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No Customers, No Company
Put customers first, no matter what.
For the rest of the June 2002 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Let us begin by remembering one simple truth about business: Without customers no company can survive. Many companies define customers as any person or group the company serves: end customers, shareholders, channel partners, employees, to name a few. I agree that it is in the best interest of every company to keep all of these stakeholders happy. But for the purpose of this column, let's focus on the customers that purchase another company's product or service, because it is they who ultimately keep us all in business. I remember the first time I heard Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's quotation, "There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." I remember thinking how true that is. And it is especially true today, when switching vendors is as easy as one mouse click. I also remember many conversations with my dad, a salesperson who was steadfast in his belief that too many companies focus on pleasing shareholders when they should be concerned with pleasing customers. His frustration was directed at the sell-at-all-costs mentality of organizations that are so focused on making their numbers to please shareholders that concern for customer needs is practically nonexistent. "Who cares whether this is the right product?" these reps would say, "As long as we close the deal." Having covered sales and marketing as a journalist for many years, I have been privy to countless stories of some salespeople's outrageous strategies for bullying, coercing, or conning customers into deals. The funny thing about all this is, if you truly take care of a customer, that customer will reward you with more business. And to a well-run organization incremental business equals increased profits, which equals happy shareholders. On the other hand, turn customers off, they turn to the competition, sales drop, and stocks tank. So along comes CRM and over the course of a few years this age-old, but poorly used idea of managing customer relationships really starts to take off. Fortune 1,000 companies embrace it, the mid-market warms up to it, even thousands of small companies turn to online CRM to grow profits. It's like an industry-wide group hug. Companies really get it: Loyal customers mean increased profitability, so take care of customers at all costs and the bottom line will follow.
Then I receive an email with the subject line "CRM is not about the customer." I wondered, so what does the C stand for? Shareholder, of course. The email read: "It's about the shareholder," says Jonathan Copulsky, partner, Deloitte Consulting. My first thought was, here we go again. I could just image my dad's grimace if he had seen that email himself. The email continues, "According to Copulsky, the end-game is not customer-centricity, in and of itself. Businesses wishing to take the ROI guesswork out of CRM projects should start with a shareholder value perspective and the fundamental determinants of shareholder value creation: revenue growth, margin enhancement, and asset productivity." To which I say, put customers first and shareholder value will follow. CRM is ultimately about the customer, the one that pays for the product or service. Take care of that customer, and watch costs decrease, profits increase, and big smiles grow on the faces of shareholders.
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