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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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  • You have categorized customers into 4 distinct groups - Model Customers, Growth Customers, Atrisk Customers and Dangling Customers. Can you highlight who these customers are and how do they make difference to the organizations?
    Model customers generate high revenue, which aligns with a company's business model and value proposition. These are your most profitable customers. They are buying in line with their size and growing with you. Growth customers are like model customers except that they are not buying up to their potential and currently may cost more to serve. With some focused efforts, they can become model customers.

    At-risk customers are the most dangerous as they are currently large buyers but something has changed their experience. Soon, they will defect. Remember that in contrast to CRM, CEM is a leading indicator and if identified early, addressing the concerns of the at-risk customers could move them back to being model customers.

    Dangling customers do not generate much revenue and are going if not gone already. Unless there is enormous untapped potential, it would be wiser to salvage the at-risk customers than spend much effort here.

  • To manage external customers and give them a memorable and delightful customers the companies need to give their employees (internal customers) a similar experience so that everyone is charged up and geared up to deliver a unique experience to their respective customers. How do you think companies should go about aligning the internal customers’ experience with that of the external customers?
    Let me first comment on your use of the term "internal customer". The intent in the language is to drive internal teamwork but the cost is that it dilutes the importance of real, revenue producing customers. As you noted when quoting Peter Drucker, there are "no results inside". Using the language of "internal customers" mistakenly suggests the opposite.

    Aligning employees to deliver a superlative customer experience starts with empathetic values. Company leadership cannot lip sync the importance of customer experience while handcuffing employees with alternative, often contradictory, requirements. Drucker also said "profit is a cost of doing business". Too often, we see companies spend too much effort analyzing whether serving a customer need is cost-effective versus figuring out how to meet it cost-effectively. Cost analysis is not unimportant but if not constrained, it displaces employee initiative and impairs customer experience.

    Next comes information. Information evokes empathy. People who don’t know why a customer’s experience is awful have a hard time being empathetic. This is an ongoing job and requires data, videos and face-toface contact. Leaders in firms who truly value customer experience model this by spending more than a third of their time with customers.

    Our rule of thumb is that for everyday spent by the managers out of the office with customers, a half day is needed in the "office" (i.e., in the virtual office) to drive what they've learned back into their organization. The latter point can't be understated particularly as the firm grows. In large firms, employees spend more time servicing each other than real customers. There is a social dynamic that grows such that helping each other soon subordinates helping actual customers. That's why the good intentions behind the term "internal customer" can have negative unintended consequences.

    Third is stimulating intelligent initiative. The best customer experiences are never scripted yet many customer-facing contacts are script-driven nightmares for customers. The first question at a call center should be "How can I help you?" Of course account information, model numbers, etc., may be necessary to help but don’t start with a one to three minute interrogation. Have clear goals and boundaries but then let your people use discretion to help your customers.

    The last requirement is rapidly circulating evidence measurement. Just as a company can't improve customer experience without ongoing measurement, the same is true with employees. If your employee's experience is not good, the chances of customers' experience being so are nil. Both need to measured and acted upon.

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