This week I hosted a delightful dinner meeting in Coronado to celebrate the release of my new book Hooked On Customers. In addition to local business leaders, long time CustomerThink contributors Dick Lee, Andy Rudin, and Barry Trailer flew in to join the fun.
Our dinner conversation centered on a simple question: “What is Value?” Gautam Mahajan, an expert in customer value management visiting from India, led a spirited conversation. A few key points stuck in my mind that I’d like to share.
First, Barry stressed that value is about doing “what matters” to the customer. A simple idea, but I wonder how many of us really know what customers care about, since it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in what we want to sell.
Second, value (as the customer perceives it) is not easily calculated, but after all the dust settles from a customer experience, what’s left is a perception. Did the customer end up with a good feeling, or not? It’s not about getting all the touchpoints “perfect.”We also discussed the critical role of employees. If you want to create a successful customer-centric business, hire and recognize employees who give a damn about customers. You can’t train people to be empathic. Forcing employees to use a script and say “How are you?” when they aren’t being authentic can do more harm than good.
Finally, it was interesting what we didn’t talk about: Technology. The CRM craze was mostly defined by using technology to extract value from customers, not to deliver it. While technology is an essential enabler of modern business processes — and customers certainly don’t like it when technology doesn’t work — technology-enabled experiences rarely leave the kind of emotional imprint that define genuine customer loyalty.
So I’d suggest taking a step away from the day-to-day chaos that defines our business lives and see if you can answer these questions:
- Do you know what really matters to your customers?
- What emotion do they feel after they interact with your firm?
- Do employees genuinely care about providing a great experience?
- Are you giving too much attention to technology?