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More Historical Perspective on Being Customer Focused

Despite the pressures of the economic crisis, the lessons of history suggest that any interruption in the progress you are making toward better understanding the customer will only be temporary.

Over the course of my 25 plus year career, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard variations of one of the following comments:

“We aren’t going to do anything to improve the situation for our customers, so why would we want to measure?”

“Customer satisfaction isn’t as important now. It’s all about the bottom line.”

“We can’t seem to take any action, so we might as well not raise the customer’s expectations by asking for their opinions.”

When you look at these in print, it is hard to believe that any rationale business person would ever say things like these, but then again, these aren’t rationale times and corporate structures do not always foster rationale decision-making.

As customer advocates, we have to be steadfast in a few basic core beliefs. Here are three core beliefs that you can keep in mind the next time you get an objection or you face some irrationality in your environment.

1. If you believe that it takes good customer relationships to create a successful and sustainable business, then understanding the customer is mission critical management information.

2. A scientific, data-driven approach to understanding the customer, over the long run, will always result in better decision-making than pure intuition.

3. Most customer relationships are complex and all of them are dynamic. It is nearly impossible to describe it with a simple number that will endure for very long. Therefore, it is a journey or process that is on-going. A truly customer-focused company is never done.

You may know from previous entries, how much I like history. Scientific breakthroughs have come because principled people persevered to discover the truth and overcame criticism and ridicule from those who knew better.

At one point in time, the vast majority of people believed that the earth was flat. There was a time when putting leeches on people to bleed them into a cure was at the forefront of medicine. And how often have business people ignored technology advances that put them out of business?

Understanding the customer has never been more important to a business than it is today, but it will be more important tomorrow. Keep seeking to understand the truth about your customer relationships.

Orginally posted in Customer Connection February 10, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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