The Biggest Enemy of Customer Strategies
By Lior Arussy
“By becoming a customer centric
organization we will be more profitable.”
“We must focus on the
“The customer is the reason we are
“We must remember who pays the
“We need to strive to delight
customers, not just to satisfy them.”
“The customer experience is the
way to differentiate ourselves in the future.”
“Everyone in our organization owns
“The customer is job number 1.”
“Do whatever it takes to satisfy
“The customers drive our
“Customer relationships are the
cornerstone of our existence.”
statements sound amazingly supportive.
I am confident you have heard them more than once.
Either using those exact words or in some variation thereof,
the statements were repeated by your CEO or senior executives in
company wide memos or during strategy meetings.
These messages appear in various media to support the
commitment to customer relationships / experience / strategy / all of
the above. So why is it
not happening? It seems as
if everyone, all the way up to the executive suites, actually agrees
that we must focus on the customers.
It seems as if everyone is finally on the same page that we
must get better when it comes to customer relationships.
promising. It seems as if
no one disputes this strategic direction of focusing on the customers.
It seems as if it is the one strategy every executive and
employee will be in complete agreement. Finally, an agenda that
everyone can agree on and rally around. So why is it not happening?
Why is it that despite all the definitive commitments announced
at every possible opportunity, your organization does not seem to make
serious progress on the matter? Why
is it that 12 months later, very few employees will agree that we
became a customer centric organization? Why is it that customer
turnover was not reduced and maybe even got higher? Why is it that
price pressure still rules your business? Why is it that we do not
manage to capture a larger portion of budget from customers?
Where did we go wrong from the lofty commitments we declared?
Welcome to the biggest enemy of customer strategies; “we are
already doing it”.
other strategies that are often controversial and face conflicting
opinions, focusing on the customer seem to be a consensus.
It is very difficult to argue against a customer centric
strategy and every function in the organization seems to be in
complete agreement as to its importance.
The challenge with customer centricity is not the principle ─
agreement with its importance. The
challenge is in the execution. In short, every function in the
organization is in full agreement because they are convinced that they
are already executing it.
biggest obstacle to delivering customer strategies is the simple
conviction that ”we are already doing it”.
This strong belief among executives that their employees are
already fully engaged in customer centric activities blinds them too
the need to face the truth. The
resistance to changing and transforming the business to become
customer centric is simply a result of the conviction that “we are
already there” and the required changes are incremental and not an
order of magnitude. “All
we need is a new loyalty program or a more customer intimate
brochure” is the prevailing interpretation of what needs to be done
to become truly customer centric.
The executives believe that from a structure standpoint, their
organization is already customer centric, even though in reality they
are very much product centric.
Executives believe that they have already made the
organizational changes to support a customer centric strategy, such as
adapting the compensation plan, even though in reality they are very
much efficiency and cost reduction centric.
It is precisely this conviction that blinds executives and
organizations from the complete transformation required to become
customer centric. It is
precisely the lack of admission that the organization is more process
and efficiency centric than customer centric that will strip it from
the opportunities to grow the business through better customer
biggest enemy of customer strategies is not the lack of funds or
resources. It is not the
lack of ability or expertise. It
is the lack of admitting what the current reality is.
denial is so pervasive in organizations that it is difficult to
detect. I used to
appreciate organizations that approached us for help with a clear,
fully articulated explanation of their customer strategy problems.
It took me time to realize how superficial their understanding
was and how severely they were in denial.
Whenever I meet with a new client who rushes to agree that they
need to improve their customer relationships, I confront them with the
reality first. They are
often seeking a quick panacea, a pill they can swallow and make the
whole problem go a way. They
want to quickly check off this item off their “to do” list.
It is very tempting to agree with them and take their business.
But without full recognition of what is at stake and how far
they are from a truly customer centric organization, it would be a
serious mistake and a recipe for disaster.
by T-shirts and inspirational posters all claiming commitment to
customers, it is easy to fall into the denial trap. The “we are
already doing it” attitude must be confronted head on before any
strategy is devised. Organizations
must fully understand what the difference will be between their
current way of doing business and interacting with customer in a
customer centric way. Executives
must fully understand what is wrong with the way they currently run
their operation and what customer centricity is all about.
Without this clear understanding of the gap between the current
and the desired, the customer strategy will not be implemented to its
fullest potential and will fail to deliver the desired results.
Combating the denial should be the first call for action for any
person who is entrusted with designing and implementing a customer
strategy in their company. It
is easy and quite tempting to fall into the trap of the quick
agreement. Executives do
not easily accept requirements for change and transformation. Like any
other initiative, the magnitude of the transformation and the results
are proportionately linked to the magnitude of efforts and debates.
If it is easily agreed upon, it is not a transformational
strategy, but rather an acceptance of a small incremental project.
In order to achieve a truly differentiating customer strategy
that will result in growth and profitable loyalty, organizations must
overcome their own biggest enemy, their denial of the truth.
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