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The Core Conundrum.

Many companies these days are aggressively seeking a customer centric approach to their business.

From the old days of a rather overly simplistic approach of “you’re doing us a favour by being our customer” to a new paradigm that places the needs and wants of the customer first and the company’s needs and wants second.

OR IS IT?

In my view, there are two core dichotomies that exist as the primary business philosophy when it comes to customer experience.

The understanding that without a customer focussed approach, a business will lose their customers to a competitor that offers a superior customer experience is now a top of mind concept in with most CEO’s.

But, is this shift a true reflection of the desire to deliver a great customer experience for the purpose of enhancing the lives of the customer with true value, or is it just for profit?

Some may argue that the two are one and the same, but I disagree.

The fundamental intention at the core of this shift is what determines the real motive behind the change and affects the long term survival of that business.

It comes down to truth and the real foundation of any relationship – trust.

We all agree that businesses are in business to make money by providing products or services to people who either need them or want them, but it’s the core underlying intention behind the provision of those services or products that will determine the long term success of the relationship and ultimately the business itself.

In essence I am asking whether the primary driving force is one of profit –i.e. purely the pursuit of financial gain where each customer is seen as a factor of profit potential and the associated positive value is a by-product, or is it one that genuinely seeks to have a positive and valuable influence, beyond just selling products or services, in the lives of the people who are their customers with associated profit being the by-product?

The difference here is that the first one – the profit based driver – has the company’s interests at heart; the second has the customer’s.

The sticky bit though, is that both companies may invest equally in implementing an upgraded customer experience programme and providing a high quality experience for their customers across all touch points in their business.

So the real question falls to us, the customer.

Do we really care about the fundamental driving force behind a great experience?

As long as we get what we want, when we want and how we want, does it really matter to us how the company sees us?

If we as consumers felt like the experience we just had was, “Wow! What an incredible experience I just had there! The staff were amazing! The store was awesome and I really felt like they cared about me! I will go back for sure and tell all my friends about it!”

Do we really care if the sentiment behind that experience was based on a genuine desire for us to have an experience like that because that company is truly committed to making a positive and valuable impact in our lives or because that company wants to ensure they get more business out of us?

Would it bother you greatly if you found out after that experience that you were seen purely as a  metric? Simply as a  measurement of financial gain and that the whole incredible experience you just had was a carefully crafted play to give the illusion that you are valued as a person, but actually your hard earned money was simply being manipulated from you in an orchestrated series of advanced compliance techniques?

Much like a seduction.

I was once told that the easiest way to seduce someone was to tell them what they wanted to hear.

Once you have got what you want, then there is no further interest, unless you want to continue for some time still – in which case, the illusion persists until such time as the conquest holds no further interest, or the next target comes along.

Eventually, the truth will come out, as will the tipping point when the seducer can no longer pretend to have real and genuine interest in the conquest and amongst tears and accusations, the relationship ends.

The same can be said for customers and companies.

When it becomes abundantly clear that the company clearly has no genuine interest in the wellbeing of its customers, despite the initial positive experience – the customer will then choose to part ways with the company and go somewhere they feel that they are taken seriously from the start and throughout the life of the relationship, which, if it is genuine, should be a long and mutually beneficial one.

Some may argue that this is a cynical perspective and to a degree, I agree.

But, there is some evidence to support this too.

The gathering of intelligence on customer profiles through research provides businesses with the tools to change the way their customers perceive them and their approach to business in order facilitate growth and sustainability.

With the business playing field now essentially level, with similar products and prices being offered, the primary differentiator can only be the quality of the customer experience.

Now, more than ever, this is becoming the critical mass factor for companies seeking to retain current customers as well as capture competitor market share.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to us.

Now, more than ever before, we truly have the power to force companies to give us what we want, how we want and when we want , or we can communicate this through our personal networks describing in detail to our friends and family our feelings on the experience and either recommending they do the same or stay well away.

Those personal recommendations carry the most weight and influence and this is why businesses are investing in the pursuit of the perfect customer experience – because they know that on the back of that experience and the expression of that experience from person to person rests their survival.

Love your customers.

So, if you are one of the decision makers in your business and have identified that a shift to a primarily customer centric based strategy is the “Elixir of Life” for your business, my only suggestion is to make it real.

Understand that you must be authentically concerned with understanding each and every customer and treating them like you would your very best friends.

With the same respect, sincerity and integrity as you would show people that you genuinely care for.

Make your focus one that always treats every stakeholder across your organisation as a person, and create a strategy that ensures this will be met.

In any relationship , there are up’s and down’s , but if those are handled with the same integrity as would be in a committed and serious relationship between two people that truly have each other’s best interests at heart, success will always blossom.

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