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Taking Action vs. Having an Impact

A couple months ago, we had our annual Walker Fall User Forum in Indianapolis. We had 34 Customer Advocates representing 18 great companies and as usual the facilitated discussions, case study presentations and best practices sharing were matched only by the camaraderie and fellowship enjoyed over coffee breaks, cocktails, and meals. This annual event (along with its sister—The Walker Spring User Forum—usually held in some nice weather location in the Western U.S.) is not just a great opportunity for the attendees to share and learn from each other, but it also allows my colleagues and I to get a better pulse of what is going on in the world of customer-focused strategy.

The theme of this year’s forum was “Having an Impact." Our team selected this theme to put more emphasis on a common challenge that we hear from Customer Advocates that heretofore we have called “Taking Action." I think “having an impact” is a stronger stand than “taking action” so I was fully supportive of the move to a placing a higher calling on our assembled guests. As the theme implies, we need to be engaged in actually making changes in our companies that are good for the customers and result in better business results.

To set the tone, my friend and colleague, Pat Gibbons, found a study performed by Gartner Group. Here is a link to the entire article, if you’d like to review it in its entirety. Please consider the following highlights as reasons for why we as Customer Advocates need to “have an impact”.

According to the Gartner Study:

  • Eighty percent of executives believe that customer satisfaction is more important than it was three years ago.
  • Ninety-five percent of them see it as the next competitive battleground, and yet …
  • Only five percent of companies report that they tell their customers what they have done as a result of obtaining client feedback.

Talk about making a case for our profession!  The executives believe connecting with customers is more important than it ever has been, it will continue to be more important in the future, and by the way, we aren’t very good at executing upon it … yet. Some would say we are failing. I say we got a break we were looking for. This reminds me of a saying that is credited to Roger Penske when asked about an automobile race one of his drivers had won because another driver had dropped out due to mechanical failure—“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation."

To those of us who have been toiling for a long time to better connect our companies to our customers; it can sometimes get discouraging to think of how much more work there is left to do. I have often referred to the work of the Customer Advocate as a journey and not a destination, and learning to enjoy the journey will make the trip much more enjoyable. You never know when we might get “lucky” and happen upon an “opportunity” for which we are well-prepared.

This post was orginally published November 6, 2008 in Customer Connection.

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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