Getting closer to customers and the customer-focused organisation are familiar themes, and have been extensively explored and developed over the years. But execution against these themes has not always been successful, and many stories abound of organisations simply not doing enough in this arena. Indeed, many just do not get what it means to be customer-focused.
But recently, I came across a most compelling book from Chuck Wall called the Customer CEO – how to profit from the power of your customers. This book provides a new dimension on how to look at the customer, and more importantly how organisations can practically manage some the challenges and opportunities. The thinking here is that the customer needs to be considered at the top of the organisation, effectively shaping and driving value, and not the other way around. This is about “customer pull”, not “product push”.
Prior to the information era, the power of the customer was somewhat limited. Organisations were able to present their products to the customer, but in the main they had far more knowledge of the product than the customers to whom they were selling.
Today however, the tables have been turned in the most dramatic fashion. Wall takes us through the massive changes that have occurred and which are continuing at an even faster pace. The customer today has information that is far more ubiquitous than ever imagined – and free. Knowledge gleaned from fellow customers, from colleagues or from friends all mean that the real pressure is back onto organisations to deliver differently. The power is truly with the customer. How do organisations respond in this environment, and what does customer focus really mean are key questions faced by the C-suite today.
In his book, Wall takes us through a fascinating journey of the nine powers or core needs of the customer. He highlights each of these with some really interesting case studies where organisations ranging from fast food to industrial machinery have successfully ensured that the customer is really driving the organisation to deliver value. This is a key point right through his book.
At the end of each chapter on the nine powers, Wall has practical advice on what organisations can do to address these issues, and he also has a short diagnostic tool that can be downloaded.
The nine powers of customers are about the powers of people, rather than the broader market. In this context, Wall highlights a great quote from Stanley Marcus, the former chairman of retailer Neiman Marcus:
“Consumers are statistics, but customers are people”.