Friday, 19 July 2013

Customer Is King - revisited

Customer is King book

I am just revisiting my book Customer is King - how to exceed customer expectations.

Written in 2001, published in 2002, several things struck me as I re-read the book:

  1. Back in 2002, few people took customer service and the customer experience too seriously. At best, most people were simply paying lip service. Maybe I was ahead of my time.
  2. It is a marketing book. 10 years ago the notion of customer service was embedded in a no-man's land between Operations and Marketing and Sales. No-one seemed to own it. There was no Director of Customer Service or a Customer Service Department. Now it is a subject in its own right. It has come of age.
  3. Everything has changed: the ubiquity of the internet has changed the speed and cost of communication as well as the number of people you can speak to at any one time.
  4. Nothing has changed: what people want from companies , suppliers and from each other still seems to be the old-fashioned stuff: courtesy, honesty, integrity, reliability. People still talk... but to more people.
  5. Relationships vs transactions: for many products we want a relationship with the vendor; for others we just want the cheapest.
  6. Easy to describe; so few people get it right... even in a recession when it is more important than ever.
  7. The same case studies get trotted out endlessly. SouthWest Airlines, Disney and Ritz Carlton have had Zappo's added to their ranks. And that's about it!
Has much changed in 10 years?

I would love to say yes but actually I don't think much has changed:
  • marketing seems to under-deliver for most companies
  • lots of companies talk up customer relationships but are still obsessed with profit in their heart of hearts (and it shows)
  • there is still not enough serious engagement with customers
  • customers till feel constantly let down and disappointed as the 'promises' fail to deliver yet again.
On the other hand...

The technology and rise of social media has meant that it is easier and cheaper than ever before to get close to the customer. Yet so many fail to do this successfully.

The problem is still the same...

Most business simply do not see customer service as their number one priority. They do not measure it above other success criteria... they mean to be customer focused but the accountants take over and insist on trying to measure the value and the ROI of every cost that is incurred... they pay lip service. Especially in a recession where the accountant seems to be the key influence in most business decisions.

Put simply, as long a pizza restaurants measure bums on seats or the number of pizzas sold then that is what they will focus on. What gets measured gets done and customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction is not given the same value/worth/merit/importance as ROI, profit and cash.

Too much upside down thinking

Any sane person can see that focusing on profit above all else is a short game. Putting profit above customer satisfaction gives a result for today but it is clearly not sustainable in the long run.

The 'best companies' (according to Management Today..., who are  all profit-focused) go bust. 

What's new?
  1. The book explicitly describes a world where the customer experience is at the centre of understanding how and why they buy. New work citing the death of the sales funnel and McKinsey's 'new' customer decision journey builds on this assumption
  2. The internet has created the notion of the ZMOT. (once people's first moment of truth was picking the product from the shelf; before they do that, the zero moment of truth happens when people google to check reviews and prices before they get anywhere near the shelf: the Zero Moment of Truth. My obsessive focus on getting customers to help you and word-of-mouth marketing has become a reality!
Full of audit and checklists the book comes across as bit of a rant from a grumpy old man. 

Nothing has changed.

 It still drives me bonkers that customer-facing staff can be incapable of basic courtesy... 

The Little Britain sketches where the worker repeatedly says, "The computer says 'NO'", is typical of the dreadful levels of customer service that still pervade so many of our attempts at receiving rudimentary service..

The opportunity is still there

It is clear that Customer Service is the next big battleground. Companies have cut as lean as they can so the only thing that's left for them is differentiation... not by price but by the quality of customer service and the customer experience.

"The customer experience is the next competitive battleground."Jerry Gregoire, the former CIO of Dell, 

Further Reading
That's Customer Focus!: The Overworked and Under-appreciated Manager's Guide ...
By F. Ray Miller, Laura E. Miller

Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services,” 

Frederick F. Reichheld and W. Earl Sasser, Jr., 
HBR September–October 1990.
Does Competitive Environment Moderate the Market Orientation-Performance Relationship? Stanley F. Slater and John C. NarverJournal of Marketing Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 46-55

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