Monthly Archives: August 2010

Is Putting Customers First Disruptive Change?

Based both on a macro view of today’s markets plus lots of ground-level observations, I’d estimate 95% of companies say they put customer interests first; 10% understand what that means; and perhaps 3% actually do so. With potential competitive gain in migrating from company interests first (inside-out) to customer interests first (Outside-In) dangling like a carrot in front of business, why is there so little movement?

Putting it plainly, migrating from I-O to O-I is much harder than it looks. It’s change. Lots of change. And to answer the title question, disruptive change, especially at the organizational level. Yes, line employees do struggle with having to learn new skills or working with different people in different roles. But when making the I-O to O-I migration, resistance at this level usually pales in comparison with the fights going on overhead―struggles to protect silos, gain new turf, rule over the largest number of employees and even have the largest office (or largest sunroof on the company car).  

So we have irresistible force (customers) versus immovable object (corporate silos). And buyers are at worst in a punishing mood, or at best quick to leave when seller operations start going south. Just ask GM, Ford, Chrysler, the ghosts of Circuit City & CompUSA, Sprint, Nortel, Bearingpoint, etc.―all of which lost ground or went under because they ignored customer needs and preferences, not because of the recession.

Does anyone see any give on the corporate side? Or will fear of change and change avoidance create lots more casualties?

Do we pay enough attention to emergency processes involving customers?

I confess – I often don’t. But responding to emergencies requires thoroughly thought out process that mobilizes the right resources the right way at the right time. If you don’t plan out responses beforehand you get BP in the gulf coast or Toyota stomping all over its meticulously crafted brand.

But these disasters didn’t trigger me writing this. Instead, it was a superbly well-executed emergency response that still has me shaking my head in appreciation.

In the U.S., we have many, many people contracting salmonella from eating eggs. First, one egg-producing company had to recall about 350 million eggs. Then, a second producer had to recall 150 million more. This second producer supplied Costco, where we buy eggs.
Within scant hours of the recall, I received a well-produced robo-call (so well-produced I didn’t hang up) telling me I’d purchased eggs at Costco that could be carrying salmonella and had been recalled. I was instructed not to use the eggs but bring them back to a store for a full refund.

Can you imagine identifying a gazillion egg purchasers with their phone numbers from membership records and calling them in very little time with a cut-through” message? Yes, good intent towards customers is ultimately responsible. But executing the plan took exceptionally well predefined process and following it to a tee. Kudos to Costco, which I frequently include in my short list of Outside-In, customer first companies.

How about sharing some examples, good or bad, including the process or lack thereof apparently behind them?

What’s the consequence for marketing, sales & service of poor business/IT communication?

For sure, communication has improved over the past 10 years. The “cold war” has ended, and the two sides are talking. However, this dialog can often be described by one of my son’s tee-shirts, which says: “I can see your lips moving, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah! And almost everywhere we go we see technology not enabling process or enabling bad process. 

Which party is more to blame? IT is the traditional bogeyman, but I believe that’s misplaced. The business side does not have it’s act together here and is all too willing to point fingers at IT without accepting responsibility. I’ve written two articles on this topic that present my reasoning. You can bypadd the qualification step on our side (which is optional) and go straight to them if interested: