Sixty (i)

I drove back to the office to continue my conversation with Saket. He was already there debating with some of the guys about which movie sequels improved on the original, and I dragged him away with little interest in their conclusions. I wanted to brief him on my lunch with William, but more importantly I wanted to finish our discussion about customer-centricity.

“Now where were we?” he asked.

“You’d just said each stakeholder group can look like the number 1 priority at any given moment, and you left me hanging with ‘and here’s the funny thing’!”

“Ah yes, the funny thing.” Saket collected his thoughts. “Funny thing. Actually, do you know what, it’s not all that funny. It’s a bit of a shame really. An opportunity left sitting there largely untapped.”

“What?!” I asked, perhaps too impatiently.

“Customer-centricity is an organizational point of view, not a customer point of view. It’s actually the organization-centric-view-of-the-customer. Let me explain.

“Let’s picture the most customer-centric company we can imagine. It listens intently. It takes every opportunity to gather data and information about the precious customer. It’s available via any channel the customer might desire, at any time of day, any day of the year, and it records all those interactions diligently so it might learn. It makes no decision without first crunching it through its understanding of its customer.

“It works hard to understand what the customer values and the value that represents to its bottom line. It defines a customer segmentation strategy and tailors operations to deliver the greatest value to the best customers at least cost.”

“Great!” I said.

I don’t know how he did it exactly, but Saket managed to give me a look that said ‘I haven’t finished yet and besides have you forgotten that I’m about to challenge the status quo’. I returned a look that said ‘Oh yes, sorry about that, do continue.’ So he did.

“Too often this process boils the unique customer down into a consumer, a word that conveys some statistical description of a stereotypical dehumanized passive consumption unit – wildly inappropriate these days – but that’s not the company’s only problem.