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April 4, 2005

News & Opinion: Passionate and Profitable

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 10:16 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Companies are paying lip service to their customers. We call it lipstick on a pig because whats going on today, cleverly disguised as customer relationship, is nothing more than a shrewd way to make more money from the customers at the lowest value possible. It is an attempt to create efficient relationships. A concept that was tried many times by executives who thought they were smarter than their customers. But more often than not, the efficient relationship has lead to accelerated commoditization of products and services. Lets face it. Customer programs are usually a cosmetic fix and are most definitely NOT a long-term, for profit, strategy.
Consequentially, its no surprise that companies are failing to get their customer relationships on the right track. In our recent global customer experience study we discovered that 59% of executives surveyed did not even believe that they deserve the loyalty of their customers. Theyre on to the truth and know that their good is not good enough.
To be fair, companies and customers are inherently at conflict. Their agendas, concerns, hopes and ambitions, are all fundamentally different. The problem is that most companies refuse to admit this conflict and therefore can not address it. To put it more plainly, companies reside on Mars, seeking quick gratification through end of quarter results and customers are from Venus - requiring commitment and investment in the relationship.
In my book Passionate & Profitable, Why Customer Strategies Fail and 10 Steps to do them Right (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), I contend that successful customer strategies require that companies make some tough choices and critical decisions. For the organization focused on operating an efficient, cost-cutting company, this will be even more difficult. Things to ponder include:
  • What is the customer job description in your company?
  • When was the last time you fired a customer?
  • Who paid for your cost reduction program?
  • Are you still obsessed with market share as the path to success?
  • How many of your employees actually love your products?
  • How long do you plan on milking your products?
  • Do you believe in consistency? (Consistency is boring)
  • Can your customers see the value you deliver?
  • How many customers ideas did you implement recently?
  • Are you pursuing best practices strategies or Next practices?
  • Still managing the business by the old 4 Ps of marketing?

So take a serious look at your customer strategy. You are not fooling anyone if you think that the superficial, short-term customer program, initiative or campaign youve got in place is doing the trick. You only fool yourself. Todays customer is far too sophisticated and will absolutely call your bluff. If you want to accelerate commoditization, however, please continue with business as usual. On the other hand, if youre ready to get serious, and ready to get to Venus (where the customers are), then its time to make some serious strategic trade offs. As you venture on this journey toward your loved customers, remember commitment and passion go hand-in-hand. Passion is profitable and this book presents a prescriptive approach to getting it right.

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.