I see the word "customer-centric" with increasing frequency these days, but I have not seen it adequately defined. One would think that it implies organizing around the customer to better serve the customer's needs, or something of that sort. However, I'm also seeing mounting evidence of CRM being used almost as a kind of weapon against customers. For example, a credit card company routes extensive customer information to their call center reps. After answering the caller's question about account balance, the reps then attempt to sell an automatically suggested service to the caller. This service might include a credit card with a $100 limit, a $75 annual fee and a special $40 service to "protect" the customer from lost or stolen credit cards. In cases like this, does CRM benefit the customer or the purveyor?
One need not look far to see additional examples of purveyor-centric thinking in the CRM industry. Just look at the CRM advertisements that show people with barcodes on their foreheads. Consider the firms that tout "one-to-one" marketing. An automatically customized e-mail may be appropriate and even effective, but it does not constitute a relationship of any kind, let alone "one-to-one."
Because CRM is such a broad category, maybe it is time to create a glossary. The first entry can be customer-centric, which should never be used to describe any tool, software or strategy that is aggressively invasive or is clearly putting the purveyor's needs ahead of the customer's needs.
One can bandy about such terms as "customer-centric" with a wink and a nod, knowing that some CRM applications have little to do with the customer's best interests. The only thing that really suffers is the credibility of the CRM industry.
It's The People
Just finished reading "It's the People, stupid!" (February 2001) It always comes back to the customer, doesn't it?
I have been in sales and marketing management for over 25 years, and can't stop wondering why so many people and organizations struggle so hard with the Gordian knot of successful sales growth with profit.
It really isn't funny to fail, as anyone who has ever had to fire or layoff another human being well knows. And it is tragic to watch company after company climbing the five steps to sales success, purporting to "walk the talk," trying to find the magic grail to the customer's wallet, almost reaching the top, but instead falling over themselves because in fact all they ever really did was "stumble the mumble."
The rules for achieving constant, consistent success have had the same steep five steps to climb that were there when I was taught business precepts by my mentors years ago. I have yet to see them change. I doubt they ever will.
These five steps come under the phrase "Best Value."
In Best Value lie the lessons of fortunes and bankruptcies for organization after organization, to be visited, forgotten, visited again as if the holy grail was found, only to be forgotten again in the darkness of lost focus.
I was told long ago to engrave these five precepts in my mind and heart. It's all I'd ever need to know.
We are all customers, one to another. We are all salespeople, one to another. The value that lies between us for any thing can be worthless or priceless. It depends on what value we are willing to trade for it. Naturally each is desirous of the best deal.
What I want is what you want, Best Value.
The five steps to Best Value are:
1. Quality equal to customer's needs and expectations.
2. Delivery right the first time, just in time.
3. Positive, proactive and timely service.
4. Person-to-person communications, building a sales service relationship that is friendly, consultative, customer focused and timely.
5. Price value competitive to the degree that the first four are met.
It all comes down to this. Persuasively, communicate to me that you have value, give value in right measure to my needs spoken and unspoken, and our relationship will grow strong, standing any test of time.
The keys to profitability are right here for all to see.
Readers, apply these statements as questions. Are you offering Best Value to your customers? To your employees? To yourself?
Thank you for this article! CRM is wonderful, but let's not forget it's there to support the people, not replace them. It's refreshing to see someone else feels the same way!
Part of our offering in this millennium includes change management because change is rampant, stressful at best, and people need the skills to deal with it effectively and efficiently.
The preamble to the Constitution says, "We, the people." We, the people, are what make the difference. Bravo for this article.
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D.