Four business authors - Michael Lowenstein, Jeff Mauzy, Jim Lenskold and Pamela Harper - have formed the 'Business Authors Leadership Alliance' (BALA) and are pooling their specialist knowledge to provide an integrated approach to focusing on the customer.
BALA will offer Strategic Customer Centricity workshops to corporations and business associations, and provide targeted consulting services. The alliance has identified four essential areas of knowledge and insight that every company should have to successfully support customer-centric strategies:
- Customer Understanding: Companies must know how customers define perceived value, and how that definition (and level) influences product and service development, sales and marketing activity, support processes, relationships and purchasing/referral behaviour.
- Creativity & Innovation: An increased focus on the customer requires new thinking and an environment that encourages creativity at every level of the organisation, both to serve and respond to customers from any point, and to generate original ideas and approaches for optimizing customer centricity.
- Profitability Management: Insight into the key drivers of customer profitability, such as customer targeting and retention, purchase behaviour, share of customer, and predictors of future value, is necessary in planning and results analysis to motivate integrated, customer-centric decision making and achieve optimal return on investment.
- Strategic Leadership: The process of leading an organisation to customer centric performance encompasses strategic thinking, planning and execution issues. This includes clarifying the challenge, uncovering assumptions, negotiating stakeholder buy-in, recognizing cultural factors, mapping a clear path for execution, communicating credibly, and adjusting for changes.
"Having a focus on optimising customer loyalty behaviour throughout the company is the key to both survival and success. Developing and sustaining a truly customer-centric organisation is perhaps the biggest, and yet the most rewarding, challenge for any company," said alliance member, Michael Lowenstein. "A few companies, such as Southwest Airlines, MBNA, Baptist Health Care, Wegman's Supermarkets and USAA have created cultures, processes, and systems so focused on customers that they are benchmarked by organisations around the world."
In a recent study, Forrester Research asked senior corporate executives about their prioritised goals and objectives. More than 90% of executives interviewed said that having a single, fully-integrated corporate view of customers (i.e. customer-centricity) was either critical to their organisations (44%) or very important (48%). Forrester, however, was surprised to learn that only 10% of the executives believed their company had achieved partial integration, while only 2% thought their organisation had fully achieved it.
According to Lowenstein, customer relationships have now become multi-dimensional, and each customer defines the nature of the individual relationship. Customers can communicate through wireless or mobile means as well as by computer, while advertising and sales can take place on mobile phones, digital assistants, and other handheld communication devices.
Just as relationships can't be reduced to a single medium, they also can't be reduced to a single dimension - for example, purchase frequency, total spend, customer lifecycle, or even profitability. But these, along with less tangible aspects of the relationship (such as information gathering and flow management), and the customers' perception of corporate reputation, problem resolution and service levels, are all essential to understanding how customers define value and how that definition shapes their loyalty behaviour.
For additional information:
· Contact Michael Lowenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org