Monday, November 06, 2006

You can't make the customer the center, until you do it internally first

This topic is a little more universal than just the online retail world, but has so much to do with it that I couldn't resist.

Isn't it funny how long it takes companies to respond to customer requests? From retailers to service companies... any attempt to either offer feedback, get an issue resolved... or in some cases just using their product is nothing short of abject failure.

There are countless people that I admire when it talks about their passion for a positive customer experience... I read Kelly Mooney's blog regularly, as well as the gang over at Grokdotcom and for a change of pace I really like reading Mark Cuban and his common sense at blogmaverick. The folks at Creative Good always have wonderful things to point out... as does Lauren Friedman and the e-tailing group (although I think Lauren ought to start blogging a little more than doing email ;-). There are a number of folks that I think offer retailers, and marketers in general, great advice. There are loyal readers everywhere that diligently soak up this information, forward it on to friends, etc. So, the question I have is... why aren't organizations getting significantly better, QUICKLY?

I think I have a pretty good way to explain it to these organization, and if asked, here's one way I might approach it.

"Left hand, meet right hand. Right hand, meet left hand. Now, which one of you two knows what your customer wants and can do something to change how your organization works?"

I have seen countless groups within companies pay for all of the focus groups, mystery shopping and customer experience studies you can imagine. However, to act on these observations, it comes down to this: Until you align your organization around the success of your customer, you just can't have the type of success that profits both you and serves your customer. It is really that simple.

Having been on both the Corporate side and now the consultative side of this customer experience equation for 10+ years, I've come to the conclusion that most organizations that have to deal with customers on a daily basis... are not structurally equipped to do so.

Whether the barrier is geographically-based responsibility for a given product set, lack of knowledge on how customers use your products/services/retail environments, to artificial metrics for success not devised with the customer's benefit at heart, I really feel probably 50% of the companies you interact with in the US (those let's say with a presence in at least 20 of the 50 states) are organizationally unable to handle looking at their company from their customer's perspective. Or, at the very least unable to ACT on the observations they DO receive/perceive because of some organizational boundary. Good people, with the best of interests in their hearts, are thwarted in their efforts to achieve even the basic of customer experience metrics, because of internal boundaries that are insurmountable.

So... how do you fix it?

Simple, call a "do-over" with your organization. Draw up an organization who's sole purpose is to meet the customer's needs. It can start at the grass roots. Start in your small sphere of influence, and work from there.

I envision a chart... with the customer in the center and every major business function (finance, marketing, operations) intersecting with it. When I get one drawn... I'll add it to the blog... but for now... picture it in your imagination (anyone remember how that little imagination feature works?). I predict that given what we know about customer loyalty... that preference is not based on price alone... but in fact on a holistic experience that surpasses all competitors... if you could accomplish this "do-over..." even if it were within your customer-facing organizations to start... you would see sales increases, customer satisfaction increases, and market share increases.

I invite all three of you that read this blog (LOL)... to submit some ideas on how YOU would call a "do-over" in your organization. Or better yet, examples of organizations you think are already on this path... doing things "right."


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