with the matter of thinking/collaboration that necessarily comes with a transformation programme.

Thinking & Collaboration: Christmas Day

Yesterday was Christmas Day and we (our household) celebrated it.  The day turned out great and it didn’t just happen. For the day to turn out as it did (workable, enjoyable) required thinking/collaboration: the five members of the family had to think, make decisions, and collaborate in making happen that which we decided upon.

Let’s start with thinking/decision making.  We had to decide (as a family of five) where we wanted to spend Christmas. With the children’s grandparents in France in their main home in the country?  With the children’s grandparents with their winter home in the Alps? With the children’s uncle Ralf (and his family) in France? With my sister in the New Forest?  At home?

Where did these series of conversations centered on this question/decision take place?  Around our dining table – as that is the place where we sit, eat, talk things through ever since the children were toddlers.  After listening to one another and thinking things through we came to a mutual decision: we will do Christmas at home!

Next decision: Do we do Christmas as a family or do we invite guests?  Once we had made the decision that we wanted guests for Christmas, we had to agree upon who and how many people to invite given the demands on shopping-cooking-seating-sleeping that necessarily comes with inviting guests.  How did these decisions get made? Through a series of conversations. Where did these decisions get made? Around the dining table.

Did the thinking and decision-making stop here? No. Next, we had to decide (as a group) what it is that we wanted to eat/drink and the dietary requirements of our Christmas guests.  The challenge? To come up with the minimum number of dishes as some wanted to eat meat, others fish, others had vegetarian/vegan requirements.  And ensure that these dishes are the ones that folks want to eat.  Where did this thinking through (as a family) and decision making occur? Around the dining table.

Once the thinking through/decision making) had happened it was time to formulate a plan of action: Who would do the food shopping and by when? Who would go and buy the wine/drinks and by when? Who would prepare the food? Who would do the cooking? Where did these matters get thought through and decisions get made? Around the dining table.  Then on the day itself, we collaborated with one another to make happen that which needed to happen: setting the table up, clearing up the table, doing the washing up etc.

Thinking & Collaboration: DCX/CRM Transformation Programmes

Now think of your transformation programme (DCX/CRM): the elements, the actors, the interplay between the various elements/actors, the sequencing of work, the design of the end-to-end solution, orchestrating dependencies, dealing with the arrival of the unexpected – challenges, opportunities… Ask yourself these questions:

1-Is thinking (and decision-making) required?

2-Is this thinking (and decision-making) a one-off event or an ongoing series (a process)?

3-Is the thinking (and decision-making) that is called for, simple/easy – as in here is a round block of wood, here is a round hole, insert that block of wood into that hole?

4-Is the thinking deep, intricate, multi-dimensional – the kind of thinking that comes up with options, thinks through these options, considers the advantages/disadvantages of promising options, and identifies the impact of an option on the wider transformation programme?

5-Is the thinking (and decision making) an exercise for one omnipotent person? Or does the ‘nature’ of the thinking, decision-making, action planning, and execution necessarily require the active participation/contribution of a group of people?

6-If the thinking is not superficial/simple and cannot be done (or should not be done) by a single person then ask yourself this: Have we created a suitable context & space for the kind of thinking/collaboration that needs to occur in order for this programme to deliver on the promise?

Of What Do I Speak When I Speak ‘Context’?

What is it that I mean by ‘context’?  Imagine that you open your mail and find a wedding invitation for someone who matters to you.  What happens? You automatically know the context by having attended (or seen if it is via the movies) the context that goes with a wedding: the mood, the music, the place (most likely a church for the wedding service), the actors, clothing, the sequence of events, what actions are expected etc.  Now imagine you open your mail and learn that a friend has died and you are invited to his/her funeral.  Again, you know (almost immediately) the context that goes with a funeral – for example, the mood (and setting) will be dramatically different to that of a wedding and the expected behaviour/clothing will also be radically different.

Of What Do I Speak When I Speak ‘Space’?

Imagine that you are charged with staging a soccer game, in a foreign country,  between two well-known soccer teams. On the day of the match, you, the soccer teams, and the fans turn up to the venue What do you find?  The pitch, the space, is set-up for cricket! There are no goal posts. There are none of the markings that a game of soccer requires e.g. half-way line. Instead, the space has been set-up and thus calls forth (supports) a game of cricket as there are wickets. And there are the markings that go with a game of cricket e.g. the crease.

