I recently attended a technology vendor conference and an analyst from another company spoke about how we should all be “the customer caught the eye“. It made me think of Carrie Bradshaw ( Sex in the city) path type: customer passion indeed good stuff?
When I think of obsession, I think of Glenn Close A killer attraction, boiling bunnies and doing other weird dysfunctional things. Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty for me equally troubling.
Google defines obsession as “a persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an idea or feeling that is often unreasonable,” which is consistent with the observations above. Meaning, focusing too much on one thing can seriously damage everything else. For example, former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ obsession with her own growth agenda showed a lack of balanced thinking with dire consequences.
Balancing the books
There are good reasons why the most important financial statements are the “balance sheet” and “profit and loss.” They are designed to provide a balanced, objective and factual view of business performance and viability. There is no place in these documents for something as emotional as “customer passion”.
The best-known management system in the 1990s was Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard, which proposed that good management balance the needs of four components:
- Internal personnel and process management
- Innovation and learning
Jim Collins’ extensive research on the best companies in the book From Good to Great “Success comes from many small steps in the right direction,” he revealed. Richard Branson happily puts customers second and puts his employees first.
The old idea that “the customer is always right” has, thankfully, largely been debunked. The customer is sometimes right, but not always. As Steve Jobs said, “It’s not about knowing what the customer wants.” Henry Ford said of the success of the Ford Model T: “If I asked people what they wanted, they would say racehorses.”
Compliance with customer requirements is key
As any quality manager will tell you (spoiler: I used to be a quality instructor), quality is about conformance to customer requirements, not what customers want. Listening really aggressively and taking customer demands seriously, and then using the power of your organization to meet those demands, is the real key to customer experience and customer success.
Contrary to what some corporate executives think, this success does not come overnight by announcing that you are a customer-centric company. Actions (and investments) speak louder than words. You must be fully committed to customer experience (CX) for the long term to create a customer-centric organizational culture. This is how Amazon and John Lewis have built strong and successful brands synonymous with excellent customer experience and customer service.
Since its founding in 1999, customer success has been one of Salesforce’s five “core values” (the other four being trust, innovation, sustainability, and equality). This is Salesforce’s “Balanced Scorecard,” which focuses on customers, not customers. This balanced customer focus has allowed Salesforce to overtake SAP as the world’s leading enterprise software company, despite SAP’s 27-year head start.
The Bottom Line
I can understand the appeal of the idea of customer passion. Some may believe that customer focus phrasing differentiates CX from the competition in an “ah look, this proves our CX is better” kind of way. I believe the opposite is true.
Customer focus creates dangerously false expectations for the customer, pressures customer-facing staff to comply with unreasonable customer demands, and an opportunity for competitors to mock your goodwill.
My advice: Customers don’t want to be overwhelmed, so don’t make them feel overwhelmed. Seek to serve them better, don’t give up on them. Focus on customer requirements, CX and EX (employee experience) laser beam and leave the idea of obsession on the film set or perfume counter. Build customer centricity and customer success into your mission, vision and values, then use technology and positive employee attitudes and senior management support as your key enablers to launch your execution.
Please contact for more information Gerry Brownor visit https://www.idc.com/eu and leave your information in the form on the top right.