Are we too obsessed with customers?

Russian Dolls

Don’t worry (or be disappointed) – I’m not about to commit a Gerald Ratner classic. We love customers – don’t we? In fact, so much so, that they’re becoming an obsession, but does this obsession strengthen or weaken your value proposition? I have recently encountered a number of customer improvement programmes that have used the word obsession. And why shouldn’t we be obsessed – since without our customers we cease to exist in business. But customers are changing – partly because of the ephemeral Internet surfer, meaning that controlling our customer relationships has placed more emphasis on creative value propositions.

When you gaze into the depths of your customer database – does what you see sometimes fill you with frustration and gall? What I’m referring to are those customers that are the bane of your life – all companies have them after all. They spend little, complain a lot and demand the earth. What on earth did you do to deserve them?! And, in true obsessive form, most of us roll over and give them the same love and care we try to give to all of our customers. Are you really obsessed with these too? I think it’s time for liberation – don’t you? It’s time to break free from the shackles of ‘obsession for all’. It’s time to get real. For me, obsession is a two way street and shouldn’t reflect the same ‘love’ for everyone – because customers are not equal – neither should our value propositions. I believe fairness probably represents a better approach to customer engagement as this addresses the need for proportionate relationships – not good and bad but fair. Think of it this way. Construct a virtual line of customers with your best at one end and worst at the other. OK – the best you should treasure and the worst you may consider avoiding – or ‘allow’ to move to your competitors. The crux of the matter here is finding out who sits where in you virtual identity parade based on the real ‘monetary’ value to your business – who the 20% are that represent 80% of your business – who the prime prospects are that posses the same DNA as your best customers. For me, obsession can be unhealthy (I was told this at school!) if it’s not thought through. My view is to learn about your customers to the n’th degree, develop propositions for different segments, make tough decisions about those that drain your resources and give little back, absolutely become obsessive with your treasure accounts and devise strategies for other groups. Do this thoroughly and you will be well on the road to achieving the knowledge you need to build sound, flexible value propositions to suit all your customers – well all those you decide to keep!