Avoid Failure By Cultivating a Context-Space That Calls Forth Deep Thinking and Collaboration

Time after time I come across transformation programmes where the space in which the actors show up and operate is that of a large call-centre.  Have you spent time in a large call-centre?  If you have, it cannot have escaped your notice that the environment is like that of a large warehouse. What is warehoused?  The people who answer calls!

The kind of space that one finds in a large call-centre operation is suited to the context of almost all call-centres. Why?  Because the context is one where ZERO original thinking is required. And ZERO collaboration is required.  Everything of significance has been thought through and turned into a script: for call type X follow script X, for call type Y follow script Y.

If you wish to avoid failure in your transformation programmes then it is essential that you create a context that signals, to all actors, that here we have to think (deeply) and collaborate – this is the default.  And, you have to create the space to support this signaling and enable this deep thinking/collaboration to occur.  Specifically, this means:

1-Plenty of meeting rooms – where the availability of these meeting rooms is kept up to date and made visible (electronically) to all working on the programme;

2-Range of meeting room sizes – from four people working on a challenge through to 20 people working on a challenge;

3-Each of these meeting rooms equipped with the equipment that goes with the kind of thinking/collaboration that the meeting room is designed for e.g. whiteboard/s, pens, ‘erasers’, sticky notes, audio-visual equipment…

Heed My Warning For The Transformation ‘Game’ Is An Unforgiving One!

I consider this to be a MINIMUM requirement.  Since 2016, I have worked on (and or witnessed) four transformation programmes.  Of these, only one company (global Oil & Gas operator) has provided the context and space I have set out here.  The rest, in my view, failed – the degree of failure varied from one company to another.   Allow me to end by saying this:

1-If you fail to provide a context-space for deep thinking to occur then I guaranteed you that your transformation programme will end up with superficial thinking;

2-If you fail to provide a context-space for collaboration to occur then I guarantee you that you will get silo-based thinking (and actions) and you will end up with requirements that do not gel across the elements of the programme, solution components that will not fit/integrate with another, and dependencies that are not identified early enough nor orchestrated effectively;

3-Where there is lack of context-space for deep thinking and collaboration there you will find a lack of effective leadership and programme management; and

4-The transformation ‘game’ is unforgiving as in failures in effective leadership and programme management will be punished through missed milestones, rework, escalating costs, demotivated actors, finger-pointing, scapegoating, and a sub-optimal ‘solution’ from the perspective of end users – your prospects/customers, your distribution partners, and the people on the front line of your organisation dealing with prospects, customers, and distribution partners.

Enough for today. I thank you for your listening and wish you the very best for 2019.  Until the next time….

Dialogue on CRM, Customer Experience, and Customer-Centricity

Colleague: So much money has been spent and continues to be spent. On CRM. On CX – voice of the customer, journey mapping etc. In the name of customer-centricity – whatever that means.  Yet, there is little to show for it.

Me: Seems that way.

Colleague: Which big company, as in the kind of company that we end up consulting to / working with, has anything to show for the time-effort-money that has been spent on the whole Customer thing?

Me: I am not aware of a single one. Maybe there is big company out there that has become customer-centric as seen through the eyes of the customers. And If there is I am not aware of it. I distrust whatever the folks who go to the Customer circus (conference circuit) say about themselves. What matters is what the customers say.

Colleague: What’s your point of view on what’s going on?  You’ve always got a point of view on pretty much everything! Let’s hear it then.

Me: Have you come across a philosopher called Heidegger?  His thinking provides a good clue as to what’s going on.

Colleague: Never heard of him. What’s he got to say that’s relevant.

Me: He introduces the distinction between “in order to” and “for the sake of”. This distinction sheds light on the failure of the whole Customer thing. And what it will take to generate success.

Colleague: Explain then!

Me: Imagine a man in a workshop working on wood.  He happens to be sawing a piece of wood.  Why is sawing this piece of wood? In order to make a cabinet.  Why is he making a cabinet? In order to sell it?  Why is he looking to sell the cabinet?  In order to get money / make a living. Why do that? In order to care for / feed his family? Why do that? For the sake of his own conception of what it is to be a good father/husband.  Why does that matter to him? It just does!  Here the chain of in order to comes to an end.  There is no in order to. Showing and travelling as good father/husband is the sake of which he gets up in the morning and works/lives.

Colleague: There you go again not answering the question. What the fork has this to do with the whole Customer thing?

