Monthly Archives: April 2011

Aren’t We Just Kicking the Customer Can Down the Road?

Every time I hear someone say customer-service is where customer-centricity starts, I get a splitting headache. Customer service is the last stop on the customer-centricity train, not the first. But it’s oh so convenient to kick the can down the road to service and dump customer-centricity in their laps. “Hey we don’t want to bother with this customer stuff, let our service reps handle it.”

Sounds ridiculous, even at first blush. Customer-centricity starts with the management belief that adding value to customers is the best path to sustainable growth and profitability – not a handout to customers but a smart business proposition. It continues with formulation of customer-driven business strategies, which need implementation through customer-driven process, which needs enablement by well-aligned technology, all of which require organizational changes supporting the shift from functional performance focus to customer performance focus.

Customer service plays an important role in pleasing and often placating customers. But when organizations see customer relationships as win-lose, develop marketing or product-centric business strategies, design and manage process to minimize cost (which is a very ineffective mode of cost containment), let IT design systems focused on internal operations, leave their silo-centric organizations in place – or make even one of these mistakes – customer service happens after too much water has already passed over the dam. It’s too late by then. Especially because most departing customers never bother to complain.

Should customer-centric strategy development be a separate function within an organization or shared knowledge?

Should strategy development stand alone in a company? If so, from where would this function draw its “authority?”

Recently, I asked a similar question regarding organizational design – a critical component of the transition to customer-centricity – and received an unequivocal response: effective change management is vital, but it must be a shared skill except perhaps at the executive level where very broad organizational decisions are made. Commenters consistently believed an organizational change department could not be sufficiently influential.

Does the same apply to customer-centric planning? If so, what about CEM? And what about a customer advocacy role?

From my perspective, customer-centricity is running smack up against traditional, function-based organizational concepts. When we turn the normal business model on its head and put customers in the lead, we also have to raise the volume of customer voices until they drown out traditional organization concerns.