As I was finishing up my final semester of grad school and interviewing for jobs, I managed to land an interview with the strategy consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group. The firm was founded by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers and much of their focus and methodology was based on ideas they presented in their first two books – The One to One Future and Enterprise One to One. As part of my preparations for my interview I read both books. I found the concepts they introduced brilliantly straightforward and universal…yet something I hadn’t seen or read about previously. I was truly excited about their view of where business was headed and the key to building competitive advantage in the future would be through building, growing and maintaining relationships with your most valuable customers.
On the day of my interview with Peppers & Rogers I made the rounds meeting various potential colleagues and managers. Finally, my last interview of the day came with the managing partner at the time, Tom Niehaus. I remember asking him what prevents leaders in organizations from just reading Don and Martha’s books and implementing the strategies and tactics that they were recommending on their own. Why was there a need for a consulting group? For the life of me I can’t remember his exact response, but I know he commented that it was a good question and then he answered somewhere along the lines of “something easily said is not necessarily easily done.” In other words, while what Don and Martha laid out in their books made a tremendous amount of sense, incorporating those strategies and tactics into an existing organization with pre-existing goals, culture and an organizational structure that might not be conducive to building customer relationship was not necessarily an easy thing to do. Further, it would often require a new and perhaps external viewpoint to help shift and drive the required changes in the organization.
Long story short, I got the job and it was an extremely rewarding start to my career in consulting. And Tom was absolutely right. I’ve spent the last 20 years helping organizations from various industries and various stages of development to become more successful by becoming more customer centric.
Originally Don and Martha aligned the strategy they laid out to a phrase they coined as One to One Marketing. However, in practice we soon came to realize the strategy they had outlined had implications across the entire organization…not just to Marketing. Around the same time someone came up with the term of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which soon became synonymous with the strategy and framework Don and Martha had outlined. Unfortunately, software and technology companies soon co-opted the CRM moniker and created CRM applications. While technology is a key enabler of CRM as a business strategy, its not just a piece of software. However, far too many organizations fell into this trap and purchased CRM software and checked the box on CRM and never really adopted the business strategy aspect that CRM was originally intended to be. Other organizations went a step further and created a CRM group and/or appointed someone as the Director of CRM. All too often this missed the mark as well since CRM was seen as just belonging to the CRM department. As a result, much of their work was never adopted or expanded to encompass all parts of the organization. Various other flavors of CRM came to pass such as “customer engagement” but at the end of the day really what we are referring to is an overarching strategy where customers are at the center of everything an organization does. This is not to say that they have to be alone in the center – i.e. there are many great product driven companies that incorporate customer input and insights into their product development – but they must be in the center. Again, easier said than done and it’s a journey and should be viewed as such.
Based on our experience we’ve developed a survey tool to help individuals assess where their organization is in their journey to being more customer centric. Its only 18 questions and should take only about 10 minutes. After submitting answers, the end user will receive and email with a score and commentary as to how the organization can begin to evolve further. Also, after completing the assessment end users can schedule a free 30 minute consultation with a member of our leadership team to discuss their results in more detail.
Ready to see where your organization stands? Click here to find out!