Me: Let me explain it another way.  Imagine that there are two spherical round hollow cylinders. The walls are quite thin, and of the same size.  It is possible to fit/slide into the other one by squeezing it as the cylinders are made of flexible material.

Colleague: OK.

Me: One is labelled “Revenue & Profits”, the other is called “Customer-Centricity”.  You are told that you need to slide one of these cylinders into/inside of the other cylinder.  Which one do you slide inside? Which one has to fit inside the other one?  Do you fit/slide the “Customer-Centricity” cylinder inside of the “Revenue & Profits” cylinder? Or do you choose to do the opposite: squeeze/fit the “Revenue & Profits” cylinder inside the “Customer-Centricity” cylinder?

Colleague: No question, the ‘Customer-Centricity” cylinder goes inside of the “Revenue & Profits” cylinder. That’s the whole purpose of CRM, Customer Experience, and Customer -Centricity – to boost revenues, increase profit margins, and so boost profits. And to keep on doing this year after year.  Isn’t it?

Me: As a philosopher I say that purpose does not inhere in the things itself. Purpose is a human construction. And as such the speaker who speaks of purpose gets to say what the purpose is. And sure, pretty much everyone that has taken on CRM, Customer Experience, and Customer-Centricity has done so for the sake of ambition/greed: for revenue growth, raising profits margins usually by cutting the costs of serving customers, and for profits and profit growth.

Colleague: What’s wrong with that!

Me: Wrong is not found in the world.  Wrong is a human construct. It’s wrong if you say it’s wrong and get enough other folks to agree with you.  I’m not saying there is something wrong with it. I am saying that when we choose one course of action over another there are always consequences.

Colleague: I think you are saying that there is little that big companies have to show for the time-money-effort they have spent on CRM, Customer Experience, and Customer-Centricity because they have been squeezing “Customer-Centricity” inside of “Revenues & Profits”.  Is that what you are saying?

Me: That is exactly what I am saying!  Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Almost every big company has gone about it that way. The prime, unquestioned directive, is to make the numbers, and grow the numbers. The latest magical recipe is CRM, Customer Experience, or Customer-Centricity. So lets hire a bunch of consultants to fit these magical solutions into our organisation so that these solutions help us deliver on our sake of: sake of making the numbers, sake of “Revenues & Profits”. And this approach has generated that which it has generated: limited benefits, incremental improvements in cultivating genuine loyalty.

Colleague:  The alternative?  Squeezing/fitting “Revenue & Profits” inside of “Customer-Centricity”, how does that work?

Me: As members of the senior leadership team you show up & travel in a way that makes it clear to all that you, and the company, that you represent is there for the sake of enriching the lives of your chosen set of customers.

You can do that as Zappos does through it awesome customer service.  You can do it as Apple does by creating great (as in cool, high quality, unique) products for folks who are willing to pay a premium. You can do it as Amazon does – attractive prices, huge product range, ease/convenience of shopping, and next day delivery.

Amazon, in particular Jeff Bezos, sets a clear example.  You choose to be customer-centric, to build that long term customer loyalty, to play for the long term, and you take the hit to “Revenues & Profits” over the short and even medium term. And you tell your shareholders that this is what you are about.  If they don’t like it then they should sell their shares and move on to other enterprises.

Zappos is also an instructive example.  The leadership team of Zappos started out putting the “Customer Centricity” container within the “Revenues & Profits” container. At a critical point when the Zappos was on its last legs the leadership team had to make a choice: to continue providing a lousy customer experience or do the opposite.  And it looked like doing the opposite changing the operation model so that “Revenue & Profits” had to squeeze into / fit into “Customer-Centricity” would leave to ruin faster.  The choice they made? To make “Revenues & Profits” subservient to, and for the sake of “Customer-Centricity” as in delivering an awesome customer experience.  It so happened that this change worked out for Zappos. And there is no guarantee that another company in the same situation as Zappos taking the same course of action will generate the same result.  You have to be a particular kind of idiot to believe that taking the same course of action in a open/dynamic/non-linear/uncertain/unpredictable world will yield the same results as you got last time.

Colleague: But CEOs of big listed companies cannot do this. They have to make the numbers – that’s what the analysts want, that’s what the shareholders want.

Me: Which is why I say that big listed enterprises will continue to make incremental improvements at best when it comes to the customer experiences (as viewed through the eyes of the customers) and customer loyalty.  And the field for creating an awesome customer franchise belongs to outsiders – the Zappos, the Amazons, the Apple’s of the future.