April 4, 2005
Excerpts: Passionate and Profitable - Introduction
The pursuit of the customer is as old as the search for business success, and we have yet to see a company that will not declare total, undeniable dedication to the customer. Every company believes that they are focused on customers. They have a long list of initiatives to prove it. At the same time, customers feel more neglected than ever. Customer frustration is skyrocketing, and very few companies can demonstrate long, sustainable, and profitable relationships with their customers.
Considerable attention has been focused on customers in the last decade, as shown by certain investments and declared commitments. It is well understood that without a loyal customer, no business can exist. Customers ought to be the center of everything we do. We ought to love, hug, delight, and please customers every day, with everything we do. Why is it then that despite great intentions, companies manage to fail in the most important task they have: attracting and retaining customers? Why is it that despite billions of dollars in investment, executives have very little to show in the form of results?
There is no single answer to this question. In our consulting and research work, we have come across many reasons for failure. We call them the Fatal Mistakes. For many companies, the answer is a combination of several Fatal Mistakes.
The Fatal Mistakes are considered fatal because companies fail to notice them and to understand how significant they are to customer success. For many organizations, the existence of the Fatal Mistakes means that even before a customer initiative is launched, failure is ensured. They are fatal because they are woven into corporate behavior and culture. They have become an integral part of the corporate DNA and thus are difficult to remove. Companies often try to launch customer programs, knowing about these Fatal Mistakes but wanting to believe that such programs will work anyway. This is just wishful thinking.
Unless companies address and uproot these Fatal Mistakes, their customer initiatives will continue to fail, despite the money invested and the level of commitment demonstrated. Customer-centric strategy cannot coexist with these Fatal Mistakes. As with most strategies, it boils down to a trade-off between tough choices. Ignoring these Fatal Mistakes is a choice companies make every day, one that works against the customer.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.