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Executive Interviews: Interview with Christopher Meyer on Customer Centric Organisations
December 2010 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Christopher Meyer
Christopher Meyer
Strategic Alignment Group

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    Leaders tell us they only hear from either very happy or very upset customers and therefore customer experience data is suspect. Of course, these are the customers who are most likely to contact you at their initiative. But the comment itself subtly reveals a lack of interest and empathy. The challenge is how can you do a better job reaching out beyond these customers?

    Asking customers what they think doesn't solve the problem. Some haven't thought about the question and quickly blurt an answer because they don't want to look stupid. Others may only speak out when

    angry. Some may not know what they want. They think aloud without any conviction behind their answer. If I wanted to unleash empathy, I'd much rather ask leaders to silently observe a customer doing the job with which their product or service is supposed to assist. I'd ask them to pay particular attention to what they don't do as well as what they do. This gets them out of their head and if you'll pardon my bad anatomical humor, closer to their heart. That's where empathy lives.

    Let me close with one comment. This evidence won't be as precise and comparable as your local currency. Companies tend to measure that which they can measure and compare precisely regardless of criticality and shy away from measuring the most important things because the measurement lacks equivalent precision and comparability. Done properly, what I'm describing can be measured, studied, shared and compared for use in decision making. Using it just requires a bid more judgment but it's far better than making decisions without any customer experience information.

  • Every MBA program across the world offers specializations in many functional areas of management – finance, marketing, operations, IT and human resources management, etc. However, no business school offers any specialization in customer experience management. It is after all the customer that provides the 'fuel' and 'reason' for every other department to exist. Why then no specialized and focused course on customer experience management?
    In part, your question gives away the answer. Sales and sales management is not on your list nor is it in most MBA curriculum. Have you ever met an MBA who majored in Sales?

    Academic research and teaching follows rather than leads business. In general, marketing and sales education is still rooted in a scarcity model that pushes products out to customers rather than recognizing the growing abundance of choices before customers. Contemporary marketing pulls customers through a richer understanding of their specific customer experience requirements.

    That said, there are exceptions emerging, often in unusual places. For example, the "D School" in Stanford's Graduate Engineering Program is a hotbed of customer experience research.

  • What according to you is customer experience management and how is it different from customer relationship management?
    CRM captures what a company knows about its customers and distributes principally to customer facing functions. CEM captures what customers think about a company. The most important difference is that CEM is a leading indicator and CRM is a lagging indicator.

  • Experience is a behavioral dimension of any individual. Experience primarily occurs through all the five sensory perceptions – taste mouth), smell (nose), see (eyes), hear ears) and feel (hands and legs). How can companies manage customers’ experience spanning all these five sensory perceptions?
    The question suggests that it might not be possible yet Chefs at Michelin three star restaurants earn their keep by doing this every day. Apple’s design elegance addresses each one with the possible exception of smell. Doing this requires attention to detail combined with a point of view (i.e., value proposition) which is woven into every product and service.

    This is what makes Apple so unique. What might appear as elegant design has its roots in Steve Jobs' quest for "insanely great" products. They are insane for two reasons. First the standards he sets for himself and others are at the leading edge of experience; rarely technology. Second, the standards are driven by empathetically embracing customers’ experience requirements; not technology or internal financial criteria. Apple customers want to be cool; not geeks.

    Think of the "soft touch" control wheel that graced the first iPod and continues to this day. When they introduced the wheel, every other MP3 player had traditional switches and rotary volume controls. Was the new control wheel functionally necessary? Absolutely not but it was a far more elegant and functional solution. It was cool.

    Delivering superior customer experience requires empathetic leadership supported by delivery systems, information and let me emphasize again, individual initiative. This goes back to trusting each customer's experience; including the aspirations that drive their experiences. This is what ultimately drives revenue growth. One can outsource nearly every function within a company but I've yet to see one outsource their customers!